The Septic Tank – The Heart of Your Home’s Wastewater Treatment System

A septic tank is the heart of your home’s wastewater treatment system. Gray wastewater (from kitchens and baths) and black wastewater (from latrines) flow through the drain line into your septic tank. From there, liquid waste pumps into the drain field while solid waste sinks to the bottom of your septic tank where natural bacteria begin to break down the contaminants. For more information, click the Website to proceed.

The septic tank is designed for your specific home taking into account its size, number of bedrooms and soil type. A septic system can be designed to include more than one tank. The size of your septic tank and the number of people living in your house will determine how often it needs to be pumped. If you use a garbage disposal it will increase the amount of solids that enter your septic system and require more frequent pumping.

During decomposition, microorganisms produce gases including hydrogen sulfide which can cause unpleasant odors in your home. The septic tank vent pipe, often a mushroom-shaped device, releases these gases to the outside air.

Depending on your system design, there may be an inlet and outlet tee. Inlet tees are typically PVC “T”-shaped fittings that extend into the septic tank from the inlet and outlet openings. The tees allow hydraulic pressure to push wastewater up through the scum layer and into your absorption field when you flush the toilets or run water in your home. Without these tees, the scum layer would make its way into your drain field where it could plug and compact the soils creating a failure in your absorption field.


If you don’t take the time to maintain your septic system properly, a thick layer of sludge could start developing on top of your tank. This is all the solid waste that can’t break down with anaerobic digestion, including fats, oils, and greases, as well as paper, dental floss, hair, and other items that shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet but still make their way into your septic tank (like bleach).

Septic tanks are designed to hold wastewater for long enough for liquids and solids to separate. The liquid that rises to the top of your septic tank is called effluent or wastewater and is a clear fluid. The sludge that sinks to the bottom of your septic tank is called sludge and is thick, dark, and odorous.

During the wastewater detention period in your septic tank, microorganisms that live there begin to digest and reduce the sludge. The bacteria in this environment is what makes your septic tank work. During this process, they release carbon dioxide and other gases that help to clean up your waste water.

A healthy septic tank should have less than 30% sludge. Anything more can clog your drain field and cause sewage to back up into your home. When the septic tank is full, it’s time to schedule pump-out services.

Your septic tank has special compartments that prevent the sludge from leaving the septic tank with the wastewater. A baffle in the outlet of your septic tank also prevents solids from flowing out of your septic tank and into your absorption field. These solids can clog the drain field and create a messy, costly mess.

Once the septic tank is pumped, a pipe takes the effluent to your septic system’s drain field, which is a section of uncovered soil outside your house that filters sewage through rocks and dirt before discharging into underground aquifers. A well-maintained septic tank is important because it keeps sewage out of your home, protects your health, and reduces groundwater pollution.


More than one in five homes use septic tanks to treat wastewater that comes from bathroom, kitchen and laundry drains. They are widely used in suburban and rural areas that are not connected to a municipal sewer system. Unlike sewer systems, which require expensive pipes to be installed in homes, septic tanks are usually less costly. They are also much more independent than centralized systems, giving homeowners more control over their water management.

When wastewater reaches the septic tank, it undergoes a settling process. Solid waste sinks to the bottom of the tank, where bacteria eat away at it and transform it into sludge. Lighter debris, including fats, oils and grease, floats to the top of the water’s surface, creating a scum layer. The septic tank then separates the water and solids, sending the sludge to a drain field for further treatment and dispersal in the soil.

During the settling process, hydrogen sulfide gases are produced. These odoriferous fumes can infiltrate your home if the tank is not functioning properly, and they can make you and your family ill when inhaled on a regular basis. They can cause earaches and eye irritation, and they can even be dangerous if inhaled over long periods of time.

In addition to the sulfide, septic tanks produce other types of gas, such as methane and carbon dioxide. These gases can also leak from the septic tank, leading to unpleasant smells and respiratory problems. Fortunately, these gases are not as harmful to human health as sulfide gasses.

If you are considering buying a property that uses a septic system, it is essential to have a septic inspection done before making an offer. While septic systems are generally more affordable than sewer systems, they do require periodic pumping and maintenance. You may want to consider submitting a contingent offer based on the results of the inspection, which will show that you are a serious buyer and are willing to close if the septic system passes inspection.

Despite the drawbacks of septic tanks, they still serve as an efficient and effective way to treat household wastewater. However, if you can afford to connect your home to the sewer system, this is certainly the better option.


Septic systems are an integral part of a sewage system and need to be pumped to function properly. The septic tank holds wastewater and allows solids to settle, and scum rises to the top, where bacteria break down some of the waste in a process called digestion. Wastewater then flows to the absorption field through pipes.

The absorption field is a series of soil-filled trenches, which contain a perforated drain field, a distribution box and a pump. The distribution box is a concrete or plastic cube that sits lower than the septic tank and uses gravity to distribute wastewater evenly throughout a drain field. The pump and the distribution box are connected to the septic tank through a series of pipes.

Wastewater flows into the septic tank, where the weighty masses sink to the bottom and bacterial activity creates digested slime and vapors. The lighter masses, such as grease and oils, ascend to the scum layer and float on top of the wastewater. As the septic tank fills, the gases created from this decomposition escape and begin to clog the absorption field, which prevents water from absorbing into the ground.

When the septic tank gets full, it’s time to get it pumped. The frequency of pumping depends on how many people are using the septic system and how much solid waste each person is adding. During septic tank pumping, a professional removes the liquid waste and floating sludge from the tank. Depending on the size of the tank, this can be done with a high-pressure water hose or with a pump.

Once the septic tank is pumped, the bacteria will regenerate and the system will work as usual. However, it’s a good idea to use caution when working around the tank and never leave the lid open for too long. Leaving the lid up for extended periods can lead to contamination of nearby drinking water wells or local waterways. Excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can enter waterbodies and cause toxic algal blooms that affect fish and other aquatic life.

If you’re overdue for septic tank pumping, or want to learn more about preventative maintenance for your septic system, contact Wind River Environmental. We offer septic tank and cesspool pumping services, along with other septic system repairs.