Keeping Your Septic System Flowing Smoothly: Scum And Sludge Layers

Keeping Your Septic System Flowing Smoothly: Scum And Sludge Layers

02 May

If you have a septic tank on your property, understanding how it works can help you keep your septic system in good shape. The following article takes a detailed look at septic tanks and how you can ensure that they continue to operate as efficiently as possible.   

How it Works 

Your septic tanks send treated waste to the drain field where it is absorbed by the soil. Septic tanks have three levels of waste. A scum layer is on top and a sludge layer is on the bottom while a layer of water is in the middle. A crucial point to keep in mind is that if your tank is not pumped regularly, the scum and sludge layers can build up and the system can back up. Another danger from high scum and sludge levels is that these layers can get into the drain field and harm it. 


To keep the scum and sludge layers from becoming too thick and clog the system, it’s a good idea to check their levels at least every 3 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA . You can do this task yourself by placing measuring sticks made from PVC pipe into the t-shaped outlet that blocks sludge and scum from getting into the drain field. Make certain that the scum layer is more than 6 inches from the bottom of the outlet and the sludge layer is more than 12 inches away.    


No matter how well you maintain your septic system, your tank still needs to be pumped out occasionally, typically about every 3 to 5 years. It may need to be pumped out more frequently depending on the tank size and how much waste your household produces. If the tank fails an inspection for the scum and sludge layers, for example, then it will need to be pumped out as soon as possible.  


In addition to the inspecting the tank regularly, watch out for signs that the tank might need to be pumped out. Waste water backing up into your house through the toilets is an obvious sign that something is wrong, but slow draining of your sinks could signal a problem as well. Another possible indication sign that the tank is overflowing with scum and sludge is dead grass above the drain field. 

Septic systems should perform well for many years as long as keep a close eye on the scum and sludge layers and have the tank pumped out when needed. To learn more, talk with a septic tank contractor (such as Dixie Drainfields Inc).