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A Healthy Septic System: What Does it Look Like?

A septic system consists of two basic components: The tank and the drainfield. Sewage and wastewater flow from the house and collect in the tank, where they separate into layers. Sludge and solid matter sink to the bottom, and oils, grease and other light matter drift to the top. This top layer is usually called “scum”.

As the system fills, waste water flows from the primary tank and into the drainfield, which can take any of three forms. Trench drainfields are the most common among newly constructed houses. In the trench system, wastewater flows from the septic tank to a distribution chamber, and from there into a series of long perforated tubes that extend out into the soil. As water slowly makes its way from the tank, to the chamber, into the tubes and through the perforations, it mingles with the soil and soil bacteria that break down the particles and clean the water of all harmful microbes and pollutants.

The other two formats (called the sandmound and seepage pit) have different configurations, but they operate on the same concept. All three formats send wastewater into the soil slowly, allowing enough time for beneficial bacteria to break it down.

Unhealthy septic systems display similar symptoms. A soft or boggy quality to the soil around a septic system can be a sign of trouble. So can backups in sinks, appliances and toilets. Another key indicator of septic system malfunction is odor, either inside the house or outside in the yard. Healthy septic systems have no discernable smell.

If you recognize odor, swampy soil, drain backups, or all three, call Mr. Rooter right away. A simple fix now can save considerable trouble and expense down the road.