Septic Tank Information

What is a septic tank system?

A septic tank system consists of a large water-tight tank that receives wastewater from the home plumbing system. The tank is followed by an underground drain field consisting of a network of perforated pipe for the septic tank to the soil for final treatment and disposal.

How Does It Work?

Septic tanks contain bacteria that grows best in oxygen-poor conditions. These bacteria carry out a portion of the treatment process by converting most solids into liquids and gases. Bacteria that require oxygen thrive in the drain field and complete the treatment process begun in the septic tank. If the septic tank is working well, the wastewater which flows out of the tank is relatively clear, although it still has an odor and many carry disease organisms. It should flow nowhere except into the drain field. NEVER ONTO THE GROUND SURFACE OR ONTO FLORIDA WATERS!!

Operation and Maintenance

After the septic tank system is placed in service, proper operation and maintenance of the system will ensure continued efficient service and prevent sudden replacement expenses. The septic tank and drain field are designed and installed to handle a maximum calculated daily sewage flow.

Consistently exceeding the design flow will eventually overload the system and cause failure. The tank may receive new solids faster than it can dispose of the old ones and the drain field may become saturated from excessive water use.

Various products are on the market which are said to start, accelerate or improve the action a the septic tank. Since all necessary bacterial are already present in the sewage entering the system, such products are not recommended.

Maintenance of a septic tank will depend largely on the daily sewage flow and individual household wastewater characteristics. With ordinary use and care, a septic tank should not require pumping out more than once every two to three years. It should, however, be inspected occasionally to determine the depth of accumulated sludge and grease.

Waste from kitchen garbage disposal units puts an extra load on a septic tank system. If a disposal is ‘used, the capacity of the tank should be increased to handle the increased solid wastes. The tank may also require yearly pumping to remove accumulated solid waste buildup.

Failure to pump gut a septic tank system when indicated, will result in solids or greases overflowing into the drain field which in turn may become clogged and stop functioning. In this event, not only will the tank have to be replaced. Septic tanks. can be cleaned by septic tank cleaning firms permitted by the county health department. This type of work should be done only by experienced professionals who will pump the entire contents of the tank Into a tank truck and dispose of the content in an approved, sanitary manner.

Preventing Failure

Septic Tank systems fail when the drain field does not dispose of sewage as rapidly as it is being added to the system. Thus, improvements that reduce the amount of incoming water or improve the quality of wastewater passing through the system will increase the system’s longevity. Other important considerations include the following:

A drain field can be damaged by compaction due to vehicular traffic and can be blocked by excessive shrubbery or tree root growth. The drain field should be unobstructed and seed with grass. Grass and sunlight aid evaporation.

Washing machines are responsible for large volumes of water entering the septic tank. The surge of wash water can create turbulence in the tank which increases the amount of solids flushed into the drain field. Space washings throughout the week rather than doing many loads at a time, or, install a separate system for washing machine water. Cooking oils and greases are trouble makers. The type of bacteria found in septic tanks and drain fields do not survive or function well in solidified grease. Grease and cooking fats should never be washed down the sink drain. Save grease in jars or cans for disposal in the garbage.


• Know the location and capacity of your septic tank system
• Have a qualified person inspect the tank at least every two to three years
• Have tank pumped when the combined depth of the sludge and scum equals 1/3 of the tank liquid volume
• Install the system so that rainfall and surface water will flow away from the drain field
• Rain water from a roof should not discharge onto the drain field
• Grow grass or small plants above the system
• Install water conservation fixtures or devices to reduce the total volume of water entering the system
• Keep plumbing fixtures such as toilets and faucets in good repair to prevent leakage and wasting of water


• Never flush paper towels, newspapers, wrapping paper, rags or sacks into the system
• Never allow large, irregular, intermittent or constant volumes of clear water into the system as with a leaking toilet or faucet
• Never over-use ordinary house old cleaning chemicals that will be flushed into the system
• Never pour out or empty hobby or borne industry chemicals into the system
• Never allow waste from water softeners to enter the system
• Never allow waste or other bulky waste to enter the system
• Never flush toxic materials such as pesticides Into the system
• Never plant trees or shrubbery in the drain field
• Never allow vehicles care, trucks, etc) to drive across or park on the drain field (Protect it from being crushed)
• Never waste water
• Never use chemical solvents to clean plumbing lines or septic tank system

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