Water News Archive

Septic systems operation and maintenance overview

Pump tank regularly. Have a professional inspect and pump the tank. Conserve water and spread usage over a period of time. Manage solids. Keep hazardous materials out. Let the system work naturally. Avoid drainfield compaction. Avoid introducing excess water to the drainfield. Maintain structural integrity of the drainfield.

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What Happens in the Trench?

The effluent is distributed through the pipes/gravel or chambers, then percolates down into the soil. Oxygen is present and aerobic bacteria break down the waste. Viruses are held by soil particles and die over time.

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Drainfield Size & Design

An important soil characteristic, the percolation rate, measures how long it takes water to drop one inch in a saturated hole dug in soil. Fast: 1 inch in 3 minutes (sandy soil). Slow: 1 inch in 48 minutes (clay soil). If it takes less than 5 minutes for the water to drop 1 inch in a saturated hole, the effluent will move too rapidly to be treated properly, such as in sandy soil.

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What Happens in the Tank?

Anaerobic bacteria begin to break down some wastes in the tank. Wastewater contains suspended solids. Heavy solids settle out and form sludge on the bottom of the tank.

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Septic Tank Design

A septic tank must be watertight. The wastewater has not been fully treated, so it must be contained and prevented from escaping into the environment. Septic tanks can be made of concrete, concrete blocks, fiber-reinforced plastic, high-density plastic or fiberglass.

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Soil & Site Evaluation

The ability of soil to accept water or for water to travel through soil is called soil permeability. Percolation is the movement of water through soil. A soil percolation test is designed to measure the rate of water movement in saturated soil (mimicking conditions that soil treatment systems have) so that one can decide the appropriate type and size of treatment system.

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How does a septic system work?

A system typically has 3 parts: plumbing from the house, a septic tank, and an effluent treatment system.

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Partners and Contacts

A full list of NAWMN Project contacts in Nebraska Extension as well as NAWMN Project partner contacts.

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Project Background

The Nebraska Ag Water Management Network (NAWMN, Irmak (2005)) project is designed for encouraging the adoption of newer technologies that will enable farmers to use water and energy resources associated with irrigated crop production efficiently.

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