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Wastewater systems are treatment systems that collect, treat, and dispose of wastewater generated by homes or businesses.

The wastewater is treated onsite, rather than collected and transported to a centralized community wastewater treatment plant. In the article below you will learn about different wastewater systems and how to properly care for them.

Wastewater System Descriptions

Conventional System (Class 1):
This type of system consists of two main parts; a septic tank and a disposal field. The septic tank is a watertight tank that works to separate solids from liquids. Effluent filters placed on the outlet of the septic tank help prevent solids from leaving the tank and going to the disposal field, slowly plugging the field. The disposal system receives partially treated liquid effluent from the septic tank via gravity or pump. The size of the drainfield is determined by the amount of wastewater flow anticipated and the quality of the soil below. Disposal systems vary from trenches, beds, drip systems and other means of disposal.

Secondary Systems (Class 2):
Secondary systems are most commonly aerobic units, which replace or work with septic tanks. Aerobic units add oxygen to wastewater, which converts ammonia (NH3) to nitrate (NO3) and nitrite (NO2) liquid effluent. These units substantially reduce BOD (biological oxygen demand) and COD (chemical oxygen demand), thereby reducing biomat (microbial material that can clog the pores of the soil or gravel in the drainfield) build up in disposal systems and adding longer life to a disposal system.

Tertiary Systems (Class 3):
Tertiary systems reduce nitrogen (known as denitrification) in the liquid effluent to acceptable levels. Denitrification can occur in wetlands when plants uptake and use nitrogen or a sequential batch reaction (SBR) which works like a small wastewater treatment plant. Denitrification is necessary when groundwater needs to be protected from nitrate (NO3) contamination.

Disinfection
Disinfecting the effluent is needed to kill harmful bacteria and must be done when there is shallow groundwater or shallow bedrock. This is because bacteria in these conditions will most likely get into groundwater and contaminate it. There are different types of disinfection units; the most common are chlorine capsules and UV light units.

Taking Care of Your Onsite System
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure " was never more true than it is with onsite wastewater system care. With proper operation and regular maintenance, your system will function better and last longer. Committing attention to the care of your system is the best way to avoid a failing system. Read the following Dos and Don'ts for trouble-free operation.

DO:

  • Have your septic tank pumped regularly and checked for leaks and cracks. 
  • Conserve water to reduce the amount of wastewater that must be disposed of and treated by your system. Repairing any leaking facets and toilets will also help to conserve water. 
  • Discharge only biodegradable wastes into your system.
  • Restrict garbage disposal use. Compost your garbage or put it in the trash. 
  • Divert down spouts and other surface water away from your drainfield.
  • Keep your septic tank cover accessible for tank inspections and maintenance. 
  • Call a professional if you have problems. 
  • Keep a record of all maintenance work for the system.
  • Ensure manholes are locked or heavy enough to prevent children from opening them.
  • Use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs.

DON'T:

  • Install a septic system near a water supply system.
  • Build a septic system near a swimming pool or other surface waters.
  • Flush sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, condoms and other non-biodegradable products into your system.
  • Dump solvents, oils, paints, thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain. Such items can disrupt the treatment process and contaminate groundwater.
  • Dig in your drainfield or build anything over it.
  • Plant anything over your drainfield except grass.
  • Drive over your drainfield or compact the soil.
  • Use caustic drain openers for clogged drains.
  • Allow water softener backwash to enter your septic tank.
  • Dump grease or fats down your kitchen drain.
  • Cover the drainfield with a hard surface, such as asphalt or concrete.
  • Ever enter a septic tank.
  • Smoke around a septic tank.

How Often to Pump a Septic Tank

Regular pumping of a septic tank will extend the life of your wastewater system and protect your drainfield. The table below provides recommendations for approximately how often you should have your septic tank pumped. For example, a 1,000-gallon septic tank, which is used by two people, should be pumped every 6 years. If there are eight people using a 1,000-gallon septic tank, it should be pumped every year. It is also a good idea to have the tank pumped just before a large gathering of people.

Waste Water Systems Chart
Number of persons in household
Tank sizes
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Gals.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
1000
12 yrs.
6 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
2 yrs.
1 yr.
1 yr.
1250
16 yrs.
7 yrs.
5 yrs.
3 yrs.
3 yrs.
2 yrs.
2 yrs.
1500
19 yrs.
9 yrs.
6 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
3 yrs.
2 yrs.
1750
22 yrs.
11 yrs.
7 yrs.
5 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
3 yrs.
2000
25 yrs.
12 yrs.
8 yrs.
6 yrs.
4 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
2250
27 yrs.
14 yrs.
9 yrs.
7 yrs.
5 yrs.
4 yrs.
3 yrs.
2500
32 yrs.
16 yrs.
10 yrs.
7 yrs.
6 yrs.
5 yrs.
4 yrs.
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