About Reimer Home Service Repairs

How do septic tanks work?

Generally speaking, there are two ways to dispose of household waste in the United States. The most common one is a municipal sewer, often owned by a city or town where homeowners then pay for access. The other is a septic tank. Used by more than 25% of all Americans, septic tanks are privately owned and use a very different method of getting rid of waste than sewers. In this post, we’ll review how septic tanks work and why you need to get them pumped regularly by the professionals at Reimer Heating, Air Conditioning, and Plumbing.

Septic Tanks — Diagram

This diagram shows a septic tank with a baffle in the center.

Why get a septic tank installed?

Most homes that have septic tanks do not have access to a municipal sewer, such as property located in rural areas or agricultural communities. Alternatively, some new neighborhoods charge a hefty fee to hook up your home’s systems to a sewer. Septic tanks can be a more affordable alternative in other ways, as well. Cities and towns usually charge an annual sewer fee, and that price is typically higher the farther away you are from other homeowners.

How septic tanks work

Like sewers, septic tanks are connected to the indoor plumbing in your home. A large tank—typically built of concrete, steel, or plastic—sits near your home, with a large “drainfield” nearby. Water and waste from your home flows into the tank, where a bottom layer begins to form. At this point, anaerobic bacteria take over, eating away at the waste until it’s been—relatively speaking—cleared and the remaining water is somewhat cleaner. From there, the septic tank discharges the liquids below the drainfield, where any remaining contaminants are taken care of naturally by the soil.

Of course, this process means that anything that bacteria can’t eat readily—such as plastics, certain foods, cotton swabs—shouldn’t be put down the sink or toilet. They’ll either clog the pipes leading to the septic tank or lead the tank to prematurely fill, needing a pumping sooner.

A septic tank is a carefully managed biome for bacteria, which presents two problems. Flushing or draining harsh chemicals or antibacterials into the septic tank will kill off this population, rending your septic tank relatively ineffective at disposing of waste. Further, any attempt to open the septic system needs to be handled by professional plumbers with protective equipment, as dangerous gases can form in the tank as a result of the bacteria breaking down waste.

Don’t forget to have Reimer pump the system!

No matter how good you are about watching what you put down the drains of your house, your septic tank will eventually need pumping. Over time, a layer develops on the bottom of the tank that becomes larger and higher with every passing month, until it eventually has little room to grow. For septic tanks installed prior to the 1990s, this is a problem, since the sludge layer will eventually come back up through the pipes if not removed. However, more recent septic systems feature a “baffle” that is designed to prevent this from happening—although it is not unheard of.

The solution is to have a certified professional company—such as Reimer—come to your house with what is known as a septic storage truck. This vehicle will connect to your septic system via a large hose and remove the sludge layer, safely transporting it away from your house. It’s crucially important to have a licensed, bonded, and insured company do this work. Septic systems can be dangerous in inexperienced hands, and while they’re incredibly useful, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

Why choose Reimer?

Since 1921, Reimer has provided homeowners in the Buffalo metro area with a variety of heating, cooling, and plumbing services, including septic tank pumping, installation, and repair. Our NATE-certified techs, 24/7 emergency repair service, and 100% satisfaction guarantee have made us the premier plumbing company in Western New York. To schedule service on your septic tank or to ask for an installation quote, give our team a call.

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