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Getting Serious About Septic Sludge

Septic sludge. Nobody wants to talk about it. But if your house has a septic system, it should be of great concern. Having too much sludge in a tank is the cause of most septic system backups. If your system is not serviced yearly, you will find yourself on Google searching for “septic service near me.”

What is septic sludge?

To understand how sludge forms, one must understand the process by which a septic system functions. When used water coming from your sinks, showers, washing machines, garbage disposals and toilets, hits your septic tank, they precipitate into three distinct layers. The lightest materials, including proteins, soap, oils and fats rise to a top. This filmy layer is called scum. The middle region, which is the thickest in a properly working system, is called effluent. It is made up of relatively clear wastewater. The bottom layer is where the heaviest matter collects. This is your septic sludge.

Sludge is a combination organic and inorganic matter that has not been broken down by the septic system. In a properly working system, solid particulate falls to the tank’s bottom where it digested by enzymes and liquified. These liquified solids are then processed by bacteria and rise as wastewater into the effluent region. However, some solids cannot be handled in this fashion and remain at the bottom of the tank.

If you use a garbage disposal in your house, you are at greater risk for a sludge-related problem.  Common materials put through a disposal, like raw vegetable matter, high cellulose foods, citrus skins and coffee grounds are hard for a septic system to break down. They simply sink and stay at the bottom of your tank, becoming sludge.

Dealing with septic sludge

An over accumulation of sludge in your septic system can lead to a host of problems. As sludge accumulates, it occupies space forcing out effluent. If the sludge level rises too much, it can seep out of your tank and foul your leeching field. Even worse, it may clog the system’s filters and lead to a dreaded backup. If unprepared, you are back to searching for “septic service near me,” to find a professional to solve the problem.

So how to tell when you have too much sludge in a system?  Unfortunately, there really is no way to do so. Usually, there is no warning. When the problem makes itself known, it is too late.

However, this can all be avoided by scheduling yearly service with a reputable septic professional. They will clean the sludge from your system, leaving it in perfect working order.

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