Septic system maintenance is not something that everyone will have to be concerned about. However, about a third of Americans do, and this is because they utilize septic systems in treating waste for their homes. By their very design, septic systems are actually very simple. All drains that are coming from your home converge in a single pipe leading to a septic tank outside your home.
When the drains come together they are combined but when they finally get to the septic tank, they will begin to separate. The heaviest part that sinks to the bottom is the sludge, while the top layer made up of oils and fats is called the scum. The middle layer where clear liquid remains is known as the gray water or effluent.
How septic systems work
Think of septic system maintenance as routine cleaning. Septic systems are made to follow a design that allows only gray water to be discharged from the septic tank and into the leach field or drain field. Draining is done through a set of pipes with drilled holes. Gray water passes through these holes below ground (but on top of the water table), degraded enough that it can easily be filtered well by good soil. And because there are still enough organic material left, gray water is also excellent as fertilizer. This is the reason why the grass in the leach field will be the healthiest in the entire yard. But this is just the part where gray water is drained. What happens to the scum and sludge? Over time, these layers will build up. Without septic system maintenance, you run the risk of experiencing an overflow, and overflows are not pretty.
Scheduling septic tank maintenance
It’s typically time for septic system maintenance when the layer of scum is within six inches of the outlet pipe, while the sludge is within 12-inch mark. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to tell when the scum and sludge layers have reached levels requiring septic tank maintenance. This is why it is highly advised that septic tanks undergo system checks every year. During a system check, scum and sludge layers are measured, giving you an accurate idea whether or not it is time to call in maintenance. Other than the measurement of scum and sludge layers, pipes and mechanisms are also checked, alongside the leach field to see if gray water is being drained properly. Average maintenance schedule though should be between one to three years.
Helping your septic system along
Septic systems are capable of going through various wastes year in and year out. However, you can help your septic system along by using various products that can aid in prolonging periods between maintenance. For instance, there are chemicals that aid in the breakdown of sludge so less and less sludge accumulate at the bottom of your septic tank and slowed accumulation means farther spacing in between septic tank maintenance. You can also help slow down the frequency of septic system maintenance by using toilet paper that easily dissolves in water.