To make sure your septic system is working properly, and to know what kind of service you need if it isn't, The Drain Doctor has compiled some essential facts about septic system that everyone should know.
When you need your septic system inspected, give The Drain Doctor a call. Our inspections follow Skagit County Health Department guidelines and include dye and volume testing. You'll receive a comprehensive report with each test.
The typical septic tank is a large, buried, rectangular or cylindrical container made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Wastewater from your toilet, bath, kitchen, laundry, etc. flows into the tank.
Septic tanks may have one or two compartments. Two-compartment tanks do a better job of settling solids and are required for new systems. Tees or baffles are provided at the tank's inlet and outlet pipes. The inlet tee shows the incoming wastes and reduces disturbance of the settled sludge.
The outlet tee keeps the solids or scum in the tank. All tanks should have accessible covers for checking the condition of the baffles and for pumping both compartments. If risers extend from the tank to or above the ground surface, they should be secure to prevent accidental entry into the tank.
Solids that are not decomposed remain in the septic tank. If not removed by periodic pumping, solids will accumulate until they eventually overflow into the drain field. Most septic tanks need to be pumped every 3 to 5 years, depending on the tank size and the amount and type of solids entering the tank.
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The septic tank should be pumped whenever:
the bottom of the scum layer is within 3 inches of the bottom of the outlet tee or baffle, or the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the bottom of the outlet fitting.
Some septic tank additives on the market claim to prevent clogged drains or reduce the need for routine pumping. They advertise products offering chemicals, yeast, bacteria or enzymes.
Such products are not necessary for the proper functioning of a septic tank. Some can cause solids to carry over to the drain field, which results in early soil clogging and the need for a new drain field. Products containing organic solvents contribute to groundwater pollution.
The wastewater leaving the septic tank is a liquid called "effluent." It has been partly treated but still contains disease-causing bacteria and other pollutants. Discharging effluent onto the ground's surface or into surface and ground water is against Washington State law.
The drain field receives septic tank effluent. It has a network of perforated pipes laid in gravel-filled trenches (2-3 feet wide), or beds (over 3 feet wide) in the soil. Wastewater trickles out of the pipes, through the gravel layer, and into the soil. The size and type of drain field depends on the estimated daily wastewater flow and soil conditions.
Every new drain field is required to have designated replacement area. It must be maintained should the existing system need an addition or repair.
The soil below the drain field provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent. After the effluent has passed into the soil, most of it percolates downward and outward, eventually entering the groundwater. A small percentage is taken up by plants through their roots, or evaporates from the soil.
The soil filters effluent as it passes through the pore spaces. Chemical and biological processes treat the effluent before it reaches groundwater, or a restrictive layer, such as hardpan, bedrock or clay soils.
These processes work best where the soil is somewhat dry, permeable, and contains plenty of oxygen for several feet below the drain field.
Warning signs of a failure:
Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots or lush vegetation growth in the drain field area
Plumbing or septic tank backups
Slow draining fixtures
Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system
If you notice any of these signs or if you suspect your septic tank system may be having problems, contact The Drain Doctor!