Septic Smart FAQ
What is a septic system?
If you live in a rural area or a small community or if you have a cottage, chances are you have a septic system or holding tank. Septic systems are onsite treatment units used in place of municipal sewers in rural areas. Anything that goes down the drain – every shower drip-every toilet flush- flows to the septic system. Septic systems are comprised of a tank, a network of pipes and billions of organisms that process your waste.
How Does It Work?
The most common septic system consists of a septic tank and leaching bed- all of which is hidden under the soil of your yard.
All household wastewater exits your home through an underground pipe that leads to the buried septic tank. The waste flows to the first compartment of the tank where the heavy solids settle and the lighter materials (fats, oils, grease) float to the top and develop into scum. Baffles and screens keep this scum layer from escaping the tank and flowing to the leaching bed. This scum is removed when the tank is pumped during REGULAR maintenance.
In the second compartment of the tank, finer particles settle to the bottom. Organic materials break down in the tank. On newer systems, any remaining organic material is trapped and decomposes on a screen called the effluent filter located at the outlet of the tank. As of January 2007, effluent filters became mandatory on all installations and upgrades in Ontario.
From the tank, the effluent filter moves to a leaching bed made up of a network of perforated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) drain pipes. Stone and a layer of unsaturated soil or sand surround these pipes. The effluent flows to the leaching bed either by gravity or by pump depending on the site conditions. The leaching beds PVC drain pipes allow the effluent to seep into the ground where bacteria and other organisms process the wastewater further.
In Ontario, Part 8 of the Ontario Building Code governs nearly all rural septic systems. If you are installing, repairing, upgrading or replacing such system, you must contact your local municipality for the necessary permits and inspections.
Your Septic System
Every septic system can look very different from site to site as the specific design is based on flow volumes from the house, space available in the yard, soil material and depth to bedrock or other issues relating to the property, such as proximity to surface water or underground water.
What Could Be Hiding Underground?
You could have some very old technology working for you. In the past, steel tanks, cinderblock tanks or poured-in-place cconcrete tanks were used. Septic system technology is constantly changing and improving. Today, septic tank are either pre-fabricated concrete or plastic.
Since the mid 1970’s, septic tanks are required to have 2 compartments. Old tanks may only have one compartment. Today’s pipes used in leaching beds are plastic, but in the past clay tiles, asbestos pipes and non-corrode pipes were used. Today’s spacing for leaching bed pipes is 1.6 meters but you may find only .9 meter spacing with older style pipes.
Septic System and Your Health
There are many contaminants in wastewater that can affect your health and the environment. They include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If contaminants reach your drinking water supply, they can cause disease or other health problems as well as environmental problems. A proper functioning septic system will remove most contaminants to acceptable levels. To reduce the risk to nearby ground or surface water supplies, the location of your septic system is CRUCIAL.
There are legislated separation distances required between your septic system and your home and well, neighbouring homes and wells, and nearby bodies of water.
Why Should I Maintain My Septic System?
Did you know that septic systems are the RESPONSIBILITY of you the HOMEOWNER? It is up to you to keep your system working properly to protect your environment, your health and your investment. When properly designed, installed and maintained, a septic system should proved long term, effective treatment of your household wastewater. If you take good care of your system, you will save yourself time, money and the worries involved with replacing a failed system. Below are some very valuable tips to ensure the longevity of your system.
DO'S & DON'TS TO KEEP YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM HEALTHY
- Familiarize yourself with the location of your septic system
- Keep the access to the tank secured at all times
- Keep accurate records of septic maintenance and service calls
- Have your tank pumped and inspected for scum build up every 3-5 years.
- Have your effluent filter cleaned EVERY year, this can prevent back up into the home.
- Conserve water in the house to reduce the load on the leaching bed.
- Repair leaking plumbing fixtures.
- Spread the number of loads of laundry throughout the week, don’t do all in one day.
- Enter a tank - gases can be fatal.
- Put cooking oils down the drain.
- Flush hazardous chemicals.
- Use special additives claiming to enhance the performance of your tank- you don’t need them!
- Dig without knowing the location of your system.
- Drive or park on your tank or leaching field.
- Pave over your leaching bed or put interlocking bricks, patios over etc.
- Connect rain gutters or sump pumps to your septic tank.
- Plant trees on top on leaching bed- roots can be very harmful to your system.
ASK TO SEE THE LICENSE!!!
Anyone in the business of pumping and cleaning septic systems must be licensed by the Ontario Ministry of the Enviroment.
What Happens When There Is A Problem?
Septic systems have an approximate life span of between 15-40 years. To maximize the life span of your septic tank, follow the do’s and don’t list. A malfunctioning septic system is easy to see….and smell. If you suspect you have a problem with your septic system it is important to deal with it immediately, the tank may just need a regular cleaning. If there is a problem with the leaching bed, septic professionals will provide you with the support and the tools to have it looked after.
If you have a malfunctioning septic system, you may just need some simple repairs. Repairs to septic systems include replacing some lines, installing a new baffle, cleaning effluent filter, or needing a new leaching system.
Just in Time Sanitation is a licensed septic company, family owned and operated. We will provide professional and expert service to help with any of your septic needs.