(Average fee: $95 - $400)
A View of Septic Tanks and Sewage Treatment Systems
On-site sewage treatment systems (commonly known as septic systems) typically have a sewage tank (with baffles and possibly an effluent filter), a distribution box, and various connecting pipes and distribution connections. The septic tank allows the heavy solids and the lighter scum materials in the wastewater to separate from the liquids. The function of the tank is to hold the solid waste material and prevent it from reaching the soil absorption field. The solids in the tank are partially decomposed by bacteria and the rest is later removed by "pumping" the septic tank. Treatment of the waste water occurs in both the septic tank and the absorption field. The tank and drain field are normally installed below grade.
Today, tanks are normally made of concrete or fiberglass and are either septic tanks or aerated tanks. Note - these are distinctly different systems.
Types of Tanks
Septic tanks rely on anaerobic (without oxygen) bacteria to partially treat sewage. Aerated tanks include a motor which uses aerobic (oxygen using) bacteria to break down the organic portions of the sewage into inorganic compounds. Compared to septic tanks, aerated tanks break down the sewage more rapidly, provide greater solids reduction and are relatively odor free.
What does a Septic Tank Inspection Include?
A qualified septic inspector will be looking at components of the system both inside and especially outside the home. Inside the inspector will determine whether all waste lines are properly discharging into approved waste systems. Outside, the inspector will need access (and permission from the seller) to open the treatment tank, examine the inlet and outlet baffles to determine the volume and check for cracking, corrosion or leakage. In addition to the tank itself, the inspector will visually check the absorption field to ensure there is proper drainage without leaking.
Septic Tank "Do's" and "Don'ts"
Do have your tank pumped and system inspected regularly; normally tanks are pumped every 3-5 years. Use water-saving features in faucets, shower heads, and toilets. Use biodegradable soaps soaps and laundry detergents. Keep the use of your garbage disposal to a minimum. Don't drive or park over any part of the system. Don't plant trees or shrubbery in or near the drain field. Don't use commercial septic tank additives. Don't flush coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers, personal hygiene products , cigarette butts, paper towels, fats/grease, paints, varnishes, pesticides or waste oil into your tank.