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Learning Center | The Complete Guide For Owning A Septic System

01. How A Septic System Works

     If you’ve ever seen the Pixar film “Finding Nemo”, you are probably familiar with the idea that “all drains lead to the ocean.” For us here in Colorado, or any of the other land locked states, there is a cheaper solution than running pipe for thousands of miles just to pollute the ocean. In fact, there is a much more “green” way of getting rid of our dirty water: septic systems.


     For those who live outside of the city, or if you live in a home that was built decades before the city was built around you; you probably rely on a septic system.  A septic system is an On-site Waste-Water Treatment system that is designed to keep you from having to use a shovel in the back yard! This means that all drains in your house lead to a small concrete (or plastic) container buried in your yard; this is called a Septic Tank.

Septic Tank Diagram Septic System Septic Tank Install How a septic tank works

    Some systems use several septic tanks, and they range in size depending on how many gallons will be used in the house. This diagram shows a basic two compartment, single septic tank system. The septic tank has two compartments: a larger compartment where all of the solids (i.e. feces, toilet paper, all the fun stuff) are held, and a small compartment that is used to hold the water that is separated from the solids. This is a key process; otherwise your septic tank would fill up in under a month with how much water is being used. The two compartments are separated by what is known as a Baffle Wall. Over time, all of the solids sink to the bottom of the first compartment, while the water floats above it. After awhile a “scum layer” will develop on top of the water, this is all of the small particles that are lighter than water and float at the very top (Fats, oils, etc.). The purpose of the baffle wall is to keep both the solids and the scum layer in the first compartment while letting the water flow into the second compartment.


     After the water is separated, the water flows down an outlet pipe to the Leach Field (also known as an STA or Soil Treatment Area).  There are many types of leach fields and there are many ways of getting the water to the leach field. Some use gravity and flow “downhill” to the leach field, others use a pump system to get the water there. No matter how it gets there, the purpose of a leach field is to spread out the water across a specific amount of soil (all under ground). Once the water is spread out into the soil, bacteria will eat all of the small particles of septage (all the dirty particles) and by the time the water reaches the aquifer it will be pure again. The size of leach field (and size of septic tank) is determined by how many bedrooms are in your house. The more bedrooms, whether occupied or not, leaves potential for another person to be using more water.


how a septic system works septic system diagram on site waste water treatment system onsite wastewater treatment system septic pumping cleaning     The next process is getting rid of the solids. This is also very important for sustaining the life of a septic system. If the solids build up too high, they will flow into the second compartment of the tank, and from there to the leach field where it can plug the pipes and not let water drain out. When this happens, the water will find the path of least resistance, which is usually back into your home! To save yourself from needing an emergency pumping or having to install a new leach field, we recommend for a family that uses their system regularly that you get your septic tank pumped every two years. If it’s a system that isn’t used often, or at the very least, county requires that your septic tank be pumped every four years. If you’re not sure when you were last pumped or your two years are up, give John Todd Companies a call and get your septic system pumped!


Stay tuned on our blog to learn more about what you can do to help sustain the life of your septic system. Feel free to call the office at 303-791-0520 if you have any questions!


Thanks for reading!


Jesse Todd


02. The Importance of An Outlet Tee

     What is an Outlet Tee? An “Outlet Tee” is one of the smallest but most important components in your septic system. This small piece of plastic could save your leach field (Soil Treatment Area) and in turn save you the thousands it would cost to repair or install one. In our last post we explained how a septic tank works (Click here to read ‘How A Septic System Works‘). After a period of time your septic tank separates the liquids from the solids, while fats and oils float to the top to make a scum layer. Without an Outlet Tee the scum layer is free to run down your outlet pipe and into your leach field.

Septic Tank Diagram Outlet T Diagram Outlet Tee Diagram Septic System

   Many leach fields use pipes that are called laterals to disperse the liquid into the ground through small perforations. Not all systems are designed this way, but this type of leach field is the most susceptible to getting plugged from lack of an Outlet Tee. Without an Outlet Tee, that scum and other solids can clog those small holes in the pipe, making it impossible for water to be absorbed into the ground.


   If you have a Pressure Dosed System, which means you have a pump pushing the liquids to your leach field, it is vital to have an Outlet Tee in your first septic tank (most counties require that pressure dosed systems have two tanks). The reason this is so vital is that any solids or scum that make it into your second tank or your pump chamber can clog your pump and cause your system to fail. Pumps are expensive, leach fields are even more expensive. If you do not have an Outlet Tee, invest in one to save you thousands of dollars down the road.


    If you have more questions, please feel free to contact John Todd Company at 303-791-0520. Stay tuned for more on septic systems!


Jesse Todd

03. Healthy Habits of a Septic System

 I'm sure if you are a homeowner there is a constant list of things that need to get done around the house. We also understand that your septic system should be at the bottom of your priority list, we want to help you keep it there! Following a list of best practices can extend the life of your septic system by decades. Invest in your system, read and FOLLOW this list of healthy habits and best practices.


The 6 Habits for Healthy Septic Systems:



1. Trash it if You Can


     The less solids you can put in your septic system the better. This includes food scraps, tissues, diapers, cigarette butts, condoms or tampons, coffee grounds, etc. Fats and grease from cooking should never go down the drain. Garbage disposals in the syncs can harm your septic system. If it needs to be ground up in the sink, trash it, don’t drain it. Left over food scraps can take 20 times longer to process inside a septic tank than normal wastewater and solid waste.


2. Chemicals and Drugs are a NO GO


 Any kind of chemicals should not go down the drain but should be disposed of properly. Never put paint, paint thinners, oil, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, photographic chemicals, weed or insect killer down the drain.. Do not use chemical drain cleaner! Avoid using bleach, antibacterial soaps, or harsh cleaning chemicals.



3. Less is More


     Be mindful of how much water you use. Things that might use a lot of water that you are unaware of are water softeners, laundry, and dishwasher. Water softeners can dramatically shorten the life of your septic system. If you have a water softener, call your septic service provider or John Todd Company and see what options exist for treating water softeners. Also, turn off the water while soaping your hands and brushing your teeth.



4. Keep Off the Field


Do not drive vehicles or heavy equipment on top of your leach field (Soil Treatment Area). Do not build or landscape on top, do not plant trees too close to the field. Route your roof drains to flow around your field. Don’t use automatic sprinklers on the area of the leach field.




5. Pump it & Check it


You NEED to regularly pump the solids out of your septic tank. Also the components need to be checked; if one vital component is missing and goes unchecked for a long period of time your system can rapidly fail. John Todd Company can put you on a routine service contract and remind you whenever service is due.




6. Alarms are Your Friend


     If you have an alarm system installed with your septic system, it is a valuable tool that can keep you from having sewage backup in your home. If the alarm goes off, call your service provider immediately. John Todd Company puts priority on any system with an alarm going off and will schedule a site visit as soon as possible.







     If you can turn these ideas into habits for the whole family your septic system will thank you. While these habits are crucial, there are other practices that are extremely important to your septic system. We organized these into a step by step process so that if you are new to a septic system you know where to start.


    If you have more questions, please feel free to contact John Todd Company at 303-791-0520. Stay tuned for more on septic systems!


Jesse Todd