Septic 101

A septic system’s purpose is to clean the waste we flush down our sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc. and safely reintroduce it into the earth. A sub-surface sewage disposal system, or septic system, processes our waste in two general ways. First, everything we flush is separated. The solids sink and grease, oils, paper and some waste float. This separation occurs in the septic tank whose job is to filter

Configuration of a typical septic tank system

everything while allowing the water to flow out to the leaching field. It is in the leaching field where the second part of the cleansing process occurs. The leaching field’s job is to leach all of that water back into the soil. The goal is that the “grey” water from your septic tank is cleaned by traveling through the natural soils and becomes “clean” water by the time it mixes with the ground water and becomes someone’s drinking water. This is done at elevations and locations determined by the Connecticut Public Health Code Regulations and technical Standards for subsurface sewage disposal systems.

Common Problems:

Backups, clogs, bathroom or kitchen fixtures that won’t drain, can’t flush, water coming back into your basement, water bubbling up out of your tank, or yard, septic odors outside your home and system failure.

When a system fails, it fails to leach the amount of water discharged to it fast enough and “backs up”. There are many contributing factors and causes for septic system failure. There are also as many different types of backups which result from those failures. For example, if a leaching field has failed and is not able to keep up with the amount of “grey” water being piped to the system at any given time, that grey water will back up into other components of the system. The backup will follow the path of least resistance and if the water can get out of the system it will. This “bleed out” could occur on the surface of the ground above the leaching field, septic tank or any other part of the system where the waste water can escape the system components. It also could backup into the house causing the failure of plumbing fixtures/ drains, possibly allowing waste water into your home.

Leach field failure is not the only cause of backups, there is a great deal of piping involved with a septic system. The purpose of the piping is to deliver the flow from the home through the two steps of the septic process and if any of the plumbing is compromised a back up will result.