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How Septic Tanks Work

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 26, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries, LLC - Septic System in Sturbridge, Fiskdale, MA

A septic tank is an underwater sedimentation tank used for wastewater treatment through the process of biological decomposition and drainage.

Septic tanks allow a safe disposal of wastewater and hence are widely popular in areas that have a poor drainage system or are off the mains sewage network. They work by collecting the excreta and wastewater in one big underground tank, they are predominantly used in rural areas.

Septic tanks are not used much in urban areas as waste in cities and towns is dealt with and transported through the sewage system, these are maintained by the water company in your local area.

Basics of home septic system:

A septic system has a simple design. It is an underground watertight container (mostly rectangular or round) made of fiberglass, plastic or concrete.

The tank is connected with two pipes (for inlet and outlet). The inlet pipe collects the water waste in the septic tank, long enough that the solid and liquid waste is separated from each other. The outlet pipe also called the drain field, moves out the preprocessed wastewater from the septic tank and spreads it evenly in the soil and watercourses.

After a while, the wastewater separates in 3 layers.

The top layer is oils and grease and floats above all the waste. This is called scum.

The middle layer is the wastewater along with waste particles.

The bottom layer consists of heavier particles that are heavier than water and form a layer of sludge.

Inside the tank bacteria from the wastewater breaks down the solid waste.

These bacteria decompose the solid waste rapidly allowing the liquids to separate and drain away more easily.

Cleaning of the Septic tank : A requirement every few years

If a septic tank is not cleaned regularly (within 1 year for smaller tanks), toxins and antibacterial substances build up killing the vital bacteria that break down the waste.

Many household cleaners build up sludge and solid waste in the septic tank and drainfield lines. This leads to the septic system failure, by failure we mean that the solid waste blocks the system and overflows into the watercourse or out of the access grating.

Failure in the septic system is not only an expensive affair but also an invitation to waterborne diseases, it also smells fowl!

Depending on the severity and the damage to the entire septic system, it is important for people to understand how important septic tank cleaning is.

Follow a strict septic tank cleaning routine to protect the system against clogging and break down. You can contact waste treatment companies to take care of the septic system and ensure its proper functioning.

Cannot remember when you last cleaned the tank: Here’s what happens

The decomposition process in the tank slows down, leading to blockage and overflow. Over time, soil, sludge, excrement and solid waste build up, as a result, the solid waste starts to build up. This process gets worse and finally the septic system gives up and backs up completely.

It might be hard to tell when a septic system is in trouble. It can vary from as little as 2 years to as long as 100 years! Rather than waiting for the septic system to reach its breaking point, it is advisable to act upon it beforehand, cleaning the tank out every 1–3 years is advisable.

One of the best ways to do it is by cleaning the water before it leaves the tank. Applying a strong monthly septic tank cleaner upstream of the drainage zone as it abolishes the ill effects of soaps and cleaners that kill the bacteria in the tank. For decomposition of solid waste, it is very important that bacteria stays in the tank.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

What are Septic Tank Maintenance Costs?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 19, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

Even when your septic system is safely in the ground, your days of dealing with it are not done. For one, a septic tank will need to be maintained—which mainly boils down to having it pumped every few years. This keeps the sludge at the bottom from rising so high that it spills into your yard.

This is why the Environmental Protection Agency recommends having your septic system pumped once every one to three years.

The price range for pumping the tank is $300 to $400. At the very least, have your tank checked to see if it needs to be pumped. This is not the kind of thing you want to let slide, unless you want a sewage plant in your backyard.

And there are ways to save on maintenance: Just use less water by installing low-flow toilets and not running the water more than necessary. And in addition to researching the costs of installing and maintaining a home septic system, be sure to review and understand all your local laws and regulations involving wastewater treatment and related issues.

For more information, visit or contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Signs Your Septic System is in Trouble

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 12, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

As long as you use and maintain it properly, a well-designed septic system shouldn't give you any trouble. With proper upkeep, yours can last as many as 30 years. But considering that it's underground and all, you might be wondering:

How do you tell if there's a problem?

Here are the signs your septic system's got an issue and it's time to call in the pros.

1. Water (or sewage) is backing up inside your home

Water—or smelly black liquid—gurgling up into the drains in your kitchen or sink can happen for a couple of reasons:

Your tank or drain field are too full

After dirty water and waste enter your septic tank, solids get separated from liquids. The wastewater is eventually pushed out into a drain field, a series of underground trenches or chambers. Once there, any harmful bacteria gets absorbed by the soil or digested by naturally occurring microbes.

But if your tank receives lots of water very fast—either because of heavy rain or maybe you're using much more water than normal—the tank or the drain field can become overloaded.

The most common reason people call a plumber about their septic tank is because it is too full.

A blocked pipe

Another likely reason that water's backing up into your home: a clogged distribution line somewhere between your house and your septic tank. Maybe you've got a small kid who happily flushed a sock down the drain, or you're guilty of tossing things like not-so-flushable wipes in your toilet.

Be proactive: Keep an eye on your water usage.

Take short showers, install low-flow toilets, and wash laundry over a few days rather than all at once. Don’t flush diapers, paper towels, or feminine hygiene products—basically anything non-biodegradable.

You should also limit the amount of food you put down your garbage disposal. Yes, it gets ground into tiny pieces, but over time, food waste can also end up clogging your drain field.

2. Green, spongy grass around your septic tank

Surprisingly, dying grass on top of your septic tank isn't necessarily a bad sign. (The soil on top of your septic tank often isn't as deep as it is over the rest of your lawn, which makes it easy for grass there to get parched.) But it is a red flag when the grass atop your septic tank is thriving far more than anywhere else in your yard.

While the area might look green and lush, it's a strong signal that you have a big problem.

That could be due to a leak of effluent, aka liquid wastewater, before it hits the drain field. Once it escapes your septic tank, it basically acts as fertilizer.

Be proactive: Get your septic system inspected each year, and pumped every three to five years so you can catch problems like damaged pipes, rust damage, and cracks in your tank early on.

3. You’ve got trees or shrubs near your system

Nice of you to want to pretty up the area, but tree roots naturally seek out sources of water—including leaky pipes or even condensation. And in their gusto to get nourishment, they can crack septic tank pipes, allowing dirt to enter, or they can collapse the pipes completely. (Smaller shrubs aren't necessarily better, since they can also spread out some deep roots.)

Be proactive: If you want to plant a tree, figure out how tall it will be at its maturity—then keep it that many feet away from your system. (That includes the actual septic tank, all pipes, and the drain field.) For instance, if you have a tree that will one day be 20 feet high, plant it at least 20 feet away from all components. Some trees—like bamboo, pine, and walnut—put out even more aggressive roots and will need to be planted much farther away, so consult your septic pro before you break ground.

Already have trees in the danger zone? Each time your system's serviced, make sure the pipes aren't compromised. If there’s a problem a camera can be sent into the line to see if tree roots are to blame.

4. Water's pooling in your yard

Occasionally, a high water table or excessive rainfall can saturate the drain field and prevent the septic tank from draining properly.

If you're pretty sure heavy rains are to blame for little lakes in your yard, you can try to give your septic system a chance to catch up by using it less. (Finally! A reason to not do laundry!) But if that doesn't get rid of standing water, call a plumber.

Be proactive: Direct rainwater runoff away from your drain field. Make sure your waterlines are at least 10 feet from your septic system. If you have a sprinkler system, make sure approved backflow devices are part of it.

5. A rotten egg smell

Yes, a gross sewage odor can indicate your system's failing. But that's not always the case. There can be several different reasons you might smell septic gases. Those include a dried-out wax seal on a toilet (which seals your toilet bowl to the floor) as well as a dry trap in a floor drain. (It's often filled with water, which keeps out sewer gases.)

Be proactive: If you have a persistent odor inside your home, the first course of action is to check all exposed fixtures, and if nothing is found, it should be followed up with a smoke test to find leaks in the lines.

6. Slow drains

Slow drains are an indicator that there's a stoppage on the pipe itself that flows into the septic. And while you might be tempted to pull out the Drano or another drain cleaner, don't.

Harsh chemicals can deteriorate your pipes over time. Plus, chemical drain cleaners can kill the good enzymes and bacteria in your tank that help to break down waste.

Be proactive: Use a natural product with bacteria and enzymes; the accumulated gunk inside your pipes is tasty food for them.

They digest the waste and spread throughout your system, cleaning it completely. And it’s completely septic-safe.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Things to Know So Your Septic System Won't Destroy Your Yard

Joseph Coupal - Friday, April 05, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Inspections, Fiskdale, Sturbridge, MA

You have a septic system but that doesn’t mean you are an expert on it. But septic experts want you to know a few things; and mostly for your own sake. A little knowledge can go a long way toward preventing massively expensive (and massively gross) issues down the line.

1. Know how your system works

What you have in your backyard is your very own water disposal plant. When you live in the city, waste] goes away and you don’t think about it. It goes to a municipal plant and all kinds of great things happen to it. With a septic system, all that happens in your backyard.

To give you the basics, everything that goes into your tank naturally separates into three layers.

Anything heavier than water goes to the bottom, anything lighter goes to the top, and there’s a nice, clear liquid in between.

Over time, the sludge at the bottom gets thicker and thicker.

And that’s why you need a good inspection—and pumping—every now and then. It’s like changing the oil in your car. You just have to do it.

2. You can't put anything you want down your toilet—or garbage disposal

Correction: You can, but it’s not a wise idea.

Everything that goes down your toilets, as well as your shower and sink drains, makes its way into your septic tank. If it can’t physically travel through the pipes, you’ll have a major clog on your hands.

The list of what not to flush encompasses more than you might think. For instance, you should not flush thick paper down the drain at any time. That includes feminine hygiene products and baby wipes. Doing so can cause costly repairs.

Heavy use of your kitchen garbage disposal is also a no-no. Food waste, coffee grounds, and greasy or fatty foods will have a tough time breaking down in your septic tank. And the bacteria that grow as a result of these items stewing in your septic tank can prevent your system from working the way it should. (Hint: Toss food waste into a compost pail instead.)

3. Know the location of your septic tank so you don't crush it

The septic tank and field lines are typically installed in areas near the home, and it’s very important that every homeowner knows where they are. That way, you can prevent driving over it with vehicles or equipment, which can crush them and prevent them from operating properly.

You’ll also want to avoid planting trees or bushes over or near the area. Effluent—the wastewater that leaves your septic tank to be slowly dispersed underground—contains rich organic matter.

The roots will seek out those nutrients. And in doing so, those roots could easily wrap around the pipes of your septic system, setting the stage for disaster.

4. Using less water will help your system work better

Your septic system is responsible for distributing and disposing all of the water that flows through your household. To put that in perspective the average person will use up to 70 gallons per day.

If you can reduce that number, you’ll reduce the amount of wastewater your system has to deal with.

To do that, consider replacing your standard-issue toilets with high-efficiency ones. That's because regular toilets use up to 20% to 30% of the water your household consumes. High-efficiency toilets can cut that water usage in half.

You’ll also make a difference by waiting to run your washing machine or dishwasher until they’re full, and switching to low-flow shower heads and faucets.

Reducing the flow even a little will save you thousands down the road in expensive septic repairs or replacements.

5. Ignoring your septic system can wreak havoc on the environment

If you neglect to take care of your septic system, it’s not just your pipes (or your family) who’ll suffer. Failing septic systems can pollute nearby bodies of water and contaminate local drinking water. In fact, the second most-cited contamination source of groundwater is septic systems.

To make sure your system isn’t one of them, perform preventive maintenance regularly—and frequently. The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years and typically needs to be pumped every three to five years.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.