Historically, septic waste was considered “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” If you could flush your toilet or the outhouse didn’t overflow, you didn’t have a problem with your septic system. However, as more and more people followed this thinking and dumped sewage from homes and businesses into ditches, creeks, rivers, and lakes, surface water started to show signs of contamination and people got sick. As population density increased, it was clear methods had to be devised and structures created to treat the waste, but the focus was to “waste” as little land as possible for the septic system. This practice of concentrating effluent in a small area put the surrounding groundwater at risk.
Today, a properly functioning on-site septic system must accept the sewage from the structure without backing up into the home or ponding on the surface and yet treat the effluent so that groundwater is not contaminated. To do this the soil must be permeable enough to let the water soak in, but not so permeable that it runs through. Ultimately, the septic effluent must be applied at a rate that the soil is able to treat.
Thus, septic systems are designed specifically for the location of the absorption field. They are sized based upon the number of bedrooms in the home and the type of soil. System type is then determined by using this information and construction requirements tempered with site characteristics such as topography.
As you can see, many factors interweave when determining specification standards and system siting. For these reasons the system of yesterday may not be adequate for our world today. If your system fails, the site characteristics on your property and current laws may not allow the same type of system for the replacement. The correct design, construction, and maintenance of on-site septic systems are necessary to ensure that viruses, bacteria, and chemicals released from septic systems do not enter the groundwater or pond on the surface causing a threat to the public health. We are available to discuss these issues with you if you have questions.