How Does a Septic System Work?

Most everyone knows that a septic system has something to do with toilets, waste, and that there’s a tank somewhere underground, but what are the semantics behind the septic system, and how does it differ from a traditional sewer system? ASAP Septic is the industry leader for all things sewer and septic here in southern Idaho, and we are excited to share our knowledge and expertise with our clients, along with our septic services honed from years of experience. 

Where are septic systems used?

Septic systems are most commonly used in rural areas, where homes and businesses may not have access to a municipal sewer system. Oftentimes, these properties also draw water from aquifers and underground water sources, although this isn’t a part of the septic system. As communities here in Idaho continue to expand rapidly, some properties that used to be considered more rural may have subdivisions popping around them, so septic systems are becoming more common in suburban areas as well as cities engulf rural areas. 

How does a septic system compare to the sewer?

A sewer system works by collecting water to a main drain line; basically, any water that goes down a drain or toilet makes its way to a large pipe that then flows to an even larger pipe, often located under the street, which then joins a network of pipes that transport wastewater to the local wastewater treatment plants. Many of these systems are designed to run downhill, but some require pumps that pump wastewater up to where it can be treated. 

A septic system, on the other hand, gathers wastewater in an underground tank right on the property, where wastewater is separated into three components: sludge, scum, and gray water. Sludge is the denser waste that sinks to the bottom of the septic tank; scum floats to the top, and gray water is the middle layer of debris-free water. Gray water is siphoned off into a network of perforated pipes called the drain or leach field, where the water is allowed to seep into the ground. At the end of the day, the only parts that remain in the septic tank are the scum and sludge, which makes it possible for septic tanks to hold waste from a household for 2-5 years before needing to be pumped out

Are septic tanks sanitary? 

Yes! A lot of people are turned off by the idea of a waste tank on their property, but septic tanks are completely sealed off. Additionally, the science behind the septic tank includes the natural microbiological ecosystem that develops within a septic tank. Bacteria consume and break down wastes, which increases the time that a septic tank can go without being pumped. Additionally, because waste is allowed to settle before gray water is siphoned off, the water that re-enters the ground is relatively clean. As it seeps into the ground, it passes through multiple layers of gravel, dirt, and rocks, and environmental microbes further purify the water until it’s clean by the time it enters the water table and re-enters the water cycle. Science is truly amazing, and the way that septic tanks maximize cleanliness and waste storage through natural processes of bacteria is incredible!

What happens if there’s an emergency?

Any time there’s some kind of septic or sewer emergency, we advise moving quickly. Where there’s human waste involved, it’s always a biohazard, and getting in touch with a professional ASAP can minimize the health risk as well as reducing the risk of damage. We know that it can be overwhelming when you run into a plumbing emergency, but you are not without help. Luckily, we offer a 24-hour emergency septic service, so you can rest assured that we are available to help you no matter what time of day it is!

We serve clients in Boise, Mountain Home, Middleton, Payette, ID, and all areas throughout southeastern Idaho. We are passionate about keeping drains flowing smoothly for both residential and commercial clients. We have decades of experience working with sewer and septic systems, and we take great satisfaction in serving our friends and neighbors here in Idaho. Give us a call at (208) 991-7184 or fill out our online contact form for more information or to schedule a consultation today.


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