Understanding Your Household Septic System
As long as people have lived in communities, there has been a need for sanitary disposal of human wastes. About three thousand years ago, homes in the Indus Valley had bathrooms with water-flushed latrines that emptied into pits similar to modern septic tanks. In contrast, many Europeans were still dumping human wastes into the streets a little more than two hundred years ago. In the United States, early sanitation consisted of outhouses with earthen-pits. Later, flush toilets were added to homes, but they emptied directly into surface waters, not into sewers. Today, most homes are connected to public sewer systems. Homes not connected to public systems usually have separate on-site treatment systems to handle household wastewater. This fact sheet is one in a series concerning domestic wastewater treatment. It gives a brief overview on how septic systems work. Knowing how your septic system functions will help you understand how to care for the system to maximize its ability to treat your household’s wastewater.