A Home Owners Guide to Septic Tanks

Opting to install a septic tank in your garden to help deal with human waste can be the best way to ensure your family lives in a safe environment. Long before more modern means of irrigation were conceived, this solution provided a means for people to avoid disease and limit their impact on the ecosystem. In some parts of the world, this is still a popular method for doing just that. While septic tanks to require maintenance and more attention than modern sewerage systems, they’re still very popular around the globe in locations where updated plumbing is yet to arrive.

septic tank

So, if you’ve live in such an area and you’d like to learn a little bit more about septic tanks from a homeowner’s point of view, spend the next ten minutes reading through all the information contained in the remainder of this article. You should come away with a much better understanding of how septic tanks work and what your responsibilities will entail should you decide to purchase one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on these products and I don’t work for a company supplying tanks, but I have had quite a lot of experience with them over the years, thanks to owning numerous properties in out-of-the-way areas.

Homeowner Responsibilities

So long as your septic system has been properly designed and manufactured, it should provide a long term solution to your drainage needs concerning household water waste. That said; in most countries, the law states that homeowners are 100% responsible for the tanks in their gardens, which is why ensuring yours is looked after adequately should be a top priority. Any incidents caused by your septic tank could incur huge fines, and so it’s always best to periodically inspect the system and ensure it gets pumped long before it reaches capacity. A great way to keep an eye on the level of the liquids in the tank is to use a hydrostatic pressure gauge.

Failing to do this could result in significant damage to your own property, and those nearby. In some extreme cases, a leak or overspill could also contaminate groundwater, which in turn could contaminate the drinking water. Whilst this doesn’t happen frequently, it serves to highlight how important proper maintenance can be.

Septic Tanks Explained

Those of you reading these with little or no experience with septic tanks are probably wondering how they work, right? Well, the entire process is very simple, which is partly why it has been so popular and successful over the years.

A standard septic system will comprise of four main components: a pipeline from your home, a drainfield, the soil and the tank itself. Soil is used because it contains microbes that are perfect for digesting the waste and removing contaminates before it has the chance to reach groundwater.

The septic tank itself is usually a buried, watertight container made from either polyethylene, concrete or fibreglass and is designed to hold wastewater long enough to ensure any solids have time to settle out or turn to sludge. This also allows any oil or grease to float to the surface, whilst ensuring partial decomposition of all solid materials put through the system. In many cases, screens or filters are used to ensure the solids never reach groundwater, even when an overflow occurs

The Drainfield Explained

When waste water enters your septic tank, it automatically gets filtered into your drainfield for further soil treatment. As each load of wastewater is emptied into the tank, the previous liquids are pushed further and further away from your home through the drainfield until they become clean enough to dissipate into the environment.

If the drainfield becomes overloaded you have a real problem on your hands. Sewerage can rise to the surface and create blocks in your plumbing fixtures, which will in turn prevent the treatment of any more wastewater until the issue is resolved. Unfortunately, if things have gotten this bad, you’re probably going to need the help of professionals, and for the obvious reasons, they don’t come cheap.

Some states in America require people with septic tanks to allocate a reserve drainfield just in case anything like this happens. The reserve area would be used for a new system, should the standard one fail. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’re going to need suitable drainage, especially if you’re from a large family, so this should be seen as a positive regulation.

Septic Maintenance Explained

People often ask what the main benefits of keeping on top of septic tank maintenance are, and I hope from the information you’ve already seen, the answer should now be obvious. However, just in case I haven’t made it clear enough; here it is in black and white.

  • Saving Money – This is probably the main reason why ensuring your septic tank is properly maintained is essential. I can tell you from personal experience that repairing or replacing a malfunctioning system after an overflow can be incredibly expensive, especially if you didn’t spot the problem soon enough. I had this happen to a home I used to own in the US, and it almost bankrupted me.
  • Protecting Your Own Health – If you fail to protect your water resources properly, you leave ourselves open to very nasty infections and diseases spread by your own waste. The amount of harmful bacteria living in your septic tank is enough to see off an entire village, so make sure you keep it contained at all times.
  • Protecting The Environment – If your tank overspills and groundwater becomes contaminated, almost everything that exists in your local environment is at stake. People with dogs and cats will need to keep them locked in the house until a remedy is found, and any other animals or birds that venture onto your land could become seriously ill very quickly.

So there you have it folks. I know that’s not the most detailed homeowners guide to septic tanks ever written, but I thought it was best to keep things as simple as possible so as not to confuse anyone reading. All you need to remember is to prepare in advance for the worst and have backup plans in place should something go wrong. For the most part, this form of drainage is very safe, so long as you don’t forget to check on it from time to time.

Thanks for reading!

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