How Do Septic Systems Work?
Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, commonly used in rural areas that don't have access to municipal sewer treatment facilities. They use proven technology to treat wastewater from household bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry. A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a leach field, or soil absorption field. However, a growing number of systems today are required to be much more complicated, including pump systems and additional filtration.
The conventional septic tank digests organic matter and separates floating matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, leaching chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil or surface water.
Alternative systems use pumps or gravity to help septic tank effluent trickle through sand, organic matter (e.g., peat and sawdust), constructed wetlands, or other media to remove or neutralize pollutants like disease-causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other contaminants. Some alternative systems are designed to evaporate wastewater or disinfect it before it is discharged to the soil or surface waters.