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How Does a Septic System Work

People living in unsewered developments in Australia use septic systems to dispose household wastewater. A septic system is a living ecosystem wherein bacteria thrive in the right proportions to digest waste and treat the water. Sewage and effluent must be safely disposed to protect the health of your family and community since they contain a variety of microorganisms that can cause diseases by direct or indirect contact.

A basic septic system has two main parts, the septic tank and the absorption field.

The contents of a healthy septic tank should form three layers:

Scum. A layer of fats which float to the surface. It helps in preventing odours from escaping and air from entering.

Effluent. A clear layer of liquid that flows from the tanks into the drainage receptacles where it will undergo natural treatment processes.

Sludge. A layer of solids which build up in the bottom of the tank.

As household wastewater flows into the septic tank, heavy solids sink to the bottom forming the sludge while grease float to the surface forming the scum. Bacteria will work to break down the sludge and scum as they remain in the tank. However, these microorganisms are unable to break down all the sludge and scum completely, requiring septic tanks to be pumped regularly.

In most systems, the effluent is directly discharge from the septic tank into the soil by pipes and trenches called the absorption field where natural treatment processes occur. If the soil in your area is unsuitable to be an absorption field, a special field must be constructed. You must avoid overwhelming the soil with too much effluent since soil bacteria need oxygen to work.

Trends in Septic Systems

Septic system additives were developed to improve performance, eliminate the need for desludging and increase the life expectancy. The use of these products is not recommended by the Australian Department of Health.

Some septic tank systems can now be disassembled for ease of transport which are available in plastics and fiberglass.

Manufacturers have developed a filter on the outlet of septic tanks which aims to reduce the amount of solids in the outgoing effluent. The use of these filters is still not common in the country.

Septic systems are easy to operate and maintain since they do not contain any moving parts. However, you must take a more active role in maintaining these systems. Once you under how septic systems work, it will be easy for you to understand the maintenance practices.

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