The question posed by the heading above is relatively easy to answer. The short version is that the waste has to go somewhere, but that’s not complete. The longer answer is that municipal sewage systems only radiate out from town so far, and if you live farther out than it’s cost-effective for the municipal system to tie you on, then a septic system is your only option.
In the vast majority of cases, you’re not really given an option. If you live in town, or close enough to tie on to the municipal system, that’s what people do. If you live too far out for that, you have a septic system installed. There are a few edge cases where a minority of people do something different, like installing a composting toilet, or living in town and opting for a septic system anyway, and those are the really interesting cases because the question then becomes why?
Why, when presented with an easy option, would someone choose to go in some other direction? Why are septic systems necessary?
In the case of someone gravitating toward a composting toilet rather than a septic system, the choice usually comes down to lifestyle. People who use composting toilets are almost always interested in self-sufficiency and sustainability, so for them, the choice is a strategic one and makes a lot of sense.
In cases where someone lives in town and jumps through the hoops to forego the municipal sewage system in preference for a home septic system, the answer is usually personal. Some people just don’t like the notion of being beholden to anyone, and they understand that the price of that greater freedom is greater responsibility.
When you’re tied into the city’s sewage system, if there’s a problem, in most cases, the city will handle it for you. While it’s not recommended to flush non-biodegradable items down the toilet or pour grease down the sink, if you do those things, and you’re tied onto the city’s system, you may have to break out your trusty plunger to unclog the drain, but after that, once the item in question is out of your pipes, it’s no longer your problem. You can basically forget about it.
That’s not the case if you have a home septic system. You’re not only on the hook for the ongoing maintenance of that system, but you’ve got to be a lot more mindful about everything you put into it. If you pour grease down your sink drain, it’s not going to wind up at the county water treatment plant, it’s going to wind up in your septic tank, and some of it will eventually make its way to your drain field, where it will create a problem called grease capping.
It’s not a hard issue to resolve, but there is a cost associated with it, and until it is resolved, you’re bound to have additional problems with your system, all of which will be your responsibility.
Similarly, you’ll have to remember to have your system inspected at periodic intervals, usually about once a year, arrange for repairs as needed, and have your tank pumped out from time to time.
For people who value their personal freedom, those are relatively minor concerns, however. It’s much more important, and much more inherently valuable not to be under anyone’s thumb.
Given the need to stay on top of any repairs needed, it’s important that people who own septic system know what to look for when trouble is brewing. The better and more adept you are at spotting potential trouble signs, the faster you can get to the root cause of the issue and get it fixed. With that in mind, here are a few things to be on the lookout for:
Persistently Wet, Soggy Ground
If your system isn’t working properly, you’ll see this in the area of your drain field. It will just never dry out, and the wet, soggy ground will almost always be accompanied by a foul odor.
This doesn’t actually mean that the pipes inside your home are haunted, of course, but they can sure sound like they are sometimes. If you’re having system problems, one common sign is that your pipes will shake and rattle as waste and water flows through them. If you start hearing sounds like that, don’t call an exorcist, call us!
In addition to foul odors in the area of your drain field, you’ll sometimes notice bad smells emanating from your sink drains, tub and shower drains, and toilets. That’s a sure sign that something has gone wrong in your septic system, and you should call us right away.
Brightly Colored Grass
Another troubling sign is if you start noticing that the grass growing over and immediately around your drain field is a brighter and more vibrant shade of green than the grass anywhere else in your yard.
There are other signs as well, but if you keep a watchful eye out for these, you’ll be miles ahead of the people who don’t.
So that brings us back around the question we began this piece with: Why are septic systems necessary?
Well, the waste does indeed have to go somewhere, but septic systems aren’t the only possible option. There are other alternatives, but septic systems are definitely an important part of the ecosystem. They’re necessary because they play an important role in that ecosystem, and most of the people who have them wouldn’t be happy with anything else.
If that describes you, and you’d like some help taking care of your system to ensure it provides you with years of reliable service, just give our office a call. We’ve been serving the area for years, and would be more than happy to assist.