What Does a Septic System Do?
Why septic systems are important
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa has an estimated 100,000 buildings with septic systems that do not function adequately. This is important because extremely high levels of bacteria come from inadequately performing septic tanks. When discharged directly into a stream or road ditch, these high levels have the potential to expose adults, children, and pets to possible pathogens carried in fecal material. Not only is there a direct effect on living beings, it also affects our natural habitat. As effluent material is diluted and carried downstream, it is also a potential pollutant for drinking water supplies that draw water from that stream.
Inside your septic tank
The septic tank’s main purposes are to separate solids from liquids, allow bacteria to break down the solids and store the nondegradable solids until they can be removed. The drainfield provides additional bacterial degradation of the effluent from the septic tank and allows the effluent to infiltrate the soil. Common soil bacteria does this in both the septic tank and drainfield.
As sewage breaks down in the septic tank, some solids settle to the bottom and others float to the top. This separation usually produces three distinct layers, which are:
- Top – Scum composed of cooking fats and oils, soap byproducts and products of decomposition are lighter than water and float to the top
- Middle – This consists of water containing very small pieces of waste; it’s the effluent that is discharged to the drainfield.
- Bottom – Sludge composed of decomposition byproducts and other materials is heavier than water and sinks to the bottom.
If too much waste builds up in your tank, the solid waste will start leaking into your soil absorption system. Once your soil absorption system becomes blocked, it leads to a malfunctioning septic system that can’t adequately absorb liquid waste fast enough. Eventually your entire system will become backed up altogether.
You should have a septic tank inspection performed once a year just to steer clear of any potential issues. During an inspection the mechanisms of your system will be checked. In addition, measurements will be taken of tank accumulation to determine when a timeframe for your next pumping. Ready for your inspection? Call (515) 262-9174
Curious about when the best time of year to pump your septic tank is? Check out this blog post.