Millions of Americans still have septic tank systems connected to their homes. As common as they are, do you know how your septic system functions? While you may not be in the septic system industry, it’s important to understand the main components of your septic system and the basic functions. Even having a limited understanding of how the system operates can help limit repairs and extend the life of your wastewater system.

For now, let’s focus on the septic tank layers that exist in your septic tank. There are three layers that make up the wastewater in your septic tank: scum, sludge, and effluent. Each plays an important role in the function of your septic system.

Sludge: Sludge is the solid material that settles at the bottom of your septic tank to form a thick layer. The sludge is made up of non-liquid materials like soil, bones, food particles, etc. There are anaerobic bacteria that thrive in the bottom of your tank that feed off of this sludge layer. As these bacteria die off, they too become a part of the sludge layer.

Scum: Scum refers to the set of substances in a septic tank which are lighter than water. It usually consists of oil, fats, and grease. These substances float to the top, above the water where the aerobic bacteria work to digest a majority of the floating solid waste materials.

Effluent: Effluent is the clarified wastewater that remains after the scum has risen to the top and the sludge has sunk to the bottom. It makes up a majority of the liquid in your septic tank. When a septic system is working properly, effluent is what flows out through your drain field.

For your septic system to function properly, these layers need to stay balanced and maintain a proper retention time. For there to be adequate separation of the solid materials in the tank, the effluent needs to settle long enough in the middle of the layers. There needs to be a minimum of a 24-hour retention time for your tank to work properly. If this does not occur over long periods of time, it can begin to cause solids to flow out with the effluent and clog the drainfield. Clogged drainfields are one of the most common causes of septic system failures.

To help maintain proper function of your septic tank system, try using a septic cleaning product like Septicmaxx. It’s all natural and specifically designed to help replenish the helpful bacteria and protease in your tank to ensure proper drainage into your drainfields. Give us a call today at 800-397-2384 for a free trial. We have experienced septic tank professionals standing by, ready to help you with your septic tank issues.

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