If you’ve recently made a move to the Texas Hill Country, you’ll find that one of the aspects of rural homeownership is understanding of your options for On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF), commonly known as septic systems.
Septic systems are increasingly common and account for about 20% of the new homes built in Texas, so chances are this is a topic you’ll become familiar with as a new homeowner.
What is a Septic System and How Does it Work?
Septic systems (or septic tanks) are underground structures that treat your home’s wastewater. They are most commonly used for homes in rural areas that don’t have centralized sewer systems like neighborhoods in bigger cities do. The systems employ technology to treat the wastewater created by your home from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry services.
A typical system consists of a tank and a drainfield, also known as a soil absorption field.
The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (like oils) and solids from the wastewater, discharging safe leftover water from the tank into the soil over time. The solids that remain are removed and collected by an OSSF-licensed Sludge Transporter; it’s recommended that you have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years on average to prevent short circuiting the treatment process. To find a certified Sludge Transport professional, you can check out this list here
What Are the Different Kinds of Septic Systems?
Originally, when the technology of septic tanks was created, there was only one type of septic system, and it consisted of a septic tank and a drainfield. This type of system is now called a ‘standard’ or ‘conventional system.’ As information has improved about how soil structure reacts to wastewater, the septic system industry has improved too, and the technology has evolved to treat wastewater more effectively. This is great news, not only for the sake of improved technology and reliability for consumers (you!), but because our groundwater resources are now much better protected from contamination.
There are many types of septic systems, with a conventional or standard septic system being the least complicated kind. The other most common types of OSSFs are:
These models are more complex than the standard system and need more maintenance, but they may be necessary to treat wastewater properly. The type of system you need for your own property depends on the properties of the soil and the regulations set by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
It’s important to find the right kind of system for your property because wastewater in a conventional or standard system is treated in the soil beneath the drainfield; since we obtain our drinking supply from groundwater, it’s important that wastewater be treated by the soil before it enters the groundwater supply.
Maintenance of Your Septic System
To have a septic system installed, you must have a permit prior to construction, installation, or repair. All work done on your OSSF of choice has to be performed by a licensed installer or directly by the homeowner; in short, if someone is paid for any part of the process, that person must have a state license to do so.
While the State of Texas requires that all aerobic septic systems be maintained on a yearly basis, which includes 3 visits a year, specific requirements around septic system maintenance can differ by county. You can contact your local permitting authority and find their requirements for septic systems using this convenient search feature.
Commonly Asked Questions About Septic Systems
- How do I tell if I already have a septic system? There are a few signs: if you use well water, if the waterline coming into your home does not have a meter, your water bill or property tax bill shows ‘$0.00 Sewer Amount Charged’, or if your neighbors have a septic system, you probably already have a septic system installed.
- How do I find my septic system? You can look at your home’s “as built” drawings, check your yard for a lid or manhole covers, or contact a septic system service provider to help you locate it.
- How do I tell if my septic system is broken or malfunctioning? It’s important to call a septic professional if you notice wastewater backing up into household drains (never any fun!), bright green grass on the drainfield during a period of dry weather, pooling water around your septic system, or a strong odor around the septic tank or drainfield.
Working with a septic professional can give you peace of mind when installing a new septic system or making sure you choose the system that’s right for your property. One of our favorite providers here in Fredericksburg is J Bar C Septic Services.
They offer free estimates and do everything from aerobic maintenance to residential septic inspections, repairs, drain field cleaning, and site evaluations. Plus, they’re available 7 days a week. Many of our team members are Hill Country landowners themselves, so we understand the importance of establishing relationships with reliable service providers, and we couldn’t recommend J Bar C more highly!
All of our realtors can also answer any questions you might have about septic systems as you explore potential properties around Fredericksburg. We’re here to serve you as you find a new place to call home!