Septic Tank Pumps Terminology

Absorption Area: An area to which wastewater is distributed for infiltration to the soil.

Absorption Field: The area to which sewage is distributed for infiltration to the soil by means of a network of pipes. An area in which perforated piping is laid in drain rock-packed trenches, or excavations (seepage beds) for the purpose of distributing the effluent from a wastewater treatment unit. Synonyms and variations in implementation, trench vs. bed, for example, have given rise to a number of terms which people use loosely to refer to the soil absorption system or "SAS" including drainage trenches , septic drainfield, septic drainage field, septic system drainage bed, septic leachfield, septic leaching field, soakaway bed leaching bed, onsite sewage facility seepage bed, and similar terms.

Absorption Trench: A long narrow area which includes a pipe for the distribution of septic tank effluent.

Additive or Septic Additive, Septic Chemical, Septic Treatment, Septic Tank Additive: A septic additive is a chemical, bacteria, or other product sold to be placed into a septic tank or septic absorption system, purportedly to improve the function of the system, improve drainfield performance, avoid septic tank pumping, or other repair or maintenance need. In a normal conventional septic system additives are not required, are illegal in some jurisdictions, and in some cases they can actually damage the system leading to costly repairs.

Activated sludge: A wastewater treatment process using special bacteria which has been "activated" or "energized" to treat the wastewater in a reactor vessel or container. Activated sludge systems process wastewater either in a continuous-receipt/mixing process or in a "plug flow" process which separates units of incoming wastewater for individual treatment.

Aeration Stabilization: Lagoon wastewater treatment systems are an activated sludge treatment method using an earthen berm to form a lagoon to hold and treat wastewater and a pump or blower system to insert oxygen into the system.

Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU): A system that provides for the biological decomposition of the organic portion of the wastewater by mechanical aeration of the wastewater.

Aerobic Septic System: Aerobic septic systems are a common design used to increase the level of sewage treatment within the septic tank and to process & dispose of clarified treated effluent at difficult sites or where soils & space limit wastewater treatment options

Aggregate: Gravel used in septic drainfield or drainage trenches - washed gravel or crushed stone 3/4 - 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Alternative Septic System Design: Any small or private onsite waste disposal system design which uses components other than the traditional combination of a septic holding tank and a soil absorption system or drainfield. An on-site sewage system other than a conventional gravity system or conventional pressure distribution system. Properly operated and maintained alternative systems provide equivalent or enhanced treatment performance as compared to conventional gravity systems

Alternative Septic System: Describes the types of septic systems other than the conventional septic system. The LPP system and the Mound system are examples.

Alternating Valve: PVC plastic valve device, having one inlet and two outlets, designed to be placed as a part of a conventional septic system. The valve divides the total field line footage into two equal parts. The valve is to be switched every 4 to 6 months to allow for one part of the field lines to rest while the other is used.

Anaerobic Wastewater Process: A three step bacterial respiration process that occurs in the absence of oxygen. Heterotrophic bacteria (which do not require oxygen) oxidize material to form CO2 and water. The process is more complex than I describe here, involving also autotrophic bacteria and chemical processes in three stages: acid fermentation, acid regression, and alkaline fermentation.

Anabolism: A synthesis process that results in the increase in size and complexity of organic chemical structure. One of the processes in the breakdown of wastewater by microorganisms. Also see metabolism and catabolism.

Anoxic Wastewater Process: A wastewater treatment step or process in which oxygen is not available. For example, the removal of nitrogen and phosphorous are anoxic processes which uses heterotrophic bacteria (which can function at low or no oxygen levels).

Application Rate [of septic effluent to the soil]: The rate at which septic tank effluent is applied to a subsurface absorption area, for design purposes, expressed in gallons per day per square foot (gpd/sq. ft.).

Baffle, septic tank: A flow deflecting device used in septic tanks and distribution boxes to inhibit the discharge of floating solids, reduce the amount of settleable solids that exit, and reduce the exit velocity of the wastewater.

Berm: A mound or bank of earth, used especially as a barrier or to provide insulation.

Biogas: BIOGAS PRODUCTION & USE describes the production and use of methane produced by sewage or manure - bio-gas or bio gas. Biogas is generally a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by bacterial degradation of organic matter (sewage, animal waste, or organic debirs & waste) and intended for use as a fuel.

Biomat: A bacterial slime layer in the soil below the leachfield and around other wastewater disposal systems. Critical septic effluent treatment occurs in the biomat.

Black Corrugated Pipe: Used in conventional septic system construction. It is also commonly used for outside drainage work. Three types of black corrugated pipe are used in a conventional septic system—solid pipe (used for crossovers); perforated pipe with half-inch holes drilled in the bottom of the pipe (used in the field lines); and perforated pipe with rectangular holes around the entire circumference of the pipe (used in curtain drains).

Blackwater or septage: Waste carried off by toilet, urinal, and (in FL, kitchen drains). The material pumped out of a septic tank is also called "septage". Refers to toilet water that carries away human waste.

BOD – Biochemical Oxygen Demand: The amount of oxygen necessary to permit microbes (within a septic treatment system) to consume organic material in wastewater. BOD is normally expressed as BOD-5 or five-day BOD, the amount of oxygen consumed by microbes (for example within a septic treatment systems) over a five day period, for a given volume of wastewater. BOD is used to describe the quality of untreated wastewater, or in other words, to determine the amount of treatment that wastewater will require before it can be discharged to the environment.

Breakout or effluent breakout: Visible movement of septic effluent to the surface of a property. Septic effluent appearing on the surface of a property or in nearby ponds or streams, is incontrovertible evidence of a failure in the septic system. Breakouts of septic effluent may occur during normal system usage when the absorption bed has failed, when the system has been overloaded, or during a septic loading and dye test.

Building Sewer drain or sewer line or sewer pipe or "septic pipe": that part of the drainage system which extends from the end of the building drain and conveys wastewater to the sewage system or sewer.

Capacity of a Septic System: Describes the volume of wastewater (blackwater or greywater) which an onsite septic system must be capable of handling. Typically capacity, described as daily volume of wastewater in gallons or liters, is a function of the number of building occupants using the facility, adjusted for other building activities such as laundry, garbage grinders, or other site activities.

Catabolism: The oxidative, exothermic, enzymatic degradation process resulting in release of energy from large organic molecules. One of the processes in the breakdown of wastewater by microorganisms.

Centralized Septic System: An onsite wastewater disposal system which collects waste from multiple buildings or facilities for treatment and disposal at a single site or facility. Centralized septic systems may serve an entire community or a large group of homes such as townhouses or condominiums. Centralized wastewater and septage disposal systems are generally associated with large treatment requirements such as for an entire community.

Cesspool: A cesspool combines the septic treatment tank and absorption system into a single component. A cesspool is a stone or concrete block or (safer) pre-cast concrete (photo) lined pit into which sewage is discharged. Solids remain in the pit, effluent is absorbed into soil below and at the sides of the cesspool. Solids settle to the bottom, floating grease and scum collect at the top, and liquid seeps into the ground, initially through the bottom and most of the time through the side of the cesspool.

Certificate of Completion: A form or paperwork that certifies that a septic system has been property installed, inspected and approved by the Health Department.

Chemical Toilets: Use a chemically treated reservoir located directly below the toilet seat. The chemicals reduce odors and perform partial (incomplete) disinfection of the waste.

Clay: Scientific term used to describe the size of soil particles. It is more commonly used to describe soils that are composed of these tiny particles. Because the soil particles are so small and tightly packed against each other, there is little space for water to move through these types of soils. Clay soils do not perk well, and they typically cannot be used for septic system installations.

Clay Soil: Soil type primarily composed of clay-sized particles.

Clearances or Distances Required for Septic Components: Because onsite wastewater treatment systems may discharge septic effluent into local soils or even nearby surface water or ground water, separation distance is required between various septic system components (septic tank, drainfield, piping) and other common property features (buildings, wells, property lines, nearby streams or ponds).

Cleanout, septic tank or holding tank or cesspool or drywell: An opening providing access to part of the sewage system.

Cluster Septic System: A type of centralized septic system serving as few as two homes, or just a few homes. Clustered septic systems may be used in a development of new homes in which small groups of two or three homes are served by individual wastewater treatment systems.

Common Pump Stop: On a duplex septic effluent (or other duplexed) pumping system, one float at the lowest (pump down systems) or highest (pump up systems) effluent level will shut off both effluent and septic pumps.

Composting Toilets: Use natural materials inside of a holding tank to decompose sewage where the decomposed material is retained for later removal.

Conventional septic system: A traditional onsite wastewater disposal system which uses a (water-tight) septic tank and leach field or drainfield buried in the original site soils. For contrasting but similar systems see mound systems and raised bed septic systems and for septic systems of advanced design see alternative septic systems or advances septic system products

Crossover: Solid soil pipe made of PVC or black corrugated plastic used to connect a field line trench to the next successive field line trench in a serial distribution conventional septic system. A crushed crossover pipe is one of the most common causes of septic system failure.

Curtain Drain: Trench excavated around a septic field, having a positive outlet, which collects and diverts ground water and surface water away from a disposal field. The drain is necessary where a designated septic area is subject to an excessive influx of water that may interfere with the functioning of the disposal field. If the disposal field trenches fill with ground water, and the effluent cannot perk into the soil, a failure may occur. A subsurface drain designed and constructed to control groundwater and surface water intrusion into the area of the sewage system. Curtain drains or intercept drains can protect septic drainfield in areas of wet soils or surface and subsurface groundwater.

Cut Soils: Soils that have been mechanically altered by man. The upper portion of the natural soil has been removed, typically with a bulldozer, from the site. Cut soils are generally not suitable for septic system use, because the best part of the soil has been removed and the lower portions of the soil that are now exposed to the ground surface is clay, which does not perk.

Denitrification: The removal of nitrogen from wastewater, normally by an anoxic process.

Design Professional, Septic System or Onsite Wastewater: A person licensed or registered in the State or other authority to design onsite wastewater handling & disposal systems described in the standards for that municipality.

Discharge Effluent Pipe: This pipe conducts septic effluent out of a pumping chamber (under pump power) or septic tank (by gravity).

Disinfection Septic Systems for onsite wastewater treatment: Some onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems are required to disinfect the effluent before it can be discharged to the environment. Sand bed systems filter systems, and aerobic systems may require disinfection depending on the level of treatment achieved by other wastewater handling components.

Distributing Valve: A valve that distributes flow to multiple drainfield laterals, zones or locations by automatically rotating upon each pump cycle

Distribution Device: A device used to uniformly distribute sewage to the absorption area. Also referred to as "distribution box" or "D-box", this component connects a single effluent line leaving the septic tank or other wastewater treatment component to the network of effluent distribution lines in an absorption area.

Distribution Line: The perforated pipe used to distribute wastewater to the absorption area.

Dosing System: A system using mechanical means (bell siphon, tipping bucket, float valves) or electrically controlled means (electric pumps and pressure distribution systems) to first accumulate septic effluent in a dosing chamber or "distribution chamber" and then, when a specified volume of effluent has been collected, move that "dose" of effluent to the soil absorption system (sand filter bed, drain field, or other system) for final treatment, filtering, and dispersal. By buffering septic effluent and dispensing it only at when a specified volume has been collected, permit the drain field to "rest" between applications and can permit use of alternating drainfields. Dosing systems may extend the life of a drain field. Dosing systems may disperse effluent to the absorption system on specific time intervals but more commonly it is dispersed when a specific volume of effluent has been accumulated.

Disposal Field: Constructed in the soil, where sewage effluent is dispersed through a series of excavated trenches (see Disposal Field Trenches), so that it will soak or perk into the soil for disposal.

Disposal Field Trenches: Trenches excavated in a predetermined and approved septic area that comprise the disposal field. The trenches are constructed in a specific manner so as to conform to Health Department regulations.

Distribution Box: Component of a conventional septic system used to equally divide and distribute effluent to the individual disposal field trenches. It is important that a distribution box not be disturbed or moved after it is in place. Any disturbance of the box may alter its ability to function properly (i.e. to equally distribute the incoming effluent) and cause a system to fail.

Dosing Tank (Septic Effluent Dosing Tank): A tank which collects treated wastewater for period of time and then, periodically, discharges it into another treatment unit or disposal unit, depending upon the needs and design of the particular on-site sewage system.

Drainfield or Drain Field or Drainage Bed or Seepage Bed or Leachfield: An area in which perforated piping is laid in drain rock-packed trenches, or excavations (seepage beds) for the purpose of distributing the effluent from a wastewater treatment unit

Drinking Water: Water whose physical, chemical and biological quality is or is intended to be satisfactory for human consumption, food preparation or culinary purposes.

Drywell: A drywell is a pit or hole in the ground, open to soil at its sides and bottoms, intended to receive and dispose of gray water (water from building non-sewage drains such as laundry, showers, sinks). A drywell or "seepage pit" is used at some building sites to receive "gray water" from a laundry, sink, or shower. The pit may be site-built of stone or dry-laid concrete block, rubble-filled, or constructed of (safer) pre-cast concrete.

Duplex Effluent Pumps: For septic system reliability, in a mound or other advanced septic system which requires the use of a pump, two pumps are employed using one of two methods. (1) the pumps alternate or "take turns" in pumping out effluent under control of a float switch. This method has the advantage of constantly testing that both pumps work and of distributing the work and thus the wear-out cycle across the equipment. (2) the pumps come on at different levels of effluent in a pumping chamber. This method holds one pump in reserve, causing it to operate only if the effluent level rises above a certain point. In this design, if the inflow into the system exceeds the capacity of the first pump or if the first pump fails, the second pump goes to work. In good design, if one of the two pumps stops working, an alarm is sounded on the system.

Dye Test or Septic Loading and Dye Test: Septic dye tests involve flushing a special florescent dye down a toilet or other drain. The dye itself does not make anything happen. It is simply a colored indicator that can identify water found outside as having come from the fixture where the dye was introduced. It's the volume of water introduced into the system that forms the actual "test". If waste water is coming to the surface (an unsanitary condition indicating serious septic failure) one may see dye in that water, provided the septic system is flowing at common rates.

Effective Grain Size: A measure of the diameter of soil particles, when compared to a theoretical material having an equal transmission constant. It is the dimensions of that mesh screen which will permit 10 percent of the sample to pass and will retain 90 percent.

Effluent: Abbreviated term for Sewage Effluent. Septic effluent is the clarified, partially treated liquid which leaves a septic tank. Large solids have been separated by settlement, by floating to coagulate in a grease and scum layer, or by filtration or other methods. Septic effluent moves out of a septic treatment tank into an absorption system (or other effluent treatment system) for further treatment and ultimate disposal or discharge to the environment.

Effluent Brake: Component of a conventional septic system used to intercept the effluent pumped to a disposal field and reduce the energy level of the pumped sewage water before it enters an alternating valve or the first disposal field trench.

Engineered System: Describes alternative septic systems.

Evaporation Transpiration Septic Systems: Evaporation-Transpiration (ET) Septic Systems and Evapo-Transpiration Absorption Septic Systems (ETA) dispose of septic effluent from the septic tank by providing a surface area intended to allow the effluent to evaporate. ET systems depend entirely on evaporation while ETA systems make use of both evaporation and (limited) soil absorption of septic effluent.

Expanded Wastewater Treatment Bed: Is a wastewater treatment system which uses both attached growth and suspended growth treatment processes. Experimental System Type of septic system or method of sewage disposal that has not been approved for general use. This term may also refer to a property or site where a septic system (usually a Mound system) was constructed as a repair to a failing system, but the soil conditions present did not meet the minimum requirements of the regulations.

Failing Septic System: Describes the conditions that occur when a septic system is no longer functioning properly, and the sewage water from the septic tank begins to pond on the ground surface over one or more components of the system. Some factors that may cause a septic system to fail include: the age of the septic system (25 years old or older); excessive water use; damage to the disposal field area; broken pump; crushed crossover pipe; and broken tight line.

Failure: Term for failing septic system.

Failure of a Septic System: A condition of an on-site sewage system that threatens the public health by inadequately treating sewage or creating a potential for direct or indirect contact between sewage and the public. Examples of failure include: (a) Sewage on the surface of the ground; (b) Sewage backing up into a structure caused by slow absorption of septic tank effluent; Sewage leaking from a septic tank, pump chamber, holding tank, or collection system; (d) Cesspool or seepage pits where evidence of ground water or surface water quality degradation exists; (e) Inadequately treated effluent contaminating ground water or surface water

Failure Spots (Septic): Where septic system trouble is likely to show up regardless of septic dye testing

Field Lines: Term for disposal field trenches.

Fill: Term for Fill Material.

Fill Material: Describes the materials—rock, soil, asphalt, concrete, construction debris, etc.—natural or man-made, deposited during filling.

Float Switch: Used to control (turn on and off) a sewage effluent pump. The switch is housed within a plastic bulb that is connected to the pump by a wire. The bulb floats at the surface of the sewage water within the pump tank, and when the water level rises to a predetermined level, the switch mechanism within the plastic bulb activates the pump. Once the water has been lowered to a predetermined level by the pump, the switch mechanism automatically turns the pump off.

Final Treatment/Disposal Unit: That portion of an on-site sewage system designed to provide final treatment and disposal of the effluent from a wastewater treatment unit, including, but not limited to, absorption fields (drainfield), sand mounds and sand-lined trenches

FOG: Fats, Oil, Grease a component of sewage which forms in the floating scum layer in septic tanks.

Force Main Septic or Sewer Line: A (comparatively) smaller diameter sewage waste line used to move solid waste output from a grinder pump to a waste and wastewater treatment facility. Grinder pumps are used with "force main" septic systems to move waste products uphill to a private onsite wastewater treatment facility or in larger installations, to move sewage or "blackwater" or waste products to a centralized treatment facility. Force mains used to carry sewage prepared by a grinder pump will generally be of smaller diameter than waste lines which work by gravity.

Gas Baffle: A device on the outlet of a septic tank which deflects gas bubbles away from the outlet and reduces the carryover of solid particles from the septic tank.

Gravel: Crushed rock material used in the construction of conventional septic system field lines or LPP lateral lines. The grade or size of gravel used depends on which type of system is installed.

Gravity Flow System: Describes a conventional septic system that, due to the elevations and topography of a site, can be installed so that the force of gravity provides the power needed to move the waste water throughout the course of the system.

Gray Water: Water used in the household plumbing fixtures—sinks, bathtubs, showers, clothes and dish washing machines, etc.—other than a toilet. A common misconception is that gray water is benign and can simply be discharged onto the ground or in a creek without harm. In fact, gray water contains bacteria that are washed from our bodies and the clothes we wear, and also food wastes (i.e. kitchen sinks). Thus, gray water can create a health hazard if it is not properly disposed, either into a sewer system or a properly constructed septic system.

Greenhouse Wastewater Treatment Systems: are structures which enclose a wetland (see below) in order to provide a more controlled (temperature and moisture) environment. Greenhouses can treat septic effluent to level 3 or better (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type XI).

Greywater or Graywater or Gray water: Domestic wastewater which excludes sewage or "blackwater" from toilets, including bath, lavatory, laundry and sink, excepting kitchen sink (because of food solids) Graywater systems or gray water septic systems refer to systems which reduce the liquid effluent load on a septic system by separating greywater (or graywater) from sinks and showers from blackwater (black water) from toilets. Greywater is wastewater which does not contain sewage, typically coming from building sinks, showers, and laundry facilities.

Groundwater: Subsurface water occupying the saturation zone from which wells and springs are fed.

Graywater Grain Size: A measure of the diameter of soil particles, when compared to a theoretical material having an equal transmission constant. It is the dimensions of that mesh screen which will permit 10 percent of the sample to pass and will retain 90 percent.

Grinder Pumps: A macerating pump capable of grinding up sewage, including the solid waste, so that the waste product can be pumped at pressure to a treatment system. Grinder pumps are used with "force main" septic systems to move waste products uphill to a private onsite wastewater treatment facility or in larger installations, to move sewage or "blackwater" or waste products to a centralized treatment facility. Force mains used to carry sewage prepared by a grinder pump will generally be of smaller diameter than waste lines which work by gravity.

Holding Tank Septic Systems: Septic Holding Tank Systems use a sealed tank to hold household waste and wastewater until the tank can be pumped out by a septic pumping company. Holding tanks have no drains and must be pumped.

Incinerator Toilet Systems: incinerator toilets use electricity or gas to burn the waste placed into these systems.

Infiltration: The flow or movement of water into the interstices or pores of a soil through the soil interface.

Infiltrative Surface: In drainfield, the drain rock-original soil interface at the bottom of the trench; in mound systems, the gravel-mound sand and the sand-original soil interfaces; in sand-lined trenches/beds (sand filter), the gravel-sand interface and the sand-original soil interface at the bottom of the trench or bed

Influent: Wastewater, partially or completely treated, or in its natural state (raw wastewater), flowing into a reservoir, tank, treatment unit, or disposal unit

Infiltrative Surface: In drainfield, the drain rock-original soil interface at the bottom of the trench; in mound systems, the gravel-mound sand and the sand-original soil interfaces; in sand-lined trenches/beds (sand filter), the gravel-sand interface and the sand-original soil interface at the bottom of the trench or bed

Installer: The person holding a current and valid license from the county to engage in the business of constructing septic systems.

Invert: The floor, bottom, or lowest point of the inside cross section of a pipe.

JKL: Leach field or leaching bed or soil absorption system or drainfield: a conventional septic effluent treatment and absorption system which typically consists of a network of perforated pipes buried in gravel-filled trenches. Effluent enters the pipes; seeps out of perforations into the soil, where a bacteria layer (see "biomat") performs further effluent treatment before the liquid is then discharged into the soil.

Lateral Lines: The disposal field trenches of a LPP septic system.

Lift Pump: A lift pump is used to move liquid effluent from a lower pumping chamber or effluent tank to a higher level tank or possibly out of an effluent tank up to a mound system, sand bed, or other elevated effluent treatment system.

Local Health Department: A city, county, or part-county department of health or a State Department of Health District Office.

Media Filter Septic Systems: Media filter septic systems use a conventional septic tank followed by any of several methods to further filter and treat septic effluent before it is discharged to the soil, soil surface, or waterway.

Metabolism: The sum of all of the biochemical processes employed in the breakdown of organic compounds (catabolism) and in the building up of cell protoplasm (anabolism). Metabolic processes convert chemically-bound energy into energy forms that can be used to support life. One of the processes in the breakdown of wastewater by microorganisms. Also see anabolism and catabolism.

Minutes Per Inch: Standardized unit of measurement that describes the perk rate of a soil or soil area. This term indicates that it will take “X” number of minutes for the water in a perk test hole to drop one (1) inch from an established reference point.

Mound or Septic Mound System: An effluent treatment disposal system composed of fill and a network of perforated pipes in which effluent treatment occurs within the filled bed. Also called the Wisconsin Mound System.

MPI: Abbreviation for Minutes Per Inch.

Net Free Area or Effective Septic Tank Working Volume: The "net free area" or "effective septic tank volume" is the actual tank interior volume minus the space occupied by settled sludge and floating scum. Net free area or effective septic tank working volume is discussed when considering effluent retention time since a small net free area reduces the effluent retention time in the septic tank.

Non-Potable Well: Water used for irrigation, etc, but not for human consumption

Obstructed Land: Areas on property used for such purposes as pools, concrete slabs, buildings, driveway, parking and similar areas which would prohibit, hinder, or affect the installation, operation, or maintenance of onsite sewage disposal system

On-site Sewage System (OSS): or Onsite Wastewater Treatment System or Septic System An integrated arrangement of components for a residence, building, industrial establishment or other places not connected to a public sewer system which: (a) Convey, store, treat, and/or provide subsurface soil treatment and disposal on the property where it originates, upon adjacent or nearby property; and (b) Includes piping, treatment devices, other accessories, and soil underlying the disposal component of the initial and reserve areas.

On-site Sewage Disposal: Disposing of sewage water via a septic system on the lot or land parcel on which a house or building is located. The law requires that a septic system must be on the same parcel of land that the structure occupies.

OTL Onsite [Wastewater] Treatment Level: The level of treatment of wastewater by an onsite facility before the wastewater is discharged to the environment. A typical conventional septic tank and drainfield treat effluent to OTL-1, meaning that less than 45% of contaminants have been removed from the wastewater by the septic tank.

Overall Treatment Level of Wastewater (OTL): Describes the degree of sanitization of wastewater that occurs as wastewater passes through a treatment system. It is a scale of the level of water pollution which ranges from an OTL of 0% (or 10 on a pollution scale) (untreated raw sewage effluent) to an OTL of 100% (or 0 on a pollution scale). An OTL of 100% means that the output of the treatment system has produced water of the same quality as drinking water. While drinking water standards vary among various states, provinces, and countries, drinking water standards specify the level of allowable bacteria (such as less than one CFU per 100 ml of water) as well as the allowable levels of nitrites, nitrates, and a long list of common chemical contaminants. The U.S. EPA National Primary Drinking Water Standards list 87 contaminants that must be tested in approving water for human consumption. All of these need to be addressed by the wastewater treatment system. The typical OTL of an onsite wastewater treatment system is required to discharge effluent which is at least as clean as normally-occurring groundwater. Some treatment systems produce a lower OTL and require disinfection. Other wastewater treatment systems produce water which is cleaner than local groundwater.

Percolation / Soil Percolation Rate or "Perc": The movement of water through the pores of a soil or other porous medium following infiltration through the soil interface.

Perc Test / Soil Percolation Test: A hole, 5-7 feet deep is dug in an area to be tested for future use as a drain field, or near the drain-field area in representative soils. Water is poured into the hole and the soils or septic engineer or contractor observes the rate at which soil absorbs the water by noting the time that it takes for the level of water in the hole to drop one inch (for example). More precise "perc tests" may involve using a specific quantity of water or a hold of specific dimensions to make these observations. Usually two holes are dug, 50' to 100' apart in order to evaluate the proposed septic leachfield area. Evidence of the seasonal high water table is noted (possibly based on changes in soil color at various depths). For safety, perc test holes must be re-filled after the test is complete. If the hole must be left open and unattended during the test it should be barricaded to prevent anyone from falling in.

Perk: Abbreviation for Percolation. Perk refers to a soil's inherent ability to absorb water. All soil types have some degree of ability to absorb water, but not all soils absorb water at a rate that allows for the soil type to be utilized for the installation of a septic system.

Perk Area: The designated or delineated area of soil that has been subjected to a perk test.

Perk Hole: Hole dug in the ground, used to conduct a perk test. Within a perk test area, there are typically six (6) or more holes used in the performance of a perk test.

Perk Rate: The rate at which soil absorbs water. The perk rate is measured in a standardized unit of Minutes Per Inch (see Minutes Per Inch). Perk rates less than 15 MPI and greater than 105 MPI are too fast and too high, respectively, to permit the installation of a septic system. A high soil perk rate indicates that the sewage water is not sufficiently filtered by the soil and may subsequently contaminate the groundwater under such soil areas. A low soil perk rate indicates that a septic field installed in such a soil may not be able to absorb the sewage water and a failure may result.

Perk Test: Act of conducting a perk test by an authorized inspector.

Perk Test Area: Site that has been assessed and approved for a perk test. The area is generally shown on the perk test report sheet, a separate sheet of paper attached to the perk test report sheet, or on a plat prepared by a surveyor. The area's dimensions are shown as well as distances from prominent landmark features (i.e. creeks, fence lines, property lines, trees near the area, etc.) in order to identify the exact area location.

Permeability: A measure of the rate of movement of liquid through soil.

Pollution: Contamination of water (or air or other substances) with unwanted and potentially harmful substances, making the water (or air or other) unsuitable for human consumption, harmful to animals, and (depending on whose definition) unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or recreational use.

Ponds for Wastewater Treatment: A large basin which holds and treats wastewater by bacteria and/or algae which form in the treatment pond. Treatment ponds are usually site-constructed and may use a pond bottom liner in addition to earth berms to form the treatment container.

Preliminary Soil Investigation: Process of having a soil scientist look at a property in a cursory manner in order to provide ideas as to the potential for that property with regard to its support of an installation of a septic system. The preliminary type of site investigation is commonly used by people interested in purchasing a parcel of land, generally for some type of development purposes, so they may have some knowledge as to whether or not the land has any potential to be approved for septic system installations.

Public Sewerage: System built and operated by a city or municipality to collect, treat and dispose of sewage in an environmentally safe manner.

Pump System: Describes conventional septic systems that require the use of a pump and pump tank in their construction. When the disposal field area for a conventional system is located at a higher topographic elevation than the plumbing stub out elevation, a pump arrangement (i.e. a pump tank containing a sewage effluent pump) must be added to the system setup to pump the sewage water to the disposal field.

Pump Tank: The tank that contains the sewage effluent pump. The pump tank generally sits in tandem to or adjacent to the septic tank. It receives the clarified sewage effluent from the septic tank, and when the effluent fills to a predetermined capacity within the pump tank, the pump is activated by a float switch and begins pumping the effluent to the disposal field.

Pumping Chamber: A tank or compartment following the septic tank or other pretreatment process, which contains a pump, floats, and volume for storage for effluent. If a siphon is used, in lieu of a pump, this is called a "siphon chamber

PVC Pipe: Solid, rigid white plastic pipe commonly used for household plumbing. The pipe is manufactured in different thicknesses. PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride.

Raised Bed Septic Systems: A wastewater absorption trench system which has been constructed in soil-fill material which has been placed on top of the natural soil on a building lot. Raised septic bed systems make at least partial use of existing soils for wastewater treatment.

Raw Sewage: The newly created sewage that enters the septic tank.

Repair: Act of correcting a failing septic system, enlarging a septic system to accommodate a proposed addition to a house, or the relocation of a system to allow for a house addition or property improvement (i.e. the installation of swimming pool). When a septic system is failing, the repair may be as simple as having an installer replace a crushed or blocked crossover pipe, or it may involve the complete construction of a new septic system. In the case of a proposed house addition or property improvement, the repair may simply involve enlarging the size of the existing system, or it may require the construction of a new septic system on another portion of the property.

Repair Permit: Permit required of a property owner in order to have a septic system repaired, enlarged, or relocated. The requirements outlined on this type of permit are determined as the result of a Repair Investigation.

Reserve Area: Area of a property specifically designated, either on a septic permit or on a plat, for a future septic system installation.

Receiving Environment (RE): The environment, generally soils or nearby waterways, which receive effluent which has been treated by an onsite wastewater treatment system. A general objective of wastewater treatment systems is to discharge into the receiving environment water which is as clean as or cleaner of pollutants than the naturally occurring groundwater in the same locale.

Retention Time: The length of time (hours or days) that septic effluent remains in the septic tank before moving out to the treatment or absorption system.

RUCK Wastewater Treatment System: Separate sewage (blackwater) from other wastewater (greywater from kitchens, laundry, showers) and treat each type of effluent separately. RUCK systems are used to remove additional nitrogen and phosphorous, up to 90%, from wastewater.

Sand Bed Filter Septic Systems: In a sand filter septic system, the septic tank or aerobic unit effluent is intermittently spread across the surface of a bed of sand through a network of distribution lines. A biomat forms in the upper 9-18" of sand to perform the actual treatment function. Collector pipes beneath the filter collect treated effluent after it has passed through the sand. Sand filter beds to treat wastewater have been in use for more than 100 years. Periodic maintenance (raking the biomat so that it does not clog the system) is required.

Saturated vs. Non-Saturated Wastewater Treatment Systems: A wastewater treatment system such as an aerobic treatment unit (ATU), because it involves a tank filled with wastewater and forced oxygenation of that wastewater, is a type of saturated wastewater treatment system. Other non-saturated wastewater treatment systems such as trickling filter beds use passively-infused air to support their oxygen-supported microorganisms. Unlike ATUs, non-saturated systems allow passive air contact with effluent as it moves through the media. Air is not being pumped. Both types of systems make use of aerobic microorganisms.

Scum or Floating Scum Layer: The wastewater material which is less dense than water and floats on top of the water.

Secondary Effluent Treatment: The level of septic effluent treatment provided by a centralized wastewater treatment plant.

Septage: Waste carried off by toilet, urinal, (and in FL, kitchen drains). The material pumped out of a septic tank is also called "septage".

Septic System: A set of components to receive, treat, and dispose of blackwater or sewage at a residential or other property, typically including a tank to receive and hold solid waste and a treatment system to sanitize and dispose of clarified septic effluent or wastewater, such as a septic leach field or drainfield, or an advanced or alternative wastewater treatment system such as a septic mound, raised bed septic system, or an aerobic septic system.

Septic Tank: A septic tank is a closed container which receives blackwater or sewage from a building, normally as the first step in onsite wastewater treatment. The purpose of the treatment tank or "septic tank" is to contain solid waste and to permit the beginning of bacterial action to process sewage into a combination of clarified effluent, settled sludge, or floating scum in the tank. An intact, un-damaged septic tank is normally always filled with these materials. A watertight pretreatment receptacle receiving the discharge of sewage from a building sewer or sewers, designed and constructed to permit separation of settleable and floating solids from the liquid, detention and anaerobic digestion of the organic matter, prior to discharge of the liquid

Septic Field: Term used for disposal field.

Septic Permit: Term used for septic system permit.

Septic System Failure: Term used for failing septic system.

Septic System Permit: Permit to construct a septic system, which is issued by the Health Department.

Septic Tank: Water-tight, pre-cast concrete receptacle that receives and holds the sewage generated through the use of water in a structure. The purpose of the septic tank is to: 1) receive the incoming sewage from the structure; 2) allow for the solid organic material portions of the sewage to settle to the bottom of the tank; and 3) allow the lighter than water material portions of the sewage (i.e. domestic oils and grease) to float to the upper surface of the water level in the tank. The process of the separation of the sewage components is called clarification. An internal arrangement of baffles in the tank allows only the clarified sewage, or sewage effluent, to flow out of the tank. The effluent then flows through a tight line either to a pump tank or directly to the disposal field.

Septic Tank Pumper: Person specifically licensed to remove and properly dispose of the contents of a domestic septic tank. The term pumper assumingly comes from the manner which is used to remove the septic tank contents. The pumping contractor has a large truck with a large, 1000 to 2000-gallon capacity, steel tank mounted on the vehicle. A powerful vacuum pump is connected to the steel tank. When the pump is activated, a sufficient suction force is generated so that the sewage contents of the septic tank can be drawn through a large diameter flexible pipe into the steel tank on the truck and thus removed for disposal.

Sequencing Batch Reactor: Wastewater treatment systems use activated sludge to treat wastewater in a single tank for all of the treatment functions and steps. [See Burks/Minis]

Sewage: The combination of human and household waste with water which is discharged to the home plumbing system including the waste from a flush toilet, bath, sink, lavatory, dishwashing or laundry machine, or the water-carried waste from any other fixture, equipment or machine. Any urine, feces, and the water carrying human wastes, including kitchen, bath, and laundry wastes from residences, building, industrial establishments or other places. For the purposes of typical BOH guidelines, "sewage" is generally synonymous with domestic wastewater. Water-carried wastes discharged from a plumbing collection system from residences, buildings and commercial and industrial establishments. Since all water-carried waste is considered to be sewage, there is no distinction between gray water and black water. Thus, in a dwelling or structure served by a septic system, all wastewater must be directed to the septic tank for disposal through the septic field.

Sewage Effluent: The sewage, having been clarified by the septic tank that flows from the outlet of the septic tank.

Sewage Effluent Pump: Electrically powered pump specifically designed by a pump manufacturer to not only pump sewage effluent, but also to endure the extremely harsh conditions that result from being submerged in the effluent. These pumps should not be confused with sump pumps, grinder pumps, or any other type of pump. Sump pumps are light duty pumps that are made to pump clear water, not sewage effluent. Grinder pumps are special purpose pumps designed to grind up and pump raw sewage from a small holding tank to a public sewer line.

Sewage Water: Term used for sewage effluent.

Sludge: Settled solid waste at the bottom of a septic tank. Sludge is semi-solid organic waste.

Soil Absorption System or Subsurface Soil Absorption System - "SSAS": A system of trenches three feet or less in width, or beds between three feet and ten feet in width, containing distribution pipe within a layer of clean gravel designed and installed in original, undisturbed soil for the purpose of receiving effluent and transmitting it into the soil.

Soil Auger: Like a probe, an auger provides a column of soil for viewing when extracted. Auger diameters are typically larger than probes, and extensions can be added to access deeper into the soil. An auger produces larger samples and is more effective in rocky areas than a probe, although it still may be difficult to use due to rocks. Some disadvantages are that the auger is slower and more labor intensive and the disturbed nature of the sample may not reveal faint mottles, cemented layers, or structure."

Soil Pit: A dug-out area near the perimeter of an expected drainfield area. Do not dig a pit within the proposed drainfield area, as soil can settle after the system has been installed, disrupting the distribution lines. Sunshine should reach the sidewall during the observation period so subtle differences in soil color will be most visible. Soil pits provide the best method for viewing both undisturbed soil and how soil varies over the depth of the pit. Pits may be the only reliable method to determine depth to bedrock.

Soil Probe: A hollow tube that, when pushed into the soil and extracted, gives an undisturbed column of soil for viewing. Probes vary in length and diameter. Usually extensions can be added to probe deeper into the soil. It is the quickest method of looking at soil, and also allows you to detect faint soil mottling or cemented layers. Disadvantages are the relatively small diameter of the sample and inability to penetrate soil in rocky areas or under very dry conditions.

Stabilized Rate of Percolation: The rate corresponding to two consecutive equal or near equal percolation test results.

Suspended Growth vs. Attached Growth Aerobic Treatment Systems: Oxygen-supported (aerobic) bacteria in the mixed liquor perform the primary treatment in the system. As the bacteria themselves die off they remain suspended in the mixed liquor - a "suspended growth aerobic treatment system". Alternatively, a media, such as synthetic fabrics, may be suspended in the treatment tank, permitting the bacteria to attach to the media surfaces - an "attached growth aerobic treatment system".

Soil: Natural body of decomposed mineral and organic material, layered upon the earth's surface, which is capable of supporting plant life. Natural, undisturbed soil, having acceptable percolation capabilities, drainage properties and depth-to-bedrock or water table characteristics, must be present in order for it used for the installation of any type of septic system.

Splash Box: Device used prior to the conception of the Effluent Brake. The splash box served the same purpose as the Effluent Brake. The box is constructed of concrete and is generally about 18 inches in length, width and depth, depending on the manufacturer. The square concrete top is usually exposed at the ground surface. See Effluent Brake.

Surveyor: Person licensed to practice the profession of surveying. The services of a surveyor are required to stake lot lines and lot corners, set soil mapping grids, stake platted septic areas, and stake easements.

Septic Tilt Switch: A switch used to turn a septic pump on and off. Typically the septic tilt switch is located in a steel container or "can" (to prevent interference from solid waste) or may be encased in an epoxy block (to protect the switch and make it waterproof] and is used to control a septic effluent pump. Tilt switches work by gravity (and changes in the liquid level in a tank) to turn a pump on or off. Where the tilt switch is affixed to a levered float which moves up or down (tilts) in response to changes in the liquid level in a tank, it may also be called a float switch.

TSS - Total Suspended Solids: The total amount of suspended solid material in sewage matter that has not either settled to the bottom of a septic tank as sludge or coagulated at the top of a septic tank as the floating scum layer.

Tight Line: Solid PVC pipe used to carry the sewage effluent from either a septic tank (in a gravity flow system) or a pump tank (in a pump system) to the disposal field.

Tract: Large parcels of land (i.e. parcels being 5 acres or larger). The term is commonly used in the phrase large acreage tract.

Treatment Component: A type of on-site sewage system component that modify and/or treat sewage or effluent prior to the effluent being transmitted to another treatment component or a disposal component. Treatment occurs by a variety of physical, chemical, and/or biological means. Constituents of sewage or effluent may be removed or reduced in concentrations.

Useable Soil: Relates to soil percolation tests and drainfield location] for septic system drainfield, leaching beds, absorption beds, soakaway beds, drainage trenches: unless otherwise stated a soil with a percolation rate of faster than 60 min/in with a compatible soil classification.

Vertical Separation: The depth of unsaturated, original, undisturbed soil of Soil Types 1B - 6 between the bottom of a disposal component and the highest seasonal water table, a restrictive layer, or Soil Type This space of unsaturated soil is required to permit biomat formation and filtration and treatment of septic effluent before it is discharged to the area's groundwater.

Wastewater: Water-carried human excreta and/or domestic waste from residences, buildings, industrial establishments or other facilities

Wastewater Design Flow: The volume of wastewater predicted to be generated by occupants of a structure. For residential dwellings, this volume is calculated by multiplying the number of bedrooms by either 120 or 150 GPD (gallons per day

Water Softener: Water softeners remove unwanted minerals from the water supply using one of several methods such as ion exchange. A high level of minerals in water, referred to as "hard" water, can lead to clogged pipes and other plumbing problems as well as aesthetic concerns such as unpleasant bathing (difficult to obtain a soap lather) or tastes in water.

Wastewater: Any water discharged from a house through a plumbing fixture to include, but not limited to, sewage and any water or waste from a device (e.g., water softener brine) which is produced in the house or property.

Wastewater Treatment: The process of removing pollutants and pathogens from wastewater, discharging the water to the environment, and disposing of the byproducts of the treatment process

Watercourse: A visible path through which surface water travels on a regular basis. Drainage areas which contain water only during and immediately after a rainstorm shall not be considered a watercourse.

Watershed: An area of drainage for a body of water that serves as a source of drinking water and for which watershed rules and regulations have been adopted by the commissioner.

Waterless Septic Systems: This term may be used to describe waterless toilets, composting toilets, chemical toilets, and incinerating toilets to receive blackwater or sewage from a building. A true "waterless" system does not exist because even these special toilets depend on greywater (from sinks, showers, laundry) having been separated and disposed-of by other means. The toilet types listed will require maintenance and disposal of their contents.

Well: Hole drilled into the earth for the purpose of accessing and retrieving a natural resource (e.g. water, oil, gas, etc.). The most common purpose for drilling a well is to create a source of drinking water for domestic use. When a well is drilled into the ground, the conduit created to tap into the groundwater resources of an area can also provide a direct access for the passage of surface contaminates to the groundwater resources in that area.

Well Head Area: The area surrounding a well which includes the cone of influence (where the drawdown of groundwater causes groundwater flow).

Wetland: An area(s) of marshes or swamps which have been designated as such by the State Department of Environmental Conservation or other agency having jurisdiction. Marshes or swamps that have not been classified by an agency as a wetland shall not be treated for design purposes as a wetland. Wetlands may be pre-existing swamps or wetlands or they may be constructed anew. In either case they are considered a "natural" system used to treat septic effluent.

Zoning Certificate: Written verification that shows that the proposed use of the property is approved. The zoning certificate must be obtained before an individual applies for a septic permit.














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