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The concept of plumbing and sewage disposal is older than some people might think. Even the ancient Romans used plumbing, and they coated those pipes with lead. The Roman word for “lead” is, in fact, where we get the modern word “plumbing” and the atomic symbol for lead on the Periodic Table. Most houses in the United States today are connected to public utilities for receiving clean water and disposing of dirty water to processing plants. But about 25% of American properties are too far away from these pubic utilities, so they make use of self-contained systems instead: septic tanks and septic systems of all kinds. Inside a septic tank, dirty water is purified somewhat, and the end result is clean water leaching back into the natural environment. Owning a septic tank and system means knowing how to track its well-being and knowing when to clean it out or repair it. How might this work?

The Basics of a Septic System

To begin with, dirty water will be flushed from the building, and travel through pipes to arrive in the septic tank. This is a large underground tank that can hold quite a few liters of liquid, and it is home to large colonies of helpful bacteria that will break down solid matter inside the dirty water. Such matter will settle at the tank’s bottom to form a thick sludge, while fats and oils will float on the water’s top, leaving relatively clean water in between these layers. This process lasts for two or three days, until the relatively clean water will pass through a filtered grate in the septic tank and travel deeper into the system through branching pipes. At this point, the filter-cleaned water will start leaching out of the septic system through a series of nozzles, and this water filters through loose soil, gravel, and more bacteria colonies in the uppermost layers of the ground’s soil. This completes the cleaning process, and safe water may enter the natural water cycle in the drainage field.

Septic Tank Care

Septic tank treatment involves knowing how to track the condition of a septic system and knowing when septic tank pumping or septic repair is necessary. For example, the sludge that builds up in the septic tank itself as no means of leaving the tank without outside help, and it will continue to build up. So, the property owner may use a measuring stick known as a “sludge judge” and insert it into the tank, and measure the contents. Once the tank is one third to one half full, septic pump services may be called upon. Experts will arrive with a truck-mounted pump, unearth the tank’s hatch and open it, set up a thick hose, and pump out all sludge inside. A septic tank might need this sort of pumping work once every few years or so.

After enough time has passed, a septic tank may wear out and start to leak, and the household’s plumbing needs might have grown since then. In this case, a septic tank may be shut off, then unearthed and removed entirely. A new one will be put in place, and it will be tough and leak-proof (and it will be whatever size the property owner requires). Meanwhile, the filter on the tank may get clogged or suffer tears, and this may interfere with the filtering process. But the tank shouldn’t be simply removed, or too-dirty water may get deeper into the system. So, the filter can be cleaned off, or even replaced with a new one.

The pipes deeper in the system may get coated with grime on the inside over time, and this will restrict water flow in them and potentially cause blockages. If the owner suspects this, they can call upon experts who will remove those pipes and blast their insides clean with pressurized water. Damaged pipes might be replaced entirely. And finally, care should be taken so that no vehicles drive over the drainage field, since their great weight will compress the ground and thus block the septic system’s natural filters. If this does happen, professionals can be called upon to use mechanical means to blast the earth loose and restore the correct density levels of the soil.


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June 2024