Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to common questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question :

What is a conventional septic system and how does it work?

Answer :

The septic tank system is a small, on-site sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground. The septic system has two essential parts: (1) the septic tank and (2) the soil absorption area. When household waste enters the septic tank the following occurs :

  • Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of what is commonly called “scum”. Bacteria in the septic tank biologically convert this material to liquid.
  • Inorganic or inert solid materials, those that are not biodegradable and will not decompose, and the by-products of bacterial digestion sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer commonly known as “sludge”.
  • Only 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 overflowing into the soil absorption area should be avoided at all costs. It is this solid overflow that clog soil pores and causes systems to fail.

Question:

Do I really need to pump my septic system?

Answer:

Yes, there are certain contents of your septic system that are not biodegradable and will not decompose – inorganic and inert material. If left unpumped, they will build up and can clog the soil absorption area, leading to system failure. Routine maintenance of your system can also help to identify problems that would lead to unsanitary backups and costly repairs.

Question:

How often should I pump my septic system?

Answer:

Your septic system should be cleaned every 1 to 3 years. How often depends on the size of the tank and how many solids go into it. The U.S. Government Department of Health recommends septic cleaning every 2 to 3 years.

Question:

How do I best maintain my septic system?

Answer:

To maintain your septic system, have your system cleaned regularly, do not overload it, use water sparingly, don’t flush chemicals or grease down the drain, and maintain the groundcover over the drainfield.

Question:

What causes septic systems to fail?

Answer:

A septic system will fail when the disposed waste liquid can longer be absorbed by the soil absorption field. This is normally caused by solids clogging the soil pores and causes systems to fail. Two main factors cause solid material to build up enough to overflow: (1) lack of septic pumping to remove sludge, and (2) bacterial deficiency.

Question:

What things should I prevent from entering my septic tank to avoid problems to my septic system?

Answer:

The following commonly used home care products – even when used according to directions – and food byproducts can reduce the bacteria population required for the proper functioning of your septic tank.

  • Detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Bleaches
  • Acids
  • Polishes
  • Cleaning compounds
  • Sink & tub cleaners
  • Caustic drain openers
  • Paint, paint thinner
  • Male & female products
  • Toiletries – such as Q-tips, dental floss
  • Cigarettes
  • Diapers
  • Greases & Oils

The use of garbage disposals require more frequent septic system cleaning due to the added amount of solid waste that can overload the system.

As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it in your septic tank.

Question:

What are the signs of a failing septic system?

Answer:

Unfortunately, there are not many early signs of a failing septic system. Typically, it is not until water is backing up that you know there is a serious problem. This is why regular, routine maintenance and septic cleaning is highly needed.

Question:

Is there anything I can put in my tank to avoid pumping?

Answer:

No. There is nothing that can avoid pumping. We recommend the use of bacterial additives that help promote the digestive processes inside the tank and prevent a bacterial deficiency that may lead to system problems. River Valley Septic offers a product for sale if interested.