M2=H2: S is for Sewer and Septic

Your new home is equipped with either a public sewer and water hookup or with a well and a septic system. Your builder will be able to tell you which type your home has. While the public sewer and water is relatively maintenance-free, a septic system does require periodic maintenance. A septic system works on a natural process of bacterial digestion. Inside your tank, the bacteria in the waste breaks down much of the solid waste into liquid and gas. Any undigested solid goes to the bottom of the tank and is called sludge. The light substances, such as oil, float to the top. This is called scum. In the middle is the liquid, called effluent. Effluent drains from the tank into the drainage field.

Septic System

LOCATE: You should ask your builder the location of the underground septic tank, the drainage field, and the evacuation outlet. The tank itself will be buried several feet underground. The drainage field, or sometimes called leeching field, is contingent on the size of your tank, the type of soil you have, the slope of your property and the technology system your tank uses. Finally, the evacuation outlet is the opening from which the waste is pumped when the tank fills up. This opening in a modern home is normally buried a few feet underground as well. (In older homes, this outlet was a pipe protruding from the yard.) It is wise to mark the location of the underground outlet to facilitate pumping with ease when needed.

CLEAN: The septic tank will need to be emptied every 2 to 5 years. The timing will depend on how many people are in your house, how large the tank is and how often you use a garbage disposal. When waste enters the tank, heavier matter sinks to the bottom and lighter material on top. Effluent filters out of the tank and into your drainage field, but the sludge will eventually need to be pumped. If you notice that waste drainage is sluggish in your home, it’s probably time to call the septic company to pump the tank. The best time of year to clean the tank is the spring, as the bacterial action which produces noxious odors is more active in warmer months.

INSPECT: At the same time your septic company empties the tank, ask them to inspect the tank and drainage field. A number of factors could cause problems in good drainage, such as tree roots, blockages or damaged pipes.

CAUTIONS: Do not pour cleaning chemicals down the drain. Frequent use of these liquids will inhibit the bacteria which is necessary to keep your septic tank in working order. If you avoid using a garbage disposal and minimize the quantity of water you use, your system will last longer. Finally, a number of chemical and biological additives are on the market. Chemical additives are a huge no! These additives can damage your tank and pollute the environment as effluent water leaches into your drainage field. While biological additives are not as dangerous to your tank or the environment, they are unnecessary. The bacteria which naturally occur in your waste will suffice to break down the waste and do the job.


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