How Does A Septic System Work?

Sep­tic Tank A sep­tic tank is sim­ply a large con­crete or plas­tic tank that is located under­ground in the yard. The tank will hold a min­i­mum of 1,500 gal­lons of water in a new sys­tem. Waste­water flows into the tank at one end and leaves the tank at the other. The tank looks some­thing like this in cross-​section: In this pic­ture, you can see three lay­ers. Any­thing that floats rises to the top and forms a layer known as the scum layer. Any­thing heav­ier than water sinks to form the sludge layer. In the mid­dle is a fairly clear water layer. This body of water con­tains bac­te­ria and chem­i­cals like nitro­gen and phos­pho­rous that act as fer­til­iz­ers, but it is largely free of solids. A sep­tic tank nat­u­rally pro­duces gases (caused by bac­te­ria break­ing down the organic mate­r­ial in the waste­water), and these gases don’t smell good. Sinks there­fore have loops of pipe called P-​traps that hold water in the lower loop and block the gases from flow­ing back into the house. The gases flow up a vent pipe instead — if you look at the roof of any house, you will see one or more vent pipes pok­ing through. As new water enters the tank, it dis­places the water that’s already there. This water flows out of the sep­tic tank and into a drain field. A drain field is made of per­fo­rated pipes buried in trenches filled with gravel. The fol­low­ing dia­gram shows an over­head view of a house, sep­tic tank, dis­tri­b­u­tion box and drain field: Drain Field A typ­i­cal drain field pipe is 4 inches (10 cen­time­ters) in diam­e­ter and is buried in a trench that has a max­i­mum of 3 feet of cover and 2 feet (0.6 m) wide. The gravel fills the bot­tom 2 to 3 feet of the trench and dirt cov­ers the gravel, like this: There are also inno­v­a­tive alter­na­tive sys­tems that are approved by Mass­a­chu­setts DEP for gen­eral use and reme­dial use. This is an expam­ple of a Infil­tra­tor System: The water is slowly absorbed and fil­tered by the ground in the drain field. The size of the drain field is deter­mined by how well the ground absorbs water. In places where the ground is hard clay that absorbs water very slowly, the drain field has to be much larger. A sep­tic sys­tem is nor­mally pow­ered by noth­ing but grav­ity. Water flows...
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MA TITLE 5 SEPTIC INSPECTIONS

NE Classic Engineering is licensed to perform Massachusetts Title 5 Inspections Cost Basic Title 5 inspec­tion $425 Does not include machine costs if required Dig­ging to 6 inches in depth to tank cov­ers and d-​box Inspec­tion Procedure Walk around the entire site to note gen­eral con­di­tions and check for obvi­ous signs of fail­ure such as sur­face break­out or pond­ing. Look for signs of sewage, stains on the ground or sat­u­rated, spongy soils. The pres­ence of sewage odors must be deter­mined when first arriv­ing at the site. Check pump­ing records for fre­quency .of sys­tem pump­ing and ver­ify that the sys­tem has not been pumped within two weeks prior to inspection. Inter­view prop­erty own­ers con­cern­ing back-​up or break-​out or high ground water. Sewage backup into the house can be caused by: 1. clogged pipes 2. sur­charged sep­tic tank 3. failed leach­ing area Locate and inspect all pipes exit­ing the building. Sep­tic Tank Expose and remove man­hole covers. Deter­mine mate­r­ial of construction. Check inlet and out­let tees or baf­fles for damage. Check liq­uid lev­els for evi­dence of leakage. Ensure sludge depth and thick­ness and record on the inspec­tion form. Rec­om­mend pump­ing as part of the inspec­tion if indi­cated by being within two inches of the out­let tee. Check for evi­dence of backup (i.e. liq­uid level sig­nif­i­cantly higher than invert of out­let pipe) Dis­tri­b­u­tion Box Expose and remove cover. Deter­mine if d-​box is level and if flow is equal. Check if there is evi­dence of solids carryover. Check if sta­tic water level is at or higher than invert of out­let pipe. Check the pump func­tion if there is a dos­ing cham­ber instead of a dis­tri­b­u­tion box. Soil Absorp­tion System Locate the leach­ing system. Approx­i­mate lay­out to be determined Deter­mine con­di­tion of soil (e.g. clogged, hydro­gen sul­fide crust, etc.). Deter­mine level of pond­ing within dis­posal area (visual inspection). Deter­mine if leach­ing sys­tem is below the high ground water elevation. Ground Water Determination Loca­tion of the bot­tom of the leach­ing facil­ity com­pared to the HIGH ground water ele­va­tion is the most com­mon rea­son for the fail­ure of sys­tems inspected. It is also the most impor­tant rea­son that sewage is not ade­quately treated before it enters the ground water table. Sin­gle Cesspools Deter­mine dimen­sions and mate­ri­als of construction. Mea­sure liq­uid level dis­tance to invert and eval­u­ate com­pared to fail­ure criteria. Deter­mine the dis­tance below the bot­tom of the cesspool to high ground water. Note depth of sludge...
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Is My Septic System Failing?

A sep­tic sys­tem is a series or group of com­po­nents. The com­po­nents have changed over time, but modern-​day sep­tic sys­tems look like this. They have a large tank, a smaller tank (called a Dis­tri­b­u­tion or D-​box) and a leach field. Pipes con­nect each part of the sys­tem. The rea­son I’m show­ing you this dia­gram is a fail­ure in just one of the com­po­nents could pro­duce some of the warn­ing signs of sys­tem fail­ure. But that doesn’t mean your whole sys­tem has failed! I’ve seen many Title V inspec­tions where the just the D-​Box failed and needed to be replaced, or the Tank had cracked and needed to be replaced. It’s not really a pass/​fail on the whole sys­tem. Some­times, the whole sys­tem does need to be scrapped, but you should always make sure you’re talk­ing to a knowl­edge­able pro­fes­sional. With that, we’ll start with 6 things that may tell you your sep­tic sys­tem is Failing. 1. Your Sys­tem Fails a Title V Inspection If you have a state licensed pro­fes­sional out to inspect your sys­tem, and he tells you it’s fail­ing, well, that’s a bad sign for your sys­tem for sure. An obvi­ous one, but I need to get to 6 here. 2. The ground above your leach-​field is wet If the ground above your leach-​field is soft, wet, or there are pud­dles, and itHASN’T BEEN RAIN­ING, that’s a sign of fail­ure. Your leach-​field is designed to absorb all the house­hold water you pro­duce, and dis­trib­ute it into the soil –with­out sat­u­rat­ing or flood­ing it. Once your leach-​field loses its dis­tri­b­u­tion power, the sys­tem can’t func­tion well, and you’ll have ponding. 3. The Ground above your Sep­tic Tank is has Puddles In a sim­i­lar way, if the water is unable to drain quickly from the tank, than the back up will occur near the tank. This could indi­cate a block­age or fail­ure in one or sev­eral com­po­nents, but is a clear sign of trouble. 4. Your lawn looks great where the tank or leach-​field are There’s another word for human waste — Fer­til­izer! Although we don’t think about it much, the waste we pro­duce has a pur­pose in the ecosys­tem, and that results as hav­ing a fer­til­iz­ing affect on our lawns. If your leach field or tank have grass that is notice­ably greener and health­ier than the rest of your lawn, your sys­tem could be over­flow­ing, and deliv­er­ing waste...
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