Septic System Basics for Homeowners

Onsite Septic Systems

System Description

Tank plus distribution boxA septic tank system uses natural processes to treat and dispose of the wastewater generated in your home.  It typically consists of a septic tank and a drainfield or subsurface infiltration field.  The system accepts both “blackwater” (toilet wastes) and “greywater” (wastes from the kitchen, sink, bath and showers, laundry, etc.)  Water that should not be discharged to the system includes water from foundation or footing drains, sump pumps, roof gutters, backwash from water treatment systems and other “clear” water.




  • Conserve water to reduce the amount of wastewater that must be treated and disposed.
  • Repair any leaking faucets and toilets.
  • Only discharge biodegradable wastes into the system.
  • Divert downspouts and other surface water away from your drainfield.
  • Keep your septic tank cover accessible for tank inspections and pumping.
  • Have your septic tank pumped regularly (every 2 to 3 years) and checked for leaks and cracks.
  • Call a professional when you have problems.
  • Compost your garbage or put it in the trash.

  • Use a garbage grinder.
  • Flush sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, condoms and other non-biodegradable products into your system.
  • Dump solvents, oils, paints, thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain which can disrupt the treatment process and contaminate the groundwater.
  • Dig in your drainfield or build anything over it.
  • Plant anything over your drainfield except grass.
  • Drive over your drainfield or compact the soil in any way.
  • Divert backwash from a water softener to the septic system.
  • Install a lawn sprinkler system over your septic system.