The Septic Tank

The septic tank is what most people call an entire septic system. However, the tank is a component of the system.

This component itself ranges in size, with 1,000 gallons being a standard. The overseeing regulatory agent, like the health department, usually determines how big the container must be.

One person can use 50 to 350 gallons of water per day for drinking, washing, flushing the toilet, and cooking. Since water is the biggest filler of a septic tank, the number of people living in a home usually determines size.

The container itself is large, waterproof, and airtight. Containers are made from precast concrete, plastic, steel, fiberglass, or other material.

The configuration of the site sometimes dictates what kind of container to use. Again, the regulatory agent can help make this determination.

The container is buried underground some distance from house. It should not be run over by vehicles.

Lines run from the house to the septic container. The containers are located so that gravity sends the water into the tank. Another line from the tank goes away from the house to the drain field.

Tanks generally have two compartments, though some engineers are now leaning toward a single compartment.

The tank design is such that a still pond is created as wastewater enters the container chamber. This becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, yeasts, and fungi.

As organic solids sink to the bottom of the container, the microbes attack the solid waste. This produces methane and other gases as a by-product.

If a tank is working properly, the bacteria are busy all the time, though they might slow down in freezing weather. A well-designed tank can remove more than 50 percent and possibly as much as 90 percent of the solids.

The septic container has five functions. It:

  • receives the wastewater from the house
  • separates the solids from the liquids
  • stores the solids
  • decomposes the solids
  • sends the effluent wastewater out to the drain field.

If a tank is not properly installed, the flow of the wastewater can be impeded. This can allow solids to flow into the drain field. This can be a sign of system failure.



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