An Introduction to Septic Tanks

December 16, 2014 - Benjamin Dowson

Have you ever wondered what happens to your waste after you flush your toilet? For most people living in a city like Calgary or Edmonton, the process is quite simple: it just goes into the sewage line and off to the waste treatment plant. But what about for people living in rural areas, or areas without a sewage line? They need to get rid of their waste in a different way. This is where septic tanks come in.

A septic tank is used in a rural area and it is used to take care of people’s sewage that you normally use in a home. It basically is a big tank that is in the ground that is made out of concrete or fiberglass. The septic tank has 2 compartments to it, separated by a divider wall. The bigger compartment is about 2/3 of the size of the tank, and holds all of the sewage that dumps into the tank. The bacteria in this tank eat away at all the organic and waste that we produce, and the by-product of this is water, heat, and methane (one of the reasons why a septic tank doesn’t smell very good!). The other compartment holds what is called effluent, which is liquid sewage that has been broken down. The effluent still has lots of bacteria and suspended solids, but it is about half way to becoming water.

But how does the septic tank get rid of the effluent? A septic tank is connected to what is called a septic field, which is a piece of land with perforated pipes running underneath. From here, the effluent is discharged into that septic field and either through evaporation or percolation into the soil the effluent is dispersed into the environment. The normal cycle of water then filters the water through evaporation, rain, and then absorption back into the ground.

Septic tanks are a different way of getting rid of and treating sewage water. Because of the lack of sewer lines, septic tanks are necessary for standard sanitary requirements in homes in rural areas. It is an environmentally friendly way of ensuring that your waste doesn’t go to waste!