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Homeowners Guide to Septic

What is a septic system and what does it do?

A septic system otherwise known as an on-site sewage management system that treats all of the waste that comes from your home. That wastewater goes into your tank it goes into the inlet compartment of your tank. This part of the tank holds the solids. These solids settle at the bottom of your tank. The oil and grease float to the top forming a scum layer. The liquid wastewater known as effluent goes into the second compartment of your tank and flows out into your drain field and from there the liquid waste filters through the soil. The soil treats and disperses the wastewater and percolates through the soil into the groundwater.

The number of bedrooms determines the size of your septic tank serving a single family residence. The minimum size septic tank approved for use in the State of Georgia is a 1000 gallon tank which will serve a 3 or 4 bedroom house. Homes with garbage disposals are required to increase the size of the septic tank by 50%.

Operation and Maintenance

With proper use and maintenance your on site sewage management system will serve your family for many years. When buying a home that runs on a septic system it is recommended that you get the septic tank inspected. This is important to do because a neglected septic tank can end up costing you, the new home owner $1,000's of dollars and that's not something you want to do after you've just spent all your hard earned money on buying a home. $395.00 septic inspection is a small price to pay compared to the cost of fixing a septic system that could be really damaged and not maintained.

Proper Use

  • If you have a leaking toilet (one that runs after flushing) and dripping faucets they need to be repaired. Having these issues can over fill your septic tank which cause flood your drain field which will cause wastewater to flow back into your home.

  • Make sure you don't direct water from gutter downspouts toward your septic tank. This can cause an overflow in the system.

  • Please use commercial bathroom cleaners and soap in moderation. The Georgia Environmental Health Department does not recommend using septic tank additives.

  • Do not plant trees or bushes on top of the drain field. Root intrusion can rupture the field lines.

  • Do not park or drive over the septic tank or field lines. This can cause damage which leads to system failure.

  • Do not pour grease, oil, or chemicals down your drain. Your septic tank is not a trash can. It is made to break down human waste and wastewater.

When to Pump your Septic Tank

A properly designed septic tank will last for several years. But it will only last by taking precautionary steps listed in the previous bullet points. The more people using the system the more it will have to be pumped. The standard 3 or 4 bedroom home has a 1000 gallon tank. We recommend having your septic system inspected once every 3-5 years.

Signs of a Malfunctioning Septic System

Slow drains or sewage backing up into your home could mean you have a clog somewhere in your system. It could be in the inlet or outlet tees or in the mainline that connects the system to your house. You could have a collapse in the field lines. If the system has a pump, failure could be the cause. Surfacing of effluent water over your septic system. If you smell sewage or an odor near the septic tank could indicate a cracked inlet or outlet plumbing pipe.


  • Georgia Department of Human Resources. "Manual for On Site Sewage Management Systems."

  • National Small Flows Clearinghouse, "The care and feeding of your septic tank system."

  • National Small Flows Clearinghouse, "So now you own a septic system"

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Septic tank-Soil Absorption Systems"

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