How Modern Sewer and Septic Systems Work

A man inserts a large hose into a septic tank to perform maintenance.

Understanding Your Home’s Sewer System and the Issues It Could Face

With the convenience of modern sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities, most people in urban areas like Charleston no longer give a second thought to what happens to their wastewater after they take a shower or flush the toilet. However, it wasn’t always like this. Within the last 200 years, urban sanitation and sewage systems have made enormous progress and greatly improved the quality of life in cities.

The breakthroughs that have most directly influenced modern sewage systems took place in London during the 1800s. At the time, people’s wastewater was simply dumped into open gutters on the streets. This caused numerous problems, including constant foul odors, drinking water contamination, and deadly diseases outbreaks like cholera.

This pushed innovation in modern sewage systems forward over time, eventually leading up to what we have today. Generally speaking, most people’s homes are now either connected to their city’s wastewater system or have their own septic tank. At Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Charleston, we want to help inform our customers about their own sewer systems, and the importance of keeping them running properly.

How Urban Sewer Systems Work

Thankfully, you no longer have to see or smell people’s wastewater while you’re walking down the street. Modern sewer systems take wastewater from homes and flush it out of the area to a water treatment facility.

These systems are primarily present in urban areas, where there are more homes and buildings packed into a smaller area. With urban sewer systems, each individual home has its own sewer line that flows into main sewer lines, which typically run underneath the city streets. These main lines flow into progressively larger pipes, which eventually reach the water treatment facility. There, wastewater is treated and cleaned.

Sewer line blockages in urban areas can be disastrous. Main lines can sometimes be clogged as a result of debris buildup from numerous households, which can cause problems for large populations.

How Septic Tanks Work

In rural areas where homes are spread out over larger distances, it’s challenging to route everyone’s wastewater into one main sewer line. Because of this, people usually have their own individual septic tanks that treat their wastewater. Septic tanks function like a miniature version of urban wastewater treatment systems.

Utilizing gravity, wastewater from the house flows through a sewer pipe into the septic tank, which is a large tank buried in the ground. Inside the tank, solid waste either floats to the surface or sinks to the bottom, leaving debris-free water in the middle. The debris-free water is displaced when more wastewater flows into the tank, causing it to flow out into a drain field where it is absorbed by the ground.

Due to the gases created by the organic compounds in septic tanks, it’s very important to follow safety guidelines and keep your tank running properly. These gases can be harmful if you ingest them, and even cause explosions if not properly ventilated. South Carolina has its own guidelines and laws regarding septic tanks that you should be aware of if you have or are interested in installing one.

A malfunctioning septic tank can pose environmental and health risks, which is why it’s important to have a professional plumber conduct routine maintenance.

Common Sewer Line Issues and Maintenance

Whether you have a septic tank or are connected to Charleston’s main sewer line, your sewage system can encounter problems. From foul odors to flooding and other hazards, it’s important to keep your sewer line running properly and address issues as soon as they arise to avoid sewer line replacements.

Some of the most common causes of sewer line malfunctions are:

  • Tree roots damaging sewer pipes
  • The ground freezing and thawing
  • Earthquakes or other nearby earth movement caused by construction
  • Buildup of debris such as grease, hair, oils, or toilet paper
  • Poor installation or maintenance

If you notice gurgling sounds coming from drains, a lack of water in your toilet, sewer odors anywhere around your property, or flooding in your yard, these could be signs that your sewer line is broken or clogged. It’s a good idea to have it inspected by a professional plumber to ensure are resolved properly before any additional damage is done.

At Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Charleston we employ several methods for repairing a broken sewer line to prevent replacing the entire pipe. Our team can perform regular sewer line inspection and maintenance, which will decrease damage and prolong its lifespan, and relieve any clogs or blockages.

If you’d like to learn more about your home’s sewer system, or about our various sewer line repair and maintenance services, request a free estimate online or call us today!