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A septic tank is a personal sewer system and is commonly used in rural areas where public sewage systems are not available.

Usually, a septic tank is made of concrete or steel and is buried in the owner’s yard. Water and waste from the house’s toilet flows through pipes into the septic tank. Each time new wastewater flows in, other wastewater flows out into a drain field. The drain field is usually an area that is made of trenches or ditches that are filled with gravel. Perforated pipes, or pipes with holes punched in them, transport the excess waste water from the septic tank to the drain field where the ground and gravel absorbs the water.

The solid matter, or sludge, is brought into the tank with the wastewater and settles on the bottom of the tank. Sludge has to be removed when the levels get too high.

Common Problems With Septic Tanks
When sludge is not removed on a regular basis, the solid material builds upon itself until it blocks the inflow or outflow of wastewater. This situation causes the unfiltered wastewater to back up and overflow into the toilets or spill into the yard.

Septic tank overflow is not only extremely costly to fix, but it is also difficult to clean out of the ground water. If a tank overflows and then it rains, the wastewater can get into the streams and lakes, which are the sources for local drinking water. In addition, the pollutants can have very harmful effects on local wildlife.

Preventing Problems With Septic Tanks
You can prevent problems with your septic tank by:
  • Inspecting your system regularly and pumping your tank as necessary
  • Making sure that the drain pipes can always access the drain
  • Cleaning the sludge from your septic tank regularly-check the owner’s manual or with your tank’s manufacturer for when and how to clean your tank
  • Using water efficiently
  • Not disposing of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets
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