Septic Systems 101
Our Cornell Cooperative
Extension, as part of an education project supported by a grant from
the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University with funds
provided by the NY State Legislature through the NY State Dept of
Agriculture & Markets.
Your septic system has two
basic working parts:
1) Septic Tank (wastewater flows
from the house into the septic tank. Here heavy solids settle
and are partially decomposed by bacteria to form sludge. Light
solids and grease float to the top forming a scum layer.
Soil Absorption Field (partially treated wastewater is discharged
from the septic tank through perforated pipes into an absorption
field. Here, the water is further purified by filtration and
decomposition by microorganisms in the soil.
It is recommended septic tanks
should be pumped every 3-5 years, depending on the size and
amount/ quality of solids entering the tank. For example,
Cornell Coop Ext. advised 1000 gallon tank used by a family of two
should be cleaned after 5 years; and if a garbage disposal is in
usage, it increases the load about 50%. Maintaining your
septic system is described in the Cornell's fact sheet (click here
Cornell Cooperative Extension for
their Publication PS-1. A handy easy to understand file of
septic facts and charts.