Serving Indian River, St. Lucie, Brevard & Palm Beach Counties
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Your Home Septic System
Most homes in Florida are connected to a public sewage treatment system. However,
over 1.3 million families (about 27% of Florida's housing units) live in rural and
sparsely developed suburban areas not served with a public system.
Properly sited, designed, constructed, and maintained septic systems can provide
an efficient and economical wastewater treatment alternative to public sewer systems.
People who have septic systems or who plan to buy property that has or will have
a septic system should understand what the system does and how to use and maintain
WHAT DOES A SEPTIC SYSTEM DO?
Wastewater from homes is a by-product of most of the water-using processes carried
on in the home. An average of 40 to 50 gallons of wastewater is produced per person
per day. The purpose of on-site sewage systems is to dispose of these wastes and
to treat the water so it will be safe when it reaches drinking water supplies or
recreational waters. The septic system consists of more than just the septic tank
itself. In fact, the largest part of the treatment of the wastewater actually takes
place in the soil beneath the drain field.
The Septic Tank
Wastewater flows through a pipe into the septic tank. Baffles or "tees" at the inlet
and outlet of the tank slow the flow of water and prevent sewage from flowing directly
through the tank.
Bacterial action within a septic tank helps to break down the solids in the wastewater
that enter the tank. The tank must be large enough, and the rate of flow small enough,
to ensure sufficient "residence time" of wastewater in the tank. Even when the tank
is working properly and solids are being broken down at a rate sufficient to prevent
their movement into the drain field, partially digested solids and any materials
that cannot be digested sink to the bottom of the tank and accumulate as sludge.
Grease, foam, and lighter particles float to the surface and form a layer of scum.
The exit baffle arrangement holds back sludge and scum while allowing a partially
digested wastewater to flow out of the tank.
It is important that sludge and scum not get out of the tank and into the drain field
as they can clog soil pores and cause the septic system to fail. If allowed to build
up in the tank, the volume available to accommodate liquid is drastically reduced.
Therefore, the tank must be pumped out periodically.
Sizes of septic tanks that are required for different sizes of families and establishments
are defined in Chapter 1OD-6 of the Florida Administrative Code, which sets the standards
for on-site sewage disposal system design and installation in the state. With the
exception of parts of extreme south Florida, the standards are uniform across the
state. In addition, some counties have established rules that are more restrictive
than state code. Information on state and county standards and their implications
for individual systems may be obtained from the environmental health office of your
county health unit.