Tracking Your Plumbing Waste

Do us a favor: turn your sink on or flush your toilet.

Welcome back! Answer this: where did the water go after it reached the drain, went down the toilet and passed your plumbing system? Any idea? It’s okay if you don’t know, most people don’t!

We are here to tell you about the two most common types of sewage treatments and how you’ll know if you have one or the other. Keep reading for more information!

How to Know if You Have a Septic Tank

If you’ve just moved in and haven’t had a chance to get acquainted with your plumbing, there are a few ways you can tell if your home uses a septic tank system:

  • Your neighbors use a septic tank.
  • Your home uses well water.
  • You can’t locate a water meter on your property.
  • The property tax bill or water bill reads $0.00 for sewage.

Now that you know if you have a house with a septic tank, it is important to know how they function. This is mainly due to the fact that septic tanks do require some maintenance including tank pumping or drain cleaning to clear any blockages.

When your water drains from your home, it will flow into a holding tank, otherwise known as a septic tank. In that tank, the solids will sink to the bottom to form sludge and the oils or fats will float to the top to make scum.

Between these two layers, relatively clear water will remain. As more sewage flows into the tank, the water will be displaced into a drain field. The drain field consists of punctured pipes that are buried in trenches.

Water will leach out of the pipes and be naturally filtered by the surrounding soil, eventually returning to a state of clean groundwater.

If you’re worried about the environment having to filter the water, don’t be! The nutrients being removed are nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which are great fertilizers and will leave grass lush and green.

No Septic Tank? No Worries!


If your home does not have a septic tank system, the sewage likely drains to a municipal treatment facility. A sewer system is a bit more complicated than a septic tank but not by much.

When your water drains from your home, it will flow into the main sewer lines that flow to the treatment center. Once it arrives, it may go through up to three stages of treatment, but technically only the first is mandatory.

The first stage of treatment basically works the same as a septic tank, with the sludge on the bottom and scum on the top. This removes about 50% of contaminants and the water is either treated with chlorine or moves on to the second stage.

The second stage allows bacteria to eat away at up to 90% of remaining contaminants. Again, if the water does not continue to the third stage, it is treated with chemicals and discharged. Finally, if the facility treats water a third time, it is usually done so with more chemicals to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. This stage may also include filter beds or other means of treatment.

Less Common Sewage Treatment Options

“wastedisposal”Although it is uncommon for wastewater not to be treated in a septic tank or a sewage system, it isn’t unheard of. Some homes may use composting toilets which allow the solid waste to be composted by bacteria and the liquids to naturally evaporate.

Other homes may use a cesspool that is quite similar to a septic tank but instead of a drain field, the water ‘percolates’ to filter out contaminants and the solids are held in the tank. This option is uncommon due to the level of maintenance required.

There are a few other less common water disposal techniques, but you can rest assured that no matter which is chosen, water is treated and discharged. If you learned a thing or two about water disposal and sewage treatments--don’t be stingy--share the knowledge! If you are having problems with your sewer lines or need a drain cleaning, give Always Plumbing Heating and Air a call!