-What makes up a septic system?

            A septic system is composed of a collection system (e.g. septic tank) and a disposal system (e.g. drainfield).  Some systems may also include a pump tank and distribution component to distribute effluent more efficiently. Some advanced systems may include pretreatment components to boost treatment capacities of the system. 

The modern septic tank is a watertight box usually made of precast concrete, concrete blocks, or reinforced fiberglass. When household waste enters the septic tank several things occur:


  1. Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of what is commonly called "scum". Bacteria in the septic tank biologically convert this material to liquid.
  2. Inorganic or inert solid materials and the by-products of bacterial digestion sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer commonly known as "sludge".
  3. Only clear water should exist between the scum and sludge layers. It is this clear water-and only this clear water - that should overflow into the soil absorption area. 


Bacteria must be present to digest the scum. If not digested, the scum will accumulate until it overflows, clogging the soil absorption area.

The sludge in the septic tank - inorganic and inert material - is not biodegradable and will not decompose. If not removed, the sludge will accumulate until it eventually overflows, again clogging the soil absorption area.


-Important hints for a healthy septic system.


  • Do not put kitchen grease down the drain.
  • Do not flush cigarettes, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, or other inorganic materials down the toilet.
  • Do not put gasoline, anti-freeze, paint thinner, pesticides, etc. down the drain.
  • Use garbage disposal sparingly or increase septic system maintenance schedule.
  • Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks.
  • Ask your contractor if you think that roots are clogging your pipes.
  • It is recommended that water softeners do not discharge into the septic system. If they do, homeowners should consider switching from a sodium based salt to a potassium based salt



-How often should I get my septic tank pumped?

            Every system is different, but the table below will provide an estimate to how often to pump a system based on size of the septic tank and number of occupants.

-What kind of landscaping can I perform near my drainfield?

            Using shallow rooted, low maintenance, low water plants is the key to planting over a drainfield and near your septic system.  Grass provides ideal year-round cover for drainfields. Ornamental grasses and herbaceous species can be planted as well.