Imperial Cesspool
serving the north shore since 1954
FAQs

WHAT IS A SEPTIC TANK SYSTEM?

In urban and many suburban areas there are sewers to carry household waste to municipal treatment
facilities. In other areas, septic tank systems provide the functions of both sewers and treatment
facilities. The proper operation of the septic system is essential to public and private health, to property
values, and to the environment. The quantity and composition of waste generated in the home varies
according to the number of residents, their personal water usage, and the water-utilizing appliances
in the home.

A septic tank system is a small, on-site sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground.
The septic system has two essential parts: the septic tank and the soil absorption area.


HOW DOES A SEPTIC TANK WORK?

correct septic tankThe modern septic tank is a watertight box, usually made of pre-
cast concrete, concrete blocks, or reinforced fiberglass. When
household waste enters the septic tank several things occur:

1) Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of
what is commonly called 'scum'. Bacteria in the septic tank
biologically convert this material to liquid.
2) Inorganic or inert solid materials and the by-products of
bacterial digesiton sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer
commonly known as 'sludge'.
3) Only clear water should exist between the scum and sludge
layers. It is this clear water—and only this clear water—that should
overflow into the soil absorption area.


WHAT CAUSES SEPTIC SYSTEMS TO FAIL?

incorrect septic tank
The following commonly used home care
products—even when used according to
directions—can reduce the bacteria
population required for proper septic tank
operation:
detergent, bleaches, cleaning compounds,
disinfectants, acids, sink and tub cleaners,
toilet cleaners, polishes, caustic drain
openers.

Solid material overflowing into the soil absorption area clogs
soil pores and causes systems to fail. Two main factors cause
solid material to build up enough to overflow:
1) bacterial deficiency, and 2) lack of sludge removal.

Bacteria MUST BE PRESENT in the septic tank to break down
and digest the organic solids (the scum). If not digested, the
scum will accumulate until it overflows, clogging the soil
absorption area.

Normal household waste provides enough bacteria to digest
the solids UNLESS any harm is done to the bacteria. Check
the labels of products you normally use in the home. Products
carrying harsh warnings such as "HARMFUL OR FATAL IF
SWALLOWED" will harm bacteria.

The sludge in the septic tank—inorganic and inert material—
is not biodegradable and will not decompose. If not removed,
sludge will accumulate until it eventually overflows, clogging
the soil absorption area.

 

cesspoolHOW DOES THE SOIL ABSORPTION AREA WORK?

There are two general types of soil absorption (or leaching)
systems to carry off overflow of water from the septic tank:
1) Trench systems (also called leaching fields or drain fields)
generally consist of a network of perforated pipes laid in a gravel-
lined trench.
2) Drainage pits (also called drywells or CESSPOOLS) are made of
pre-cast concrete or concrete block. They are cylinders with closed
tops, open bottoms, and holes in the sidewalls.

HOW DO I MAINTAIN MY SEPTIC SYSTEM?

Septic system maintenance means:
1) Sludge that accumulates in the bottom of the tank must be pumped out periodically. How frequently
depends on the size of the tank, the use it gets, and the condition of the system. There is no additive
that you can put in the tank that will deal with the sludge. IT MUST BE PUMPED OUT or it will
eventually overflow into the soil absorption area, clogging the system, and requiring replacement at
enormous expense and inconvenience.
2) The bacteria necessary for solids digestion must be maintained. If bacteria-killing products are used
in the home (as they usually are, i.e. detergents, bleach, disinfectants), the bacteria should be replenished
to ensure that the solids are digested properly so they don't build up and overflow into the soil absorption
area, clogging the system and requiring major repair or replacement.

A neglected system WILL get blocked; it WILL overflow; it WILL have an odor; it WILL contaminate and
pollute. Replacement costs can be very expensive, especially if contaminated material needs to be removed.


SOME COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS:


What causes the thick crust in my tank?
The crust is the organic material that has congealed into a solid mass. This condition can indicate a
bacterial deficiency.

Is there anything I can put in my tank to avoid pumping?
No. Some of the material in the tank is NOT biodegradable. This means it will not readily decompose
by bacterial action. This material MUST be pumped out.

The drainage in my house sems to be sluggish and sometimes temporarily backs up. I also sometimes
have a foul odor and mushy ground in my backyard. Are these signs of a septic system failure?
These may be signs of a deteriorating septic system. Call your professional Imperial representative
for an evaluation.


TIPS FOR A HEALTHY SEPTIC SYSTEM


- Do not overload your system. Use water sparingly. Do only full laundry and dishwasher loads at off-peak
times if possible.
- Do not put kitchen greases down the drain.
- Do not flush cigarettes, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, baby and adult wipes, or other inorganic
materials down the toilet.
- Do not put gasoline, oil, anti-freeze, paint, paint thinner, pesticides, etc. down the drain.
- Use garbage disposal sparingly or increase septic system maintenance schedule.
- Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks. A continuous leak over 90 days with even just a 1/32" diameter
of stream can waste 18,000 gallons. A 1/4" stream leak could waste over 1,000,000 gallons!*

TIPS FOR WATER CONSERVATION AND POTENTIAL WATER SAVINGS*

Water Pie Chart


MEASURES TO TAKE

POTENTIAL WATER SAVINGS
Install a toilet tank displacement
bag
3.28 gallons per day
Install a low flow showerhead or
flow restrictor
3.7 to 7.2 gallons per day
per person
Replace dishwasher with water
efficient model
5 gallons per load
Replace clothes washer with
water efficient model
6 gallons per day
Repair a toilet leak 100 gallons per day!

*Information provided by local Water Department.


Your professional septic contractor from Imperial can inspect the condition of your system.
If your tank needs to be cleaned, he is equipped to clean it. If there is evidence of bacterial
deficiency, he can provide liquid bacteria/enzyme septic system treatment. With regular
maintenance and water conservation, your septic system should last a long time!

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