How Do Septic Tank Systems Work?


About 8% of all New Yorkers discharge and process their sewage through a septic tank. If you live in Rensselaer County, the chances of owning a septic tank may be a little more. At a glance septic tank can be intimidating. This article will break down in layman's terms the components of the septic system and how they all integrate with each other to provide you with private sewage treatment system.




Think of a septic system as a closed shoe box. With 2 holes on each side. In the above diagram those 2 holes are identified as "from house/Inlet Tee" & "Outlet Tee". The Manhole cover is an access cover that allows the tank to be pumped/emptied and or inspected. The inspection ports allow for inspection also.


When you flush your toilet the wastewater travels through a 4" pipe and enters the septic tank through the inlet tee.


The wastewater is broken down by Anaerobic bacteria within the tank. The wastewater is separated, and form 3 Layers as illustrated above: Top layer that floats to the top: Scum layer (oils, fats, grease) Bottom layer that settles on the bottom of the septic tank: Sludge layer (inorganic material such as toilet paper and fecal matter) Middle Layer: Effluent later aka treated wastewater.


As more wastewaters enters the tank the effluent layer starts to exit through the outlet tee illustrated above.


The wastewater exits the septic tank and enters the drain field aka absorption field where their wastewater is further broken down and filtered through the soil.



The pipes in the drain field allow the effluent to exit the pipes through little holes.





Your septic tank should be pumped and inspected every 2-3 years by a qualified local home inspector or local septic company.


One of the biggest culprits discovered by home inspectors that perform septic inspection is the use of septic safe baby wipes. Regardless of the labeling baby wipes are AWFUL for your septic tank. The use of baby wipes can lead to clogs baffles and drain field.


You home inspector or septic inspector may hand you a Septic care pamphlet at the end of the home inspection. Additionally, it is always encouraged to ask your home inspector questions regarding septic care for your Rensselaer home that contains a septic system.


Here are a few tips


Don't Use too many appliances at one time - Can overload the tank/drain field


Make sure your fixtures are not leaking - The tank relies on bacteria. Fresh water will lead to overloading the tank/drain field


Don't Use a food disposal system - food waste is bad for your system


Don't dump medicine down the drain. Antibiotics and other medicines may disturb the septic cycle and break down.


Don't use septic additives


Don't park cars, vehicles or other heavy machinery over the septic tank or drain field.


Don't install plants that have deep roots and or foliage as this can damage the tank and or drain lines.


Don't divert rainwater such as water run-off from your gutters near your tank or drain field.



Shield Guard Home Inspections performs sewer scopes, septic inspections, level 2 chimney inspections, pool inspections, asbestos testing mold assessments and more. Shield Guard Home Inspections can perform your septic inspection during the home inspection or as a stand-alone service. Give us a call today to have a qualified septic inspector come out and evaluate your septic tank.


We perform inspections all throughout Rensselaer County and the entire capital region.

518-649-9111





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