How Your Septic System Is Like a Pet


When you have a home on a septic, you need to realize that the house is a structure, while the septic is a “Living Breathing Entity”; not a structure. If you think of it as a pet, it’s easier to understand how to take care of it.

What is your septic composed of? First is the Septic Tank (Dog Bowl above). It’s where the Solids settle to the bottom or floats to the top. A baffle at the outlet keeps the solids from flowing out to the Distribution Box (Pet’s Head) and the Effluent Disposal Area (EDA) (Pet’s Body). The EDA is also called the leach field.

The 2 jobs the septic performs are 1) getting the liquid into the ground, and 2) treat the effluent to get rid of the harmful pathogens that can make us sick. The good type of bacteria that lives in the EDA and treats the effluent to get rid of the pathogens needs 3 things: food, air, and a surface to attach to. Effluent is the food. Traditional Stone & Pipe EDAs have angular rocks that can’t fit tightly together. The voids created between the rocks allow air to reach the bacteria colony. The exposed surface created by the voids provides area for the bacteria to attach and live. The more air & surface there is, the larger the bacteria colony can grow, and the more effluent that can be treated.

So how does this relate to being a pet? Like a pet, you feed it twice a day. In the morning, when everyone are taking showers and getting ready, your septic is being fed. The EDA acts as a stomach. It is sized to store this large feeding. Throughout the next few hours, while you’re at work & school, “Your Pet” (the colony of bacteria) gradually digests the effluent, turning it into harmless base elements that don’t hurt people, but do feed plants. Remember, grass is always greenest over the septic! In the evening, you do wash, run the dishwasher, etc. and “Your Pet” is fed again. While you sleep, “Your Pet” digests its evening meal. This is why if you have your septic inspected first thing in the morning, right after everyone has gotten ready for the day, you will have “some” liquid in the EDA. But if the pipes are flooded or still have a lot of liquid many hours later, that is a sign of a problem.

How To Keep Your Pet Healthy

Q: Can I use Bleach in my laundry?
A: ½ cup a week shouldn’t hurt. Most tanks are 1,000 to 1,500 gallons. If you drink chlorinated city water, you probably will consume close to a ¼ cup of chlorine by the time you drink a 1,000 gallons & you don’t get sick.

Q: Can I do all my wash on one day?
A: No. Think of how you would feel if on a Saturday or Sunday, you were forced to sit at a table all day long and had to consume glass after glass of water all day, nonstop. It would make you very sick if not worst.

Q: Can I drive over my septic?
A: No! Maybe your dog could survive being run over by a lawn mower, but not being run over with a truck.

Q: Can I have my livestock pen over my septic?
A: No. Your dog isn’t going to survive a horse standing on him or trampling him.

Q: How do I know what I can put into my septic?
A: Organics. Whether you have a pet bird, dog, horse, etc.; they all consume organic material for food. Non-Organics like paint, diapers, incontinence pads, nail products, feminine products, condoms, motor oil, cleaning products, hair (human or pet), vacuum dirt, etc. will kill the bacteria in the EDA.

Q: Can Water Treatment units back flush into EDAs?
A: No! The salts can kill the bacteria, and the minerals will build up and crystallize in the EDA like they do in a fish tank. If the crystals block the voids, the bacteria can’t get air to breath. Water treatment units can discharge into a mini-dry well or trench without a permit, so keep them separate from the septic.

Q: Can I take the vent off my septic?
A: No! The EDA will suffocate and die (fail). You can get decorative vents that look like granite hitching posts or bird baths. Or the vent can be remote vented and moved a little ways from the field.

Q: Can I garden over the septic?
A: No. Cultivating & roots can damage the EDA components. It can also make the soil more permeable than the soil around it, so when it rains or you water, more water will run into the septic than into the surrounding area, and the septic drowns (fails). Weed block can suffocate & kill the bacteria. It’s like putting a plastic bag over your dog’s head. The pest control poisons can kill the bacteria. Never have anything but grass over your septic.

Note: A septic on average costs $14,000 - $30,000 to replace.

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