The concept of plumbing, as in bringing in clean water and carrying away sewage, is hardly new. The ancient Harappan civilization of northern India, and the Romans, used primitive models of plumbing. In fact, the Romans coated their pipes with lead, and this is where the modern term “plumbing” comes from. After all, lead’s atomic symbol is “Pb.” Today’s pipes and toilet are more advanced than anything than the Harappans and Romans had, however, and experts may have to be called in for septic tank cleaning, clearing clogged drains, and more. Plumbers may be called upon to get clogged water flowing in a home or fix or replace busted pipes, and septic tank cleaning is essential for rural homeowners. When is it time for septic tank cleaning? And what about the home’s plumbing?
Taking Care of the Septic System
It should be noted that while most American houses and public buildings are connected to public sewage disposal systems, around 25% of American homes (typically rural ones) instead make use of septic systems. These properties are too far away from major public utilities to use, so instead, they use a self-contained septic system to remove and clean dirty water from the house. All dirty water from the home will flow through sewage pipes and gather into a large underground tank, the septic tank, where cleaning begins. In there, bacteria will break down solid material, allowing grease and fats to build on top while broken-down solids settle at the bottom to form a thick sludge. After a few days of this, the relatively clean water in between those layers will flow through a filter and deeper into the system. There, this filtered water branches out among several pipes and out of its nozzles, and it will filter through loose gravel and soil to be further cleaned up. Benign bacteria will assist with this, and clean water will seep into the drainage field.
A septic tank and system may need some maintenance. Septic tank cleaning, or pumping, is done when the sludge has built up to the 33-50% mark of the tank’s volume. That sludge can’t leave the tank on its own, so professionals will be called in to dig up the tank, open it, and pump out all waste material with a truck-mounted pump. This may be done once every year or two, and a measuring stick known as a “sludge judge” may be used to determine when septic tank cleaning is necessary.
Other maintenance may be done, too. Such a tank may be replaced once every 20 years or so with a new model, and that new tank may be larger and will almost certainly be leak-proof. Meanwhile, the filter should be cleaned, replaced, or repaired as needed to ensure good flow of water. And the pipes deeper in the system may be dug up and blasted clear with water if too much waste is clogging them.
Home Plumbing Repair
In the home, plumbers may be called upon to unclog drains or the sewer main, which are often too deep or tough for the homeowner to clear up themselves. The smell of sewer gas and backed up toilets or sinks are clear signs of a clog. Plumbers may use cameras at the end of flexible tubes to find the clog, and then dig up the pipes and remove the clogging materials. In some cases, the pipe might be replaced entirely, but either way, proper water flow will be restored.
Clogs aren’t the only problem. Pipes, toilets, and sinks are liable to leak, and rusted or worn out pipes may drip or spray water constantly. Around 10% of American homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons of water per day, and that adds up fast. Leaking water may drip onto drywall and damage it, and it may short out electrical components or pool on the floor somewhere. Plumbers may find and replace those leaking pipes, or at least repair them, to stop the leaks. Plumbers may also install a sump pump down in the basement, which will draw up loose water on the floor and pump it outside the house. This is useful if the basement is prone to intruding water due to frequent rain or floods.