You might know that it takes care of all the waste that flows out of your house, but do you really know how a septic system works? Having a clear idea of how it operates will help you spot potential septic problems so you don’t wind up in hot water — or in this case, wastewater — dealing with costly malfunctions that impact your day-to-day.

What Makes Up a Septic System?

Septic systems are designed to treat wastewater, usually underground. This water comes from all of the plumbing in your home, not just your toilets — it includes showers, bathroom sinks, kitchen sinks and washing machines. Your septic system works by combining nature with reliable technology. There are two key parts that make up a septic system:

  1. The Septic Tank
  2. The Drain Field (also known as a Leach Field)

While some use methods that don’t involve drain fields, most of the septic systems in Florida’s residential areas rely on a drain field to help filter and discharge water. Along with the tank and leach field, these systems require a series of pipes and soil or a related material.

With The Necessary Components in Place, How Does Your Septic System Work?

In both the tank and the drain field, bacteria are essential for a well-functioning septic system. In fact, according to figures cited by the University of Florida, anaerobic bacteria break down waste to reduce sludge by 40% and other solids by 70%. But it’s not just bacteria working all by itself. A typical septic system works like this:

  1. Sewage and other wastewater run from the house to the septic tank, which is buried in the ground outside.
  2. Solids (known as sludge) settle on the bottom of the tank.
  3. Lighter materials like oil and grease (known as scum) float to the top.
  4. The sludge and scum stay in the tank where bacteria will begin to digest it.
  5. The rest of the water (known as effluent) is filtered and flows into the drain field.
  6. The underground drain field receives the effluent and discharges it into the soil.
  7. The soil treats the wastewater with other bacteria to filter out remaining fecal contamination and harmful parasites so it can be dispersed as ground water.

If it’s overfilled, or if solids seep into it, the drain field can flood. This is how sewage ends up in your yard, causing patches of lush green grass and backups in your home’s sinks and toilets.

What Happens to the Sludge and Scum in Your Septic Tank?

While bacteria and other additives do take care of a lot of the solids that build up in the tank, a good amount just stays behind. This is why it’s so important to pump out your septic tank regularly. If there’s too much sludge and scum in your tank, it can cause a whole host of issues.

Now You Know How a Septic System Works — So Keep it Working Right!

Understanding how your septic system works is only one piece of the puzzle. Keeping it in working order is even more important. Otherwise, you could be facing all kinds of septic pump problems. If you’re a South Florida resident, let Moon Site & Septic help you. As the area’s best septic system installation company, we know how your system is supposed to work — and we’ll make sure it does. Contact us today!