Wastewater

Surface Water Wastewater

Wastewater

Extension at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is actively involved in programming that helps homeowners, industry, and youth audiences understand onsite wastewater treatment systems for handling domestic sewage. Treatment of wastewater using onsite systems, such as septic tanks and drainfields, plays a very important role in protecting the water and environment of Nebraska and supporting economic development. As a result of Extension programming, Nebraskans benefit from improved water quality and a cleaner environment.

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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