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What Is a Septic System, and How Does It Work?

If your house has a septic system and it’s working properly, you probably never think about this piece of machinery.

But when there's a septic system failure, you’ll have a major emergency on your hands.

If you’re new to the world of septic systems, read on to learn what they do, how to know when it’s full, and when it’s time to repair or replace it.

What is a septic system?

Usually found in rural areas that don’t have public sewer systems, septic systems are underground wastewater treatment facilities. They usually have a septic tank and a drain field or soil absorption field, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A septic system consists of a drainage pipe, a septic tank, and a drain field. When you have a septic system, water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank. The tank digests organic materials and separates solids, oils, and grease from the wastewater. Then, the liquid wastewater goes through underground pipes into the drain field. The soil in the drain field filters the wastewater, and it eventually discharges into the groundwater.

How often does a septic tank need to be pumped?

Maintenance is key to owning a septic system! The EPA says the typical system should be inspected at least every three years, and septic tanks are pumped every three to five years. If you have a system with an electrical float switch, pumps, or other mechanical features, you may need to have it inspected annually. And household size, septic tank size, and the amount of wastewater your house generates, how many solids are in the wastewater, will also influence how often your tank must be pumped.

What are the signs that your septic tank is full?

It’s been a while since your tank was last pumped: If you’re outside of that three to five year window, it may be time to call a professional in to have the tank examined and possibly pumped.

Your drains are slow, or your toilet is sluggish. This is often the first sign that your tank is full, especially if it’s all of your drains and toilets.

Sewer smells are wafting through your home. This is a major clue that your septic tanks needs attention.

The grass around the septic tank is looking greener than usual. This sounds like a good thing, but it’s actually not. What’s inside your tank is just like what’s in a lot of fertilizers. So if your tank is full and leaking out onto the soil, it may cause this part of your yard to look very green and healthy.

Sewage is backing up into your house. This is the worst, and most obvious, sign that your tank is full. Contact your local plumber immediately.

If you have a septic system and aren’t sure if it needs maintenance or not, give Benjamin Franklin Plumbing a call. We can take a look at it and recommend a solution. Contact us today or call 1-888-BEN-1776.