The septic system is a small, on-site sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground. It’s comprised of a septic (holding) tank, in which waste material decomposes through bacterial activity, and a soil absorption area. The modern septic tank is a watertight box usually made of precast concrete, concrete blocks or reinforced fiberglass. When household waste material enters this tank, several things occur:

  1. Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of what is commonly called “scum.” Waste material in the septic tank is converted to liquid by bacteria via natural biologic action.
  2. Inorganic, or inert solid materials, and the by-products of bacterial digestion sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer commonly called “sludge.”
  3. Only fairly clear water should exist between the scum and sludge layers. It is this clear water, and only this clear water, that should overflow into the soil absorption area.

Solid material should never overflow into the soil absorption area as it clogs soil pores and causes septic systems to fail. Two main factors cause solid material to build up enough to overflow: Bacterial deficiency and lack of sludge removal.

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