Septic Systems 101: Knowing The Components and How They Work

June 18, 2023 12:25 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Septic Systems 101: Knowing The Components and How They WorkA,Schematic,Section-view,Illustration,Of,A,Contemporary,Sanitary,Sewer,System

Septic systems are an essential component of modern-day plumbing and wastewater management. They are crucial for homes, businesses, and communities that are not connected to a municipal sewer system. A septic system works by treating and disposing of wastewater on the property where it is generated. As a result, it is essential to understand how a septic system works and its components.

Components of a Septic System

A septic system is composed of various components that work together to treat and dispose of wastewater. Each component serves a specific purpose in the water treatment process. Understanding the function and importance of each component is essential for maintaining the system, achieving optimal efficiency, and preventing environmental contamination.

1. Septic Tank

The septic tank is the primary component of a septic system. It is a large, underground container that receives all the household wastewater from sinks, showers, toilets, and other plumbing fixtures. The septic tank is crucial because it separates the solid waste from the liquid waste. The solid waste settles at the bottom of the tank, while the liquid flows into the next treatment phase.

2. Distribution Box

The distribution box is a secondary component that serves to distribute the liquid effluent evenly into the drain field. The distribution box is generally placed at the septic tank’s outlet, where pipes distribute the wastewater into the field’s subsurface trenches.

3. Drain Field

The drain field is the last treatment phase of a septic system. The liquid effluent flows from the distribution box to the drain field through a series of pipes. The drain field consists of perforated pipes or drain tiles that are buried in shallow trenches or beds. The waste effluent percolates through the soil’s layers, where organisms in the soil further treat it.

How A Septic System Works

A septic system works by separating the solid waste from the liquid waste, treating the effluent, and disposing of it into the soil through a drain field. The septic system is a self-contained system that uses gravity to treat and dispose of wastewater. Here is how a septic system works.

1. Collection of Wastewater

All the wastewater from the house flows into the septic tank. The septic tank is designed to separate the solid waste from the liquid waste. Solid waste, including toilet paper, human waste, and other organic matter, settles at the bottom of the tank. Oil and grease float to the top. Microorganisms in the septic tank break down and digest the solid waste, converting them into liquids and gases.

2. Natural Treatment of Liquid Waste

The liquid waste or effluent flows from the septic tank to the distribution box, where it distributes evenly to the drain field. The drain field consists of perforated pipes or tiles buried in a bed of gravel. The gravel bed acts as a filter, holding the effluent long enough for microorganisms to digest and purify the effluent.

3. Soil Treatment

The soil acts as the primary treatment phase in a septic system. Effluent percolates through the soil’s layers, where it undergoes further treatment. The soil’s microorganisms break down any remaining organic matter, remove any harmful bacteria or viruses, and filter out any other impurities in the wastewater.

4. Reusable Clean Water

The soil acts as a natural filter and removes contaminants from the effluent. As a result, the water that percolates through the soil is clean and suitable for reuse. In some septic system designs, the effluent is used to irrigate lawns, gardens, and other vegetation.

Maintenance of Septic Systems

Septic systems require regular maintenance to remain efficient and prevent environmental contamination. Neglecting maintenance can result in system failure, costly repairs, and environmental pollution. Regular maintenance includes:

1. Regular Pumping of the Septic Tank

The solid waste that accumulates at the bottom of the septic tank must be pumped out every three to five years to avoid clogging the pipes and causing system failure.

2. Inspection of the System

A qualified inspector should inspect the septic system at least every three years to check the condition of the system and ensure that it is functioning correctly.

3. Proper Use of the Septic System

The septic system is designed to handle certain types of waste. Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items, cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, and other hazardous waste into the system.


A septic system is an essential component of modern plumbing and wastewater management. It effectively treats and disposes of wastewater, protecting the environment, and preventing water pollution. Understanding the components and maintenance of a septic system is crucial for protecting your property, maintaining the system’s efficiency, and preventing system failure.

If your septic system is in need of some work, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and contact us today!

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