Research shows that around 21% of U.S. households utilize on-site sewage management systems. Of these households, 95% use septic tank systems for wastewater treatment and disposal. Septic tank systems don't just collect wastewater—they treat the effluent and discharge it into the groundwater. However, the performance of a residential septic tank system heavily relies on the installation process. Design and installation mistakes can cause the system to underperform, overflow, and pose a health hazard to the household. Therefore, before installing a septic tank system, consider the following factors that will affect the system's performance.
1. Soil Capabilities
The performance of a septic tank system heavily depends on the drain field's absorption capabilities. When wastewater flows into a septic tank, the solids settle at the bottom, and the watery waste or effluent occupies most of the tank. Bacteria in the tank break down organic matter in the effluent, after which the effluent flows to the drain field. The drain field allows the effluent to drain into the soil for treatment and discharge.
The soil in your home should have proper drainage capabilities to facilitate effluent treatment. Soils such as clay have poor drainage, and they can hinder proper treatment and discharge of the effluent. Consequently, they can cause blockage and undermine the performance of the septic tank system. Therefore, before installing your system, test the soil's drainage capabilities. If the soil has poor drainage, opt for other on-site sewage treatment solutions that do not rely on the soil's properties.
2. Septic System Location
Before installing a septic system, it's crucial to assess the proposed installation location and identify any risk factors that may affect performance. Address the following issues during the assessment:
- Foot and vehicle traffic around the drain field
- Nearby trees and vegetation
- The slope of the land
Heavy foot and vehicle traffic around the leach field can compress the soil and break drain field pipes, affecting effluent treatment and discharge. On the other hand, large tree roots can invade the septic system and cause blockage. Choose an installation location that is free of heavy traffic and invasive tree roots.
Consider the slope of the land when installing your septic system. Place the tank on high ground to avoid flooding during the rains. However, ensure that the system isn't near water bodies such as streams and reservoirs to prevent contamination. Also, do not install the septic system on unstable ground. If the soil settles over time, it can cause the septic tank to collapse.
3. Septic Tank Sizing
Septic tanks should be sized depending on the size of a household and water usage patterns. The tank should hold effluent long enough to ensure proper treatment. If you undersize your septic tank, it may overflow and release raw sewage on your property. Sometimes, sewage may back up into your drains and plumbing and pose a health hazard in the home.
Avoid a sewage emergency by sizing your septic tank properly. For example, a house with five occupied bedrooms may require a large septic tank, while a three-bedroom home can use a small septic tank. Note that septic systems tend to get overwhelmed during the holidays due to increased household occupants. Therefore, to avoid a catastrophe, get a slightly bigger tank than what you need. This will improve system performance and save you from pumping out the septic tank annually.
4. Drainage Design
Keep your outdoor drainage design in mind when installing a septic system. The sizing of a septic tank does not account for gutter drainage and runoff. Furthermore, it's hard to predict how much water may drain into the septic system during heavy rains. If you connect your outdoor plumbing to the septic tank, the tank may overflow due to excess water intake. Therefore, design a separate drainage system for your gutters and outdoor drains.
Keep these factors in mind when installing a septic tank system in your home. For septic system design and installation services, contact a plumbing contractor.