University of Maryland Extension

Understanding Your Septic System


Understanding your Septic System

With a private septic system, noticing unsightly or foul-smelling issues could be threatening to your family’s health. To avoid failures like these, it is best to keep up maintenance and ensure proper design and installation.  Regularly inspecting your septic system reduces the risk of contaminating your well water and could save you from repairs when it is too late.

How your Septic System works

The septic system on your property includes a tank and a drainfield.

As waste water flows in from the house, the tank retains water and heavy solids settle to the bottom.

  • Sludge forms when these solids begin to decompose

  • Scum forms in a layer as grease and light particles float to the top of the tank, above the waste water.

The baffles in this illustration prevent sludge and scum from escaping and contaminating the rest of your well water system.

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