What are the Differences Between Septic Systems and Regular Plumbing?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Septic systems are wastewater disposal systems used on properties where regular city sewage is not available. Typically, homes in rural areas and areas of cities that were once rural have septic systems instead of regular sewage plumbing. Regular sewage systems are maintained by individual cities or counties and flow directly to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Conversely, septic systems are maintained solely by the owner of the property where they are located.

Septic systems are typically comprised of four components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a drain field or leech field, and soil. The pipe from the home carries all wastewater from the house to the septic tank, which is buried underground. The septic tank holds the wastewater where it begins to naturally separate as the waste floats to the bottom and grease and oils form sludge on the top.

The partially treated water is forced out of the septic tank and into the drain field where further decomposition of waste is achieved by soil that naturally removes bacteria before the water rejoins the ground water. Each time additional wastewater is added to the tank, it forces out the existing partially treated water.


Though properly installed and maintained septic systems function very well, they are not without their problems. The most common problem is flooding of the drain field, which can cause sewage backup in the yard or the house. For this reason, it is important to keep septic systems properly maintained and to avoid abusing the system.

The basic maintenance of septic systems includes regular inspection and pumping of the tank. The EPA recommends having typical septic systems inspected and pumped a minimum of every 3 years. Homeowners can help maintain their septic systems by avoiding flushing paper items that are non-biodegradable and keeping their water waste to a minimum. Repair leaky faucets and toilets quickly and avoid doing several loads of laundry at once to reduce the potential for overloading your septic system.

Remember that maintenance is much cheaper than repair or replacement and will help you avoid potential problems in your home, your yard, and possibly even with the health department. There is no reason why a properly functioning, maintained septic system should not continue to work without fail for years.


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