Although it’s a bit taboo to talk about, it’s really important to know what’s going on down there.. No, not there, but under your house.. Most people are unaware of their septic system until it needs to be serviced. Knowing how it works could help reduce costs and confusion when buying or selling a house. There are thousands of houses throughout San Diego that have a septic system. Typically rural houses, or those on very large properties, may have a septic system when it is too costly to connect the house to a municipal sewer system. You’ve probably run across houses like this, but do you know how they actually work?
Have you ever wondered how a septic system works?
Typical septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, which usually consist of a septic tank, a drainfield or soil absorption field commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry.
How Septic Systems Work
Specifically, this is how a typical septic system works:
- All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.
- The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Its job is to hold the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, while the oil and grease floats to the top as scum.
Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area.
- The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drain field.
- The drain field is a shallow, covered, excavation made in unsaturated soil. Pretreated wastewater is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter through the soil. The soil accepts, treats, and disperses… wastewater as it percolates through the soil, ultimately discharging to groundwater.
- If the drain field is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in toilets and sinks.
- Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients. Coliform bacteria is a group of bacteria predominantly inhabiting the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of human fecal contamination.
You can download A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems for free, and share it.
You can also click on this logo to go to the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health for the latest laws and information.
Land Use Program – Staff Listing
Land and Water Quality Division
Lars Seifert 858.495.5572
Land Use Desk Duty Phone 858.565.5173
Septic Inspection Line 858.694.2553
|Craig Caes||858.694.2551||Program Supervisor|
|Scott Rosecrans||619.208.0337||Environmental Health Specialist – Discretionary Projects|
|Desiree Hogervorst||619.607.8354||Environmental Health Specialist – Project Processing|
|Catherine Dean||619.204.0702||Environmental Health Specialist – Project Processing|
|Jenna Poitras||619.341.2129||Environmental Health Specialist – Project Processing|
|Ed Paredes||858.505.6806||Environmental Health Specialist – Project Processing|
|Steven Tabbutt||858.694.3148||Office Support|
|Daisy Ghormley||858.694.3086||Office Support|
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