Let’s talk $hit for moment.
Just kidding. This is a family friendly site!
If you live in Pender County or Onslow County, you might not have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scurrying around your sewage system. Because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are fictitious. Also because you are on a private septic system.
Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures. If you have a well and a septic system, one is in your front yard, the other is in your backyard. Septic tanks treat wastewater from household plumbing like bathrooms, kitchen drains, and the laundry room.
The septic system is comprised of the septic tank and a soil absorption field, also known as a drainfield.
*photo from the very interesting website, Inspectapedia.com
HOW A SEPTIC SYSTEM WORKS
From the EPA, this is how a typical conventional septic system works:
- All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.
- The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Its job is to hold the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, while the oil and grease floats to the top as scum.
Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area.
- The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drainfield.
- The drainfield is a shallow, covered, excavation made in unsaturated soil. Pretreated wastewater is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter though the soil. The soil accepts, treats, and disperses wastewater as it percolates through the soil, ultimately discharging to groundwater.
If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it can flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in toilets and sinks.
- Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients. Coliform bacteria is a group of bacteria predominantly inhabiting the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of human fecal contamination.
MYTHS & FACTS of a SEPTIC SYSTEM
Myth: You must pump your septic annually
Fact: If it’s working properly, you only need to pump it every 3-5 years. This allows for removal of waste accumulation and sludge that the healthy bacteria in your tank can’t break down.
However, if you have an alternative system with electrical pump switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected once a year.
Myth: Flushable wipes are fine for your toilet.
Fact: Men and toddlers love Dude Wipes. But if you can’t break it down in a blender, you can’t put it in the toilet. Use the trashcan.
Myth: If it fits, you can flush it.
Fact: If you aren’t a toddler, you should know by now not to put anything in the toilet except for toilet paper and your own bodily waste.
Things you shouldn’t flush but probably do: tampons, condoms, paper towels, baby wipes, dental floss, flushable wipes, q-tips, cotton balls, cigarette butts, bandaids, kitty litter, hair clippings, gum.
Myth: The garbage disposal is basically a trashcan.
Fact: Septic tanks have a delicate balance and if you have a garbage disposal (which many home owners with septic tanks avoid) you could be causing lots of problems with the septic because of the food you haven’t eaten!
Put these in the trash and not down the drain: fibrous and stringy foods, bones, seeds, pits, coffee grinds, oil/fats/grease, egg shells, beans, rice, pasta, potato peels, non-food items.
Myth: Toilets need bleach.
Fact: Bleach kills the good bacteria in your septic tank that is necessary to break down all the junk in there. Those slow release bleach tablets that go in the toilet tank are actually terrible for your septic tank. Instead of bleach, try vinegar, lemon, baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide. If you must use bleach, use it sparingly.
Myth: If you’re on a well and septic, you can use as much water as you want.
Fact: All pipes lead to the septic system and the more water it gets, the more it has to work. The more it has to work, the more likely it is to get backed up.
Myth: Septic soil fields need to be bare.
Fact: That crappy soil is excellent for vegetation! Some plants are better than others. Small plants and trees with small roots are key.
- The drainfield is the area around your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from the tank. It also requires careful care.
- Never drive or park on your drainfield.
- Grass is great. But plant trees and plants a proper distance away from your septic field. A professional can determine the proper distance, but a good rule of thumb is that the plant should be as many feet away as it is tall. For example, a 3 foot rose bush should be 3 feet away.
- Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.