What are the Different Types of Septic Systems? How are they Different than Sewer?

Septic systems and sewer systems are both used for wastewater management, but they operate in different ways and are suitable for different situations. Here’s an overview of the two and some common types of septic systems:

Types of septic systems? How are they different than sewer?

Sewer Systems:

  • Public Sewer Systems: In urban and suburban areas, public sewer systems are common. Wastewater from homes and businesses is collected in a network of underground pipes and transported to a centralized wastewater treatment plant. At the treatment plant, the wastewater undergoes various processes to remove contaminants before being discharged or reused.

Septic Systems:

  • Conventional Septic Systems: This is the most basic type of septic system. It consists of a septic tank and a drainfield. Wastewater from the house flows into the septic tank, where solids settle and are partially broken down by bacteria. The liquid portion then flows into the drainfield, where it is further treated by soil.
  • Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs): These systems use oxygen to enhance the bacterial action in the septic tank, promoting more effective treatment of wastewater. ATUs are often used in areas where the soil conditions are not suitable for conventional systems.
Types of septic systems? How are they different than sewer?

Types of Aerobic Treatment Units

  • Pressure Distribution Systems: In this type of septic system, a pump is used to distribute effluent evenly across the drainfield. This can be necessary in areas with high water tables or poor soil conditions. What is effluent? It is liquid waste or sewage.
  • Mound Systems: Mound systems are used when the soil has low permeability (the ability for a substance to pass through another) or a high water table. Wastewater is pumped to an elevated mound of sand or gravel, allowing for additional treatment before it percolates into the natural soil. These mounds tend to need to be rebuilt more frequently so carefully consider that when looking at homes with these systems.
  • Drip Distribution Systems: Similar to pressure distribution systems, but instead of using pipes to distribute effluent, a network of small-diameter plastic pipes with drip emitters evenly distributes the wastewater over the drain field.
  • Constructed Wetlands: This type of system uses natural processes in a wetland environment to treat wastewater. The wetland plants and microorganisms in the soil help break down and filter contaminants.
Types of septic systems? How are they different than sewer?

Differences Between Septic and Sewer Systems:

  • Ownership and Maintenance: Septic systems are privately owned and maintained by individual property owners, while sewer systems are typically owned and operated by municipalities or utility companies.
  • Location: Septic systems are common in rural and suburban areas where public sewer systems are not available or practical. Sewer systems are prevalent in urban areas.
  • Cost: Installing a septic system is generally cheaper than connecting to a public sewer system, but long-term maintenance costs can vary.
  • Environmental Impact: Properly designed and maintained septic systems can have a minimal environmental impact, while sewer systems can have a larger ecological footprint, especially if there are issues with the treatment plant or sewer line leaks.

The choice between a septic system and a sewer system often depends on factors such as property location, soil conditions, and local regulations.

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