Every time you flush the toilet or empty the tub or sink, the water disappears. Have you ever wondered where that water goes? If you live in a large city, it probably goes to a sewage treatment center or sewer. In Canada, a quarter of the population lives in smaller communities or rural areas where such systems are not set up. For these Canadians, and many other people all over the world, a septic system is used to process and discard of wastewater. A septic tank treats the wastewater and releases the usable portion back into the ground. Septic systems are also referred to as onsite wastewater systems.

How Does a Septic Tank Work?

A septic tank receives the used water created from regular household use and treats it until it is at a safe level. Then the tank returns the usable portion known as the effluent to the groundwater system

How is the Septic Tank Made?

Septic tanks are watertight structures usually made from concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. Historically, septic tanks have also bee made out of materials such as wood or steel. If you live in a very old home and you suspect it may have a steel septic tank, be mindful that rust may deposit on your tank. If this is the case, you will have to eventually replace the tank. In the event that your home has a wood septic tank, it is eventually going to rot if it is not rotting already. In this case, you will also need to replace your septic tank.

Septic tanks are generally buried underground, and its size will vary on the size and water treatment requirements of your particular home. Tanks may have one or two compartments, depending on where and when it was installed. The septic tank basically consists of a holding tank, which as aforementioned is manufactured out of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. The septic tank, (or holding tank) retains all the solid waste extracted from the household water waste. The septic tank is connected to a system of absorption commonly known as a leach field. The leach field then disposes of the effluent liquid (water) into the soil.

An Outline of the Septic System

Below is a general outline of the main components of any septic system:

– Sewer line, this is the main waste line leading from your home’s plumbing to the onsite septic system

– Septic tank, usually buried underground only feet away from the house, the septic tank receives the liquid and solid waste and retains the solids in the tank. Baffles (or barriers) at the inlet and outlet of the tank slow down the flow of liquid passing through the septic tank and stop solid waste from escaping the tank. Tanks with two compartments have extra baffles and thus do an even more effective job.

– Leaching system, also referred to as a ‘drainfield,’ the leaching system is basically an absorption system. The leaching system distributes the effluent into the soil around it. There are a variety of different ways to set up a leaching system, but the most common is a series of underground perforated pipes buried in trenches with good drainage. The type of drainage system used will depend greatly on the type of soil that surrounds the property and the amount of space available for the leaching system.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the components of a septic system and how they work together, not only do you know how a septic tank is made, but also how it works. If you own a home with a septic tank you understand it a little better now and you can go on to read about how to maintain your septic system.