Standard Septic Systems | An Overview

Standard (conventional) septic systems are typically constructed with two primary components: 1) a septic tank and 2) a dispersal area (also known as a leaching field, leaching bed, drain field or filter bed).

The configuration of a standard septic system originates back to rudimentary styles first seen in France in the 1860's. These initial versions have since evolved into the carefully designed systems that we see today. Today's standard systems are designed to meet a number of prescribed variables and treatment requirements which include calculations to accommodate the dwelling's daily design flow, the area's native soil and the property's unique topography and characteristics. The function of the system's tank is to receive wastewater from the dwelling, and to allow for appropriate settling of solids and liquids. The microbiological ecosystem that is created through the retention, settling and conveyance of effluent is vital to the treatment process. It is for this reason that the health and ecology of the tank should be considered carefully when deciding what we allow down our drains or what we flush. The wastewater effluent then flows from the discharge end of the septic tank to the leaching field (dispersal area) by gravity. If properly constructed, the leaching field distribution laterals allow for the conveyance of partially treated effluent across the laterals, and into the layered soil filter located below the laterals. The final stage of treatment occurs here in the 'drain field', where soil and rock provide a final polishing treatment to the effluent as it trickles back through the ground and into ground water table. Note that the leaching field is typically the expensive portion of the system given the amount of carefully selected and designed sand, gravel and aggregate required to appropriately construct the final polishing filter. Although the configuration of a standard septic system may vary and may be equipped with a pump chamber or distribution box, the principal of operation remains the same. Maintaining your system is essential to ensuring adequate system performance and treatment, and optimizing your system's life span. Regular maintenance should include:

  • The verification of individual components such as the inlet and outlet baffles

  • The cleaning of the effluent filter every 6-12 months (if your system is equipped with one)

  • A measurement of solids accumulation in your tank (to determine if a pump-out is needed)

  • Verification of your leaching field and any changes to performance or condition

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the condition or operation of your septic system, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns that you may have and know that we are always happy to help!