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Septic System Key Terms


The sewer line, also called the main waste line, connects the home plumbing system to the septic tank. It gathers the water that comes through the plumbing; from toilets, sinks, dishwashers and bathtubs, and directs it toward the rest of the septic system.

The septic tank is usually located close to the foundation of the house and it receives the waste from the sewer line. It retains the solid waste and grease from the sewer line. The solids, called sludge, sink to the bottom of the septic tank. A layer of grease floats at the top level of the tank. The tank also contains baffles at the entrance and exit and they slow the flow of the liquid flowing through the tank.

Concrete or metal lid, covers the top of the septic tank and pump tank.

They keep the solids from leaving the septic tank and going into distribution box and laterals.

The extensions between the tank and lid. This brings the lid to grade for easy access.

The word "effluent" is used to refer to the liquid wastewater. The effluent distribution pipes direct the liquid waste from the septic tank to the distribution boxes. Because the distribution pipes are spread out in different areas, there is a network of distribution pipes to direct the effluent into each one.

A septic distribution box is usually made of concrete or plastic. it only has one function, to make sure that the wastewater spreads out even more over the area. This is achieved by a number of openings that house septic pipes, and spread the waste over a large area.

The leaching field, also called a drain field, is a system of trenches in permeable land. The land must pass a "perc" (percolation) test in order to ensure that it is permeable enough. Most times the trenches are laid out in the shape of a fork's tines, (head of the fork) represented by a distribution box.

Used when effluent needs to be pumped from the house into the septic tanc or above the septic tank into a leech filed or pumped to a sewer line.

Aerobic bacteria require oxygen to survive and flourish. They are more efficient at utilizing the organic waste as their food source, and breaking down biomat buildup. Aerobic bacteria are larger in size than anaerobic bacteria and are more sensitive to environmental changes.

Anaerobic bacteria operate in environments where there is little or no oxygen. They are smaller and less efficient in breaking down the waste but they are more resilient and can withstand larger changes in the environment. The bacterial digestion in a septic tank is anaerobic process. The solids are actually eaten, digested, and excreted by the anaerobic bacteria and ultimately transformed into gases and liquids. The natural bacterial action decomposes the natural waste products and transforms them into benign effluent that is discharged to the drain-field.