Septic Tanks: The Unsung Backbone of Rural Sanitation

Septic tanks are an effective waste management solution for homes that cannot connect to a sewer system. They reduce odors and prevent contaminants from reaching nearby drinking water wells or local waterways, where they can cause illness to humans and animals.

Avoid flushing materials that don’t break down or decompose quickly, like paper towels, cotton swabs, tissues, coffee grounds, latex products, cigarette butts and medication. These can disrupt septic tank and absorption system operations. Click Here to learn more.

Safe Disposal

septic tank

A septic tank holds wastewater (including toilet and kitchen waste) until solids sink to the bottom and liquid exits into a buried drain field. The system must be routinely emptied and maintained to avoid potential failures that could contaminate nearby drinking water wells and local waters.

When a septic tank is functioning correctly, bacterial action digests the organic matter and separates floatable solids from the wastewater. The wastewater then exits through a series of perforated pipes buried in the ground, called the drain field. The soil absorbs the effluent and microbes in the ground further treat it. Some companies offer biological additives to a septic system, which can restore the bacterial balance and help prevent clogs in toilets. But bacteria already reside in human feces, so these products are not necessary for most septic systems.

The septic tank also contains a vent, which allows gases produced by bacterial action to escape. These gasses may smell like rotten eggs, but they’re important to allow the system to operate properly. If a septic tank isn’t properly ventilated, the gases can build up pressure that can stop or reverse wastewater flow, leading to system failure.

Once the liquid exits the septic tank, it travels through a series of perforated drain lines buried in the ground and into the underlying soil. The bacteria in the soil further treat the effluent, which eventually makes its way to groundwater. The effluent contains pathogenic organisms and nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, that can be harmful to humans and wildlife.

In some communities, septic tanks are connected to municipal sewer systems. If the septic tank isn’t pumped regularly, or if the system fails, the waste may enter the sewer line and go to the treatment plant. The septic tank contents, known as septage, are added to the stew piped in from homes, or they’re taken away by trucks to be treated separately. In some areas, septage is dumped in landfills intended to hold solid waste.

To protect the septic system, don’t park vehicles or structures over the absorption field or tank, and keep children and pets away from the tank and drain field. Don’t dig near the septic system, and don’t cover it with landscaping or other materials. It’s also a good idea to map out the tank and other system components, or mark them with stakes, to prevent damaging the system when doing yard work or home maintenance.

Getting Started

The septic tank is a buried watertight container that holds wastewater from your toilets, bathroom sinks and garbage disposal. It works by holding the waste long enough to allow bacteria to break down the solids. The heavy solids settle to the bottom, forming sludge. The lighter oils and grease float to the top, forming scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet separate the sludge from the liquid waste (known as effluent). The liquid wastewater passes through a series of perforated pipes that are buried in an absorption area, called a drain field or leach field.

A septic tank requires maintenance to prevent problems, such as a clogged outlet or wastewater backup in the house. The tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years, depending on how many people live in the home and the size of the septic system. The tank also needs to be inspected for leaks and cracks. Signs that it’s time to have the septic tank emptied include toilets that don’t flush, slow-draining bathtubs and showers, puddles above the septic tank, and strong, foul odors.

While you should always have your septic tank pumped, there are things you can do to help reduce the number of visits and keep your tank working better. Avoid putting items into the septic system that can cause a blockage, such as solvents, bleaching agents, antibacterial soaps, petroleum products, paper and fabric. This can throw off the anaerobic and aerobic processes that treat the waste.

Don’t plant trees or build structures over the septic tank and other parts of the septic system, since these can cover or restrict access to them. Keep children and pets away from the septic system as well. A child who falls on the tank lid can be seriously injured or killed.

If you want to start a septic tank cleaning business, it’s important to develop a marketing strategy that will attract customers. This could include creating a website with helpful septic tank maintenance content, posting videos of your pump trucks in action, and leaving informational fliers at local restaurants.


A septic tank that’s in good working order keeps waste away from your home and prevents harmful materials from flowing into the environment. It’s a vital part of any household, but just because it’s hidden from sight doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be inspected and maintained regularly.

A well-maintained septic system will minimize the risk of ground contamination and system backups, which can be expensive to repair. It will also help protect the health and safety of family members, pets, and other residents in your home. Regular maintenance will also uphold your home’s value and ensure that the septic system is functioning properly for years to come.

Wastewater and solid materials can easily build up inside your septic tank without routine inspection and cleaning. This obstructs your plumbing and leads to a host of problems, including leaky pipes and foul odors in your home. It can also contaminate water sources and soil in the surrounding area, which poses a serious health hazard to your family and anyone who spends time outside of your house.

A professional septic system service provider can spot any minor problems and address them before they become major issues. For example, they can check your septic tank for cracks or leaks that could lead to an expensive repair bill in the future. They can also check for a sludge layer that’s getting close to the bottom of your tank or a scum layer that’s too high.

In addition to having a septic tank that’s in good condition, it’s important to maintain your drain field. For instance, it’s a good idea to plant grass and other shallow-rooted plants over the absorption field to help prevent erosion. It’s also important to avoid planting trees and shrubs near the absorption field, as their roots can grow into your septic system and cause clogs.

A well-maintained septic tank will increase your home’s overall value and ensure that it is safe for you, your family, pets, and other visitors to your property. It will also save you from the hassle and expense of dealing with a septic system that requires costly repairs or replacement parts.


The septic tank is the final stage for household waste, so it’s important to keep an eye on how well it’s functioning. A few common signs that it’s time to call in a professional include slow draining, foul smells and sewage backup.

Slow drains from the toilets and sinks can indicate that the septic system is experiencing a problem that isn’t a simple clog. If your septic tank is overdue for pumping or you’re flushing non-biodegradable materials such as wet wipes or paper towels, this can cause a buildup of solid waste that won’t be processed by the septic tank and can lead to slow draining.

Foul smells from the drains and toilets are a clear sign that the septic system isn’t functioning properly. These smells can be caused by a variety of issues including a malfunctioning septic tank, inlet baffle or scum layer. Oftentimes, a simple repair like cleaning the inlet baffle or applying DOWN JOHN can fix these problems.

A sewage backup is the most serious issue that you’ll encounter with your septic system. This can be a huge health hazard and should be fixed as soon as possible by calling a plumbing service or septic tank professional.

If you notice that the grass over your septic tank is greener than other areas of your yard, this can be an indication that the liquid seeping out into the septic drain field is saturating the soil and causing it to grow rapidly. This could also be a sign of a septic leak that’s causing your tank to overflow into the leach field.

Keeping up with your septic system maintenance will help you prevent these common issues, but it’s still best to be vigilant and call in a professional if you’re noticing any of the above warning signs. If you don’t take the proper care of your septic system, it may end up failing and costing you a lot of money in repairs. Make sure you’re only using the correct types of products to avoid clogging your system and have it regularly pumped and inspected by a qualified professional.