How Your Septic System Works
Here we will describe how your septic tank and drainage field work in conjunction with each other. A properly maintained septic system should last the lifetime of your home. Check out our other pages for advice on keeping your septic system in top shape.
Identifying Your Septic Tank Lid
Your septic tank will be near your home and is easily identified by the circular lid(s) often made of concrete but also, sometimes, of plastic. Some homes may have them buried for aesthetic purposes but typically in the areas around Calgary they are above grade and easy to spot.
As children are naturally curious we recommend taking time to educate them on the dangers of falling in if they were to open the lid to your tank.
How Your Septic Tank Works
Below is an image showing what your septic tank looks like on the inside and describing how a common two chamber system works.
The above image is courtesy of the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association (AOWMA). In the diagram you will see that the waste water enters from your home through the 'inlet piping' and deposits into the first chamber called the 'working compartment'. The solids sink to the bottom to become what is referred to as 'sludge'. It is in this first chamber that enzymes and bacteria work on breaking down the sludge into 'effluent' or 'liquid waste' so it can eventually mix with the other liquids.
The effluent moves into the 2nd chamber, the 'pump chamber', where it is pumped out through the 'discharge piping' and into your leach field.
Regular pumping of your septic tank prevents build up of solids. Preventing a build up of solids prevents them from spilling over into your pump chamber and septic field. If that occurs your leach field can back up into your septic tank and then you are in need of repairs to both your drainage field, septic tank components, indoor plumbing and if it's not detected in time, potentially other areas of your home as well.
How A Septic Drain Field Works
The liquids from your septic tank flow to your drain field which is buried beneath your yard near your septic tank. The liquids are channelled through perforated pipes which work to kill harmful bacteria and viruses before they leach into the soil and eventually your groundwater. A drain field is often called a leach or septic field.
The below images show two different leaching field installations. You can see the depth of burial can vary from home to home depending on grade and the slope of land.
You may also see why it's important not to drive vehicles on top of this area of your lawn for those perforated pipes, or half domes, can be crushed by the weight. Also, the soil you want the liquids to drain into can become packed solid. Either of these situations will make your leaching field less effective and it can even become plugged up altogether and cause sewage to back up into your home.
Septic System Overview
Finally, here are two illustrations showing the system working together as a whole, beginning from your bathroom.
To avoid a basement backed up with sewage let ABC Septic set you up on a regular maintenance schedule to prevent costly disasters. Our trained technicians will evaluate your septic system each time we are on site and provide you with a full report.