Wastewater Treatment System Terms

(Terms are defined as used in regulatory literature, plus personal comments)

  1. Septic Tank — (the word septic means bacteria tank) a container used to biodegrade solids, biodegradable waste or liquid by the process of fermentation and the trapping of non-biodegradable solid product, such as, but not limited to combs dirt (from veggies, cloths, hair, hairpins or clips, pens or pencils, feminine products, condoms, toys, cigarette butts, paper towels, facial tissues, etc.) basically any and all non-biodegradable products.
    A good rule of thumb is if you didn‘t or can’t eat it, don’t throw it in the system, period! This is the most overlooked and most important part in the functioning of a leaching system. If it doesn’t work (ferment) it will ruin your leaching system without a doubt. A septic tank that’s not working (fermenting) properly is nothing but a trash tank and like all trash tanks, when full, they pass off trash (scum and other non biodegradable products). A trash tank will trash (ruin) your leaching system. Extending your leach field just extends its failure again and again; extend your fermenting capacity and you solve the problem that caused the failure.
  2. Working Septic Tank — is a septic tank that is fermenting. That’s what the word working means, in this case, again a tank that is not fermenting. It is called a trash tank. As a septic tank it cannot plug or ruin your leaching system but as a trash tank it will ruin your leaching system and cause flooding in the house sewer system. First it will show up as a gurgle, somewhere in the house usually in the lowest spot, such as the laundry line or bathroom in the basement if there is one. If there‘s a shower or tub at the lowest point in the house it will show up there.
  3. Baffle — a flow and gas deflecting device used in septic tanks and distribution boxes to inhibit the discharge of floating solids, reduce the amount of settleable solids that exit, and reduce the velocity of the wastewater flow. It’s actually a filtering device of sorts. The outlet baffle will deteriorate quicker than the inlet baffle. Therefore it should be checked more often. It is more important for the outlet baffle to be working properly than the inlet baffle, but both are important.
  4. Clean out — (or c/o) is an opening providing access to part of the sewage system to enable cleaning out of the septic tank or access to the piping. It varies in diameter and depth and provides great help for easy access for emergency and preventative maintenance.
  5. Risers — placed over the clean out holes and brought to within 12″ of surface for easier access. If brought to surface it would need to be child proofed or better yet, locked or bolted down some way. This is the law.
  6. A. Wastewater — any water discharged from a house through a plumbing fixture to include, but not limited to, sewage and any water or waste from a device (e.g., water softener brine) which is produced in the house or property.
    B. Graywater — Laundry water, water softener discharge, tub and shower soapy water discharge. Kitchen sink discharge is not considered graywater because of food particles.
  7. Septage — commonly known as septic juices in the septic tank.
  8. Sewage — commonly known as septic juice, the combination of human and household waste water which is discharged through the home plumbing system including the waste from a flush toilet, bath, sink, lavatory, dishwashing or laundry machine, water conditioning equipment, or the water-carried waste from any other fixture, equipment or machine, etc.
  9. Scum — the wastewater material, which is less dense than water and floats on top of the water. With proper fermentation you should have none on top of your septage (septic) water. When scum leaves the septic tank through the outlet in the form of cloudy water known as suspended solids and runs down through the earth via the leaching system, the earth acts as a filter allowing the water to pass and the scum to stay back much like a food colander works. This process causes the scum sludge to stay back on the leaching surface causing slower and slower percolation for further flows, eventually causing leach field failure.
  10. Absorption Area — (known as the leaching field area) an area to which wastewater is distributed for infiltration into the soil.
  11. Absorption Field — (known as the leaching field) the area to which septic water from the septic tank outlet is distributed for infiltration into the soil by means of a network of gravel, pipes, etc.
  12. Absorption Trench — (known as leaching lines) a long narrow area (2 to 3′ wide) which includes a pipe on top of the gravel in the trench with a minimum of 4″ of stone cover, for the distribution of septic tank effluent; better known as the leach lines. This is what most people think of when they think of leaching fields, but they are incorrect because this is only one type of leaching field. There are many types of leaching fields.
  13. Distribution Lines — the solid or perforated pipe used to distribute wastewater to the absorption area. We cover the solid pipe as well as the perforated pipe with
    1½” stone for protection. We also glue all joints (even perforated) to stop the pipe from separating, especially during back filling or against root infiltration. We don’t use soap, only glued schedule 80 glue and water resistant.
  14. Permeability — a measure of the rate of movement (percolation) of a liquid through soil. Better known as perk or perk testing.
  15. Percolation — the movement of water through the pores of a soil or other porous medium following infiltration through the soil interface or surface. This is known as perk in the septic industry.
  16. Infiltration — the flow or movement of outside, non-septic water into the interstices or pores of soil through the soil interface or surface (whether it be a horizontal or vertical surface) and then into the absorption leaching area causing flooding and then backing up into the home sewer system.
  17. Groundwater — subsurface water occupying the saturation zone from which wells and springs are fed. This problem can be dealt with, with a good curtain, perimeter or french drain as described in #9. It’s like a lake underground; it can change its height with dry and wet weather. Usually high in the springtime and low in the fall and early winter. It starts to rise with the wet weather.  At high time it can come to the surface even on high ground such as mountains and knolls.
  18. Watercourse — a visible path through which surface or subsurface water travels on a regular basis.
  19. Swale — much like a wide gutter, it’s used to direct water away from the absorption area (leaching area).
  20. Curtain Drain — Perimeter or French Drain (basically they are the same construction and purpose) a subsurface drain designed and constructed to control groundwater and surface water intrusion into the area of the sewage system. If installed around your leaching field properly it will make it a dry island. Stone should come from the bottom of the trench to within 12″ minimum of the top; could also come to surface.
  21. Aggregate — (known as washed gravel or crushed stone) 3/4″ or 1½ inches in diameter. Using 1½ inch stone is a better choice. It’s harder to work with but a better job when it is done. It is a good indication of a poor contractor if he uses smaller stone, it tells you he is more worried about his wallet than the quality of
    your job!
  22. A. Aerobic Wastewater Treatment Mechanical Unit — (known as an aerobic system that needs electric) is a system that provides for the biological (oxygenated aerobic bacteria) decomposition of the organic septage (septic) portion of the wastewater by mechanical aeration (oxygenation) of the wastewater. This is the best system on the market today in my 46 years experience. It’s one of the only systems that we’ll give
    a lifetime guarantee on, providing it is maintained and installed properly!
    B. Our New Non-Mechanical Aerobic Microbial Wastewater Treatment Process – is the most up to date, cost-effective, extensive leaching field and septic tank process to our knowledge on the market today.  This process comes with four different plans to fit your needs.  Two of them give you a lifetime warranty on your leaching system (something given only with #22 a & b above). Also with those two programs you are provided with up to one service pumping per year along with an on-site inspection once a year on Plan I and a monthly on-site inspection with microbial servicing and up to one service pumping per year on Plan II.  No other company that I know of will do that, even engineered systems wouldn’t give that protection or service or cost savings.  These microbial treatments are better for the environment and wallet, even over municipal sewers that are costly and just take pollution from one area and deposit it in large amounts in another area (usually always to a lake or large stream). Our microbes were chosen for what they eat as well as what they discharge.  The different discharge from the specially chosen microbes (when mixed in upper portion of septic tank) create or produce oxygen into the water to create the aerobic environment possible for maintaining aerobic microbes, the fastest way known to break down bio-degradable products and neutralize some non-biodegradable products.
  23. Well head area – the area surrounding a well, which includes the cone (funnel) of influence (where the draw down of groundwater causes groundwater flow).
  24. Wetland — an area(s) of marshes or swamps which have been designated as such by the State Department of Environmental Conservation or EPA.
  25. Junction Box — Also known as distribution or j box. It’s main purpose is to distribute the outwater from the septic tank to the leaching field.
  26. Orangeburg Pipe — This is the pipe used in leaching systems back in the 1950’s and up through the late 1970’s. It originally was made in Orangeburg, NY (down near Suffern NY). It was made of rolled layers of tar paper and tar. The original thicker pipe worked very well but the cheaper, thinner version still broke very easily. The orangeburg pipe holds up quite well if installed properly with stone backfill. This pipe has a bad reputation but my opinion is that it was abuse of the pipe and not the pipe itself that led to the pipe no longer being used in installations.