Benefits Of Having A Septic Tank

What is a septic tank? Read ahead to learn about septic tanks and the many benefits they provide today.

Wastewater is created when your washing machine, garbage disposal, sinks and toilets are operated. Disposal of wastewater is necessary and handled through one of two possible options. The first option utilizes municipal sewer lines, which carry wastewater out of your home and deliver it to local water and sewage treatment facilities. The second option utilizes a septic tank installed in your home.

What is a septic tank? Septic tanks are large containers, which gather and separate liquid wastewater from solid wastes and scum generated in your home. Septic tank systems provide multiple benefits ranging from environmental through logistical to economic in nature. Continue reading to learn valuable information about the benefits of having a septic tank system in your home today.

Wastewater 101

Wastewater is generated in both residential (domestic) and commercial (business) settings. Residential wastewater is created via normal daily living functions such as taking baths and showers, running washing machines, flushing toilets and more. Commercial wastewater is created via similar functions but also and more intense processes specific to each business or facility. For example, automobile repair facilities generate wastewater including oils, fuels and other toxic liquids. Wastewater from hair salons might contain chemicals from hair dyes, perm solutions and Barbicide (used to sterilize combs and other salon tools).

Comparing Gray and Black Wastewater

Wastewater is generally categorized as either gray or black wastewater. Gray wastewater is generated from showers, hot tubs, laundry machines, dishwashers and non-kitchen sinks. Black wastewater is generated via the use of kitchen sinks and toilets. Black wastewater is prone to containing solid wastes as well, which require separation from the wastewater for safe and proper disposal. Septic tanks are a beneficial option for gathering and separating all liquid wastewater and solid wastes generated in your home.

Septic Tanks 101

A septic tank gathers wastewater and solid wastes into a tank installed beneath your home and/or property. Solid wastes are heavier than wastewater and therefore sink to the bottom of the septic tank. This natural process helps separate the liquid wastewater from the solid waste, the latter of which begins to experience a process known as “bacterial digestion.” Bacterial digestion reduces the density of solid wastes, changing their compositional makeup from solid to sludge. Conversely, oil and grease (which are lighter than wastewater) float to the top of the septic tank, which allows the isolated wastewater to be expelled from the tank into a drainage receptacle. Isolated expelled wastewater (referred to as “effluent”) is then dispensed into surrounding soil where it experiences an additional natural breakdown and treatment process.

Septic tanks consist of multiple parts and components, all of which contribute to the overall efficacy and functionality of the tank. More importantly, these parts and components are integral to the natural and legal disposal of effluent and safe collection of solid wastes and lighter liquid waste. Parts and components of septic tank systems include:

  • Manhole (provides surface access to the tank as necessary).

  • Ports for inspection (also referred to as inspection pipes; include cameras and other tools utilized for viewing inside the tank to ascertain its safety and functionality).

  • Effluent (isolated wastewater free of solid wastes, oil and/or grease; dispelled from the tank into surrounding soil).

  • Sludge (solid waste sunken to bottom of tank; converted via bacterial digestion from solid to sludge form).

  • Scum (oil, grease or other liquid waste, which is lighter in density than the effluent; floats to top of effluent).

  • Drain field (also referred to as the leach field; the location to where effluent is dispelled outside the septic tank; also referred to as nearby unsaturated soil).

All About the Pros and Cons of Septic Tanks

Owning a septic tank system provides multiple benefits. While the benefits are far more common, some potentially adverse aspects also exist. Continue reading directly below for more details on the pros and cons of having a septic tank on your property.

Pros of Owning a Septic Tank

Septic tanks are environmentally friendly. Sewage lines leading to a public sewage system are prone to leaks, which potentially contaminate the ground and local drinking water. Septic tank systems do not dispel wastewater into a public system, which significantly reduces the possibility of such dangerous leaks. Septic tanks also utilize organic filtration processes, which in turn reduce pollution and contamination.

Septic tanks are generally more cost-effective and economical than the price of installing new piping and paying increased public water bills. The long-term savings typically outweighs the cost of installation by undeniable numbers, especially when your tank is regularly inspected and serviced. Maintenance on septic tanks is generally low-intensity as well. A typical septic tank only requires a pumping process to clear it out only once every three-to-five years. Issues with septic tanks are also simple to diagnose and easy to access since the tank is on your property. Finally, most quality septic tanks stay operational between twenty and forty years.

Cons of Owning a Septic Tank

Installing a new septic tank requires obtaining (and paying for) a permit. Responsibility for upkeep and repairs falls solely on each owner, which means all repair and replacement costs do as well. A leaking, damaged or broken septic tank might lead to mosquito infestations, foul odors, damage to tree roots and the creation of a breeding ground for disease. Local ground or pooled waters (ponds, lakes, rivers, and creeks, etc.) are at risk of contamination if a septic tank breaks and is not immediately repaired. Issues such as this might lead to legal problems and expenses if not handled properly.

Broken Septic Tank? Here’s What to Do First

The process for handling a leaking or otherwise damaged septic tank system depends on the nature and severity of the issue. Generally, however, the first thing to do when you discover an issue with your septic tank is to discontinue using all applicable drains. Pump the tank if possible. Contact an appropriate agency to conduct an inspection to ascertain the extent and specifics of all issues. Update your septic tank and system by replacing all damaged parts with new replacement components. Please note: Scheduling regular inspections and maintenance service for your septic tank helps prevent serious issues long-term. In the event your septic tank is in dire need of repair or is experiencing a serious/dangerous emergency, contact a certified professional septic tank repair company immediately. 

Guide to Finding the Best Septic Tank Repair Company

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidance on what to do when your septic system fails and/or floods. An additional EPA-sponsored PDF form provides further information as well. The National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT) supplies information on qualified septic system repair specialists nationwide, as does the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) website. A few more high-quality options for nationwide septic tank repair services include: