When folks move out to the rural countryside, they leave behind them the convenience and ease of municipal sewer systems. One does not think twice about flushing a toilet, taking a long shower or using phosphate-containing detergents to do the laundry. Once you are the owner of one of the septic tanks used by those in the country for handling wastes, these will be items you will consider important to its proper function.
If you are having a new system built, you may want to keep in mind that a family of three consumes in one way or the other about one hundred fifty thousand gallons of water a year. Installers of septic systems will be able to help you determine how large of a tank you will need based on your size of family and other things. You will also need to decide what type of tank you want, whether it be of concrete, fiberglass or plastic. For most folks, the concrete one lasts longest and they choose that. It is a personal choice, however.
These waste tanks work on the principle of anaerobic activity. No air is exchanged inside of this container and that is how it works, without air. Microbes and so forth are activated and do all the work of digesting solids and such. No bulky stuff like sanitary pads, tampons or cotton tipped swabs should be disposed of down the toilet. Be careful to avoid letting cooking oils and grease go down the kitchen sink as well. These are not friendly to the workings of a septic system. It is also important not to put paints and other solvents in the tank.
For this system to function properly, there needs to be adequate space for the leach or drainage field to work. Avoid any area with a lot of trees, as their roots will eventually cause problems by clogging up the pipes or creeping into the tank and causing leaks to occur. Some folks pour a canister or box of salt down the drain once a month or so to try and keep small roots at abeyance. Feeding the liquid a septic aid will also help to keep the environment good, to keep the little anaerobic critters happy.
If you are lucky enough to own a garbage disposal, be careful not to use it excessively as all those solids could disturb and overpower the ability of the microbes and such to function correctly. Too much water from, perhaps, the laundry being done too much, could also add more water to the tank than may be advisable. Using a bio-degradable toilet tissue would be advised as well.
Locating the tank a certain distance from the house and from your well would be a good thing to be discussed with your county health department, in conjunction with your installer. They will both have the expertise you may not have in these matters. There are legal limits to the distance for the tank as well as the leach field. If they are not done according to code, you will be required to remedy the problem by moving it all. That would be expensive and easily avoided by asking the right questions of the right people in the first place.
Maintaining the tank is crucial. Many experts give conflicting information on how often a tank needs to be pumped out. The time is well past for doing so when you begin to have back-ups in floor drains or even toilets. If your family is large you may want to consider every three years or so. You may be able to go a little longer if there are just two of you most of the time.
There have been folks who have bought well-developed farms that already have a septic tank system in place. The leach field was located in what was the garden area, where there were cherry and pear trees. These trees were very old and very productive, the pears reaching a huge size in comparison to normal-sized pears. They did not appear to have any ill-effects on folks, so the folks left it all as it was.