Septic System FAQ For New Septic System Owners

If you have a septic system and are not sure what it is, what it does, and how to take care of it, these commonly asked questions will make you much more comfortable with your septic system.


What is a Septic System?

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry.[1] A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drainfield or soil absorption field.

How does a Septic System Work?

A septic system works in four different steps:

  1. All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe.
  2. The water will run into the septic tank. The septic tank is a water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene that is buried in your backyard. The point of the tank is to hold in the wastewater while solids move to the bottom of the tank and oil and grease floats to the top of the tank. The bottom layer is known as sludge and the top layer is known as scum.
  3. The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drainfield. The drainfield is a shallow underground hole made in unsaturated soil in your backyard. The pretreated wastewater from the septic tank is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter though the soil. The soil accepts, treats, and disperses wastewater as it percolates through the soil, ultimately discharging to groundwater.
  4. Finally, the wastewater filters slowly into the soil, naturally removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.


Where is my Septic System Located?

There are a few easy ways to check to see where your septic system is located:

  • Check the property records to see if there is a record of the permit for your septic system. This record will usually include a map of the septic system and where the certain parts of the septic system are located.
  • Ask your neighbors to see if they know where their septic systems are. Chances are your septic system is located in a similar spot.
  • Look around your property to see if there are any differences in grass color or texture, as it may lead you to find where the septic tank and drainfield could be buried.
  • Call a professional to help you follow the sewer lines to help you locate your septic system.


How Often do I Need to do Upkeep for my Septic System?

There are two components to septic system upkeep: inspection and pumping:

  • According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, should be getting your household septic system inspected by a service every three years.[2] And, if you have an Alternative septic system with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components, you should be getting this checked yearly. Make sure the company inspects for leaks and examine the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank.  Call a professional to help you conduct your inspection.
  • It is important to note that septic systems should be pumped every three to five years.[3] Septic tank pumping services help you to avoid costly and inconvenient repairs to your septic tank or cesspool. Getting your tank pumped every three to five years can dramatically extend the life of your septic system and prevent septic system replacement. Call a professional if you think it may be time to pump your system.

Are Septic Systems Environmentally Friendly?

Yes, septic systems are very environmentally friendly. At-home septic systems are natural and they work to protect you from diseases. At-home septic tanks use a completely natural process to treat waste; septic systems naturally break down the bacteria in waste. In comparison, commercial septic systems use chemicals within their systems. Rest assured, your at-home septic system is completely natural and chemical free. In addition, at-home septic systems work to protect you from disease. Diseases can be spread through contaminated soil and water, but having a septic system will break down harmful bacteria.


Hopefully these FAQ’s provided you with more background about septic systems so you can be at ease with yours. Of course, if you have any other questions or concerns, be sure to contact your local septic system professional.