Private On-Site Waste Treatment Systems (POWTS), or septic systems as they are better known, are miniature sewage treatment plants used in rural areas or areas where city sewer does not reach.
• The types of systems include: Conventional, in-ground pressure, at grade, mound systems, and holding tanks.
• In-ground pressure, at grade, and mound systems all have pumps.
• The first part of the system is where the solids settle to the bottom and the scum layer floats to the top. The solids are broken down by bacteria in the tank to form sludge.
• The partially purified liquids filter out of the tank and eventually into the drainfield or mound where they are absorbed and further cleaned. Typically, the water in the biomat is clean within 3 feet. This is why the state of Wisconsin requires 3 feet of separation between the bottom of your drainfield and the limiting factor (water table, impermeable soils, bedrock).
• A mound system is installed when conventional drainfields are unsuitable due to lack of necessary soil properties to adequately absorb or purify the septic tank effluent.
• A holding tank is used in areas where drainage and absorption are such a problem that neither a conventional drainfield, nor a mound can be used.
• Outlet baffles are utilized in the tank to keep larger particles from getting into your drainfield. Systems installed after 2001 will have a filter in place of the baffle to do the same thing.
Maintenance of your system
Inadequately treated wastewater can contaminate nearby wells, groundwater, and drinking water sources. Properly maintaining your septic system will prolong the life of the system and protect your groundwater.
State law requires maintenance of a septic system every 3 years however, a proper schedule should be developed with your installer or pumper depending on your household size and/or usage to see if more frequent maintenance should be done.
All tanks should be cleaned during routine maintenance. Proper cleaning should be done through the manhole cover, NOT through the inspection pipe. When pumping through an inspection pipe, the pumper is unable to properly remove the sludge from the bottom of the tank. A build up of sludge or scum in the tank can eventually cause clogging of the inlet and outlet pipes as well as the drainfield.
The filter, if applicable, should also be cleaned regularly to prevent clogging, resulting in sewage back-ups.
The following items should NOT go into a septic system
• Greases, fats, and oils
• All sanitary products: feminine, diapers, and wipes
• Items such as cigarette butts, paper towels, q-tips, dental floss, facial tissues, cat litter, coffee grounds, egg shells, and other food items
• Cleaning chemicals, solvents, paints, or paint thinners
• Avoid using excessive amounts of lotion and hair products which can contribute to a build-up of grease in the tank
• Use of a garbage disposal is not recommended for a septic system
Ways to maximize the life of the system
• Repair leaky faucets and toilets immediately
• Spread laundry out throughout the week instead of doing it all in one or two days
• Use water-conserving fixtures and appliances
• Divert rainwater away from the system, including the manhole cover and the drainfield
• Do not use a garbage disposal
• Do not use any of the products mentioned above
• Regular cleaning and maintenance of the system
• Do not plant trees or bushes near the system
• Do not drive over, park on, or build things on top of the tanks or drainfield
**Heaviest thing that should be on a drainfield/mound is a riding lawn mower