University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: Water Quality and the Home Landscape

Home Water Systems: Septic System

Karen Filchak


Septic systems are designed to collect, treat and dispose of wastewater without contaminating water or clogging soils.  These remarkable systems provide an efficient and environmentally safe treatment of household wastewater if operating as designed.  When properly designed, installed and maintained, septic systems have a minimum life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.  Like most systems or equipment, septic systems (on-site sewage disposal systems) need to be used properly and maintained to ensure proper functioning.

The septic system has two main components that will be addresses:  the tank and the drainfield.  There is also a pipe leading from the house to the tank and most systems have a distribution box as well.

Prevention through maintenance and proper use of the septic system is key to an effective waste management system.  Preventive practices can make a difference in the life and effectiveness of the system. Knowing the signs of failure will also enable the homeowner to more quickly respond to signs of a problem.   Maintaining records  will also be beneficial in the long-term management of the system as well as in sale of the home.