Your Septic System

About Your Septic System | Locating Your Septic Tank | Mound Systems

About Your Septic System

It is understood that today’s headline news is not centered around residential septic tanks and their function in everyday life. But one must realize that without them, our lives would be totally different.

For those of you not familiar with septic jargon, a septic system collects unwanted waste from rural homes, businesses, churches, & schools just to name a few. The reason being is that city sewer lines do not extend past city limits.

A septic system starts with a concrete tank that collects and holds solid waste. Liquid that leaves the tank is then distributed through underground plumbing that allows this effluent to leach into the subsoil for natural filtration and cleansing of the liquid.

Traditional leach fields were made of stone and pipe. Today, modern leach fields are made of Infiltrator Sidewinder Chambers. These chambers offer greater efficiency, performance, and convenience than stone and pipe; hence, the old saying "get out of the stone age" was reborn.

The specific design of the Infiltrator allows effluent infiltration of 100% efficiency, while stone systems offer only 50% efficiency. The Infiltrator offers a warranty, while stone systems offer no warranty. The infiltrator design allows 16,000 lb./ axle load rates, while stone systems make no such claim. The Infiltrator is so efficient that it requires only 60% of the area that an old stone system would. Finally, the Infiltrator takes half the time to install, thereby saving costly labor.

If you own a home with a septic system, proper preventive maintenance is a must:

  • Always have your tank pumped and cleaned every 2-3 years (recommended by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management). This removes solids that accumulate in the tank that might eventually plug your leach bed.
  • Never pour grease, paint, solvents, or harmful chemicals down any drain. These items might clog drains or kill the beneficial bacteria in the tank.
  • Repair leaky faucets and use low-flow toilets to reduce your amount of waste water.
  • Drain surface water away from the leach field to maximize soil moisture capacity.
  • Keep heavy traffic off the leach field to avoid soil compaction.

A national survey shows that if a septic tank is pumped and cleaned regularly, its owner will save 68% of the opportunity costs (over a ten-year period) of needing a new system installed. After ten years of regular maintenance, your system will still be in like-new condition: healthy, free-flowing, odor-free, and prepared to offer years and years of continued service. However, If neglected, the same system may fail at the end of the same ten-year period. Then, you will need to dig up your beautiful yard, remove contaminated material, and replace the system at a minimum cost of around $2,500.

Which makes more sense to you?

Would you drive your car 100,000 miles without an oil change?

For more information about your system or to have your existing system pumped, cleaned or inspected, call Rensselaer Septic Tanks 219-866-5063 or email us.

Locating Your Septic Tank

In order to provide for easy location and to facilitate regular maintenance, the general contractor should provide the homeowner with a plot plan indicating the location of the septic system. If you cannot locate the system from your own records, you may obtain these records from the appropriate County Health, local city or county Building and safety Departments. If the system is a very old system, there may be nothing of record.

The septic tank may be located by probing with a metal rod, following the pipeline from the house or by listening to the noise a plumber's snake makes when it contacts the tank inlet. Care must be utilized during the probing as it may damage the inlet tees or piping.

Making a water probe may be a great help locating a septic tank. We use them all the time. Get a ½" X 6’ galvanized water pipe, threaded on one end. Purchase a pipe to hose fitting and hook up to your garden hose. Turn the water on and sink the probe into the ground. The water will do the digging. Set up a grid pattern and probe every foot or two until you find the tank. Legally, septic tanks can be no closer than 5’ from the house, so begin 6-7’ from the house. The top of a concrete septic tank is about 5’x 8’ and is usually 2-4’ beneath the surface. Typically, the septic tank is in the front yard. I said TYPICALLY, so don’t be surprised if the systems in the rear yard or under a patio slab, etc. Be mindful that in some applications that the area over the tanks tends to have less or no snow in the winter and dead or dry grass in the summer. If the system is in failure, this area might be unusually green though.

If you are not having any success, our technicians or your local septic tank contractor can provide assistance.

After locating the tank, it would be suggested that you make a sketch of its location. Rensselaer Septic Tanks manufactures a variety of lids that have "at-grade" access for future tank cleaning and inspections. This will eliminate future frustration and act as a reminder to have your tank cleaned periodically. Contact our office for measurements, price, and delivery options.

Mound System

Septic tanks with soil absorption systems are the most commonly used wastewater treatment system in rural and suburban areas. All septic systems consist of two parts: the septic tank and the soil absorption system. The septic tank settles and stores sewage solids. The clarified liquid that flows out of the tank is called septic tank effluent. The septic tank effluent is then treated and disposed of in the soil absorption system.

Unfortunately, in many rural areas, soils with shallow depth over a limiting layer or soils with a high percolation rate make it impossible to use a conventional subsurface soil absorption system for wastewater treatment and disposal. On these problem sites, mound systems may be an alternative. .

In a mound system, specially selected sand is placed on top of the natural soil to help treat and dispose of septic tank effluent. The depth of sand is determined by the depth of the natural soil above a limiting layer. A limiting layer can be bedrock, a soil layer with a very low percolation rate, or seasonally high groundwater. The depth of sand added to the depth of the natural soil must equal the minimum 4 foot treatment depth required in Indiana.

In a mound system, septic tank effluent is delivered to the mound with a pump in a dosing tank placed after the septic tank as shown in Figure 1. The mound itself is carefully constructed above ground.

Figure 1. Components of mound system
Figure 1. Components of mound system.

A mound is constructed in layers of predetermined depth (Figure 2). First, the depth of the natural soil to the limiting layer is determined. The natural soil depth above a limiting layer should be a minimum of 24 inches. A layer of specifically sized sand is placed on top of the natural soil, so together they equal the minimum required soil depth of 4 feet. A layer of gravel surrounding the pipes for the pressure dosed distribution system is then placed on top of the sand. Finally, after covering the gravel with construction fabric, a layer of soil is placed over the entire mound to protect the mound from freezing. The layer of soil is also needed for growing grass or other non-woody plants that control erosion. Trees and shrubs should not be planted on a mound because roots tend to clog pipes in effluent distribution systems. The sides of the mound are sloped to make it convenient and safe to mow.

Figure 2. Detail of mound.
Figure 2. Detail of mound.

Appropriate techniques are necessary for an efficient mound construction project. The site for the mound must be carefully prepared. The grass is mowed and leaves raked away. Trees and shrubs are cut off at ground level, with the roots left in place. The area for the mound is then chisel-plowed to roughen the surface in preparation for the sand layer. Avoid compacting the soil under and just downslope of the mound as the sand, gravel, pipe and soil are put into place. Work should always be done from the upslope side (or from only one side on flat lots) using lightweight tracked vehicles. Following construction, a diversion ditch may be needed just upslope from the mound to divert surface runoff around the mound. As with all on-site sewage systems, the homeowner must maintain the system to ensure trouble-free operation. The homeowner should:

  1. Pump the septic and dosing tanks every 1 to 5 years.
  2. Use water wisely and install water saving devices in the home.
  3. Never compact the soil downslope of the mound by paving, constructing a building or parking cars.
  4. Do not plant trees or shrubs on the mound to avoid clogging pipes with roots.

Depending on the cost of sand and the amount of labor involved, mound systems are usually twice the cost of a comparably sized subsurface soil absorption system. The higher cost is necessary, however, if the site or soil condition makes it impossible to use a subsurface soil absorption system. A mound system permits a home to be occupied in a rural area while still protecting the environment.