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and surrounding areas

How Does a Septic System Work?

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to maintain your septic system. So, it’s important to understand how your system operates so that you can identify any signs of problems and make sure it’s functioning correctly. Routine inspections and regular maintenance will keep your system in good working order and save you money in the long run.


What is a septic system?

A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment structure that uses natural processes to treat and dispose of sewage. The main components of a septic system are the septic tank and a drainfield. The septic tank processes the wastewater, with floatable matter such as oils and grease rising to the top and heavier solids dropping to the bottom. The liquid, also known as effluent, is then released into the drainfield where it’s absorbed into the soil.


How does a conventional septic system work?

There are several different types of septic systems, but the conventional system is the most common. It consists of just four main parts:

  • a pipe from the home
  • the septic tank: an underground chamber usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene
  • the drainfield: a shallow, underground system of perforated pipes
  • the soil


Here’s how the system works:


  1. Wastewater is transferred from your home to the septic tank
  2. Bacteria in the tank begins to break down the organic material in the effluent
  3. Heavier matter (sludge) drops to the bottom of the tank
  4. A layer of scum (mostly oils and greases) floats to the top
  5. The effluent flows through a filter, which keeps the solids in the tank, into an outlet pipe
  6. The effluent exits into the drainfield where the water seeps into the ground
  7. The soil naturally removes harmful bacteria and other pollutants leaving clean water to seep down into the groundwater


How do I find my septic system?

The easiest way to find your system is to consult your original building plans or your installation paperwork. If you don’t have those documents, call your local health department to see if they have copies of the original permits. A licensed septic service professional can also help you locate your system.


Signs of System Failure

The average system should be inspected and pumped out every 3 to 5 years to keep it working effectively. If you notice any of the following symptoms, your system may be malfunctioning, and you should call a septic professional.


  • Pooling water in the drainfield
  • Slow drainage in sinks and tubs
  • Bad odors in bathrooms and/or around septic tank and drainfield
  • Sewage backup in sinks and tubs
  • Bright green, spongy grass on the drainfield

A well-designed, properly installed septic system can last for decades if it’s being maintained and pumped out regularly. The experts at Flamingo Plumbing & Septic have been proudly installing, maintaining, and repairing septic systems in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas for over 20 years. Call 904-647-5466 today to speak with one of our septic professionals about your septic system needs.