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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.