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Septic Tank - Untreated liquid household wastes (sewage) will quickly clog your absorption field if not properly

treated. The septic tank provides this needed treatment. When sewage enters the septic tank, the heavy solids
settle to the bottom of the tank; the lighter solids, fats and greases partially decompose and rise to the surface
and form a layer of scum. The solids that have settled to the bottom are attacked by bacteria and form sludge.
Septic tanks do not remove bacteria and, therefore, what is discharged cannot be considered safe.

Distribution Box - Serves to distribute the flow from the septic tank evenly to the absorption field or seepage
pits. It is important that each trench or pit receive an equal amount of flow. This prevents overloading of one
part of the system.

Absorption Field - A system of narrow trenches partially filled with a bed of washed gravel or crushed stone
into which perforated or open joint pipe is placed. The discharge from the septic tank is distributed through
these pipes into the trenches and surrounding soil. The subsurface absorption field must be properly sized and
constructed to assure satisfactory operation and a long life.

Seepage Pit - A covered pit with a perforated or open-jointed lining through which the discharge from the
septic tank infiltrates into the surrounding soil. It is generally installed in sandy or gravel-type soils. Like the
absorption field, the seepage pit also must be properly sized and constructed. While seepage pits normally
require less land area to install, they should be used only where absorption fields are not suitable and well water
supplies are not endangered.

In most rural areas and in many suburban residential areas, individual household sewage treatment systems are

Septic Systems - Operations & Maintenance

relied upon for the disposal of household wastes. Wherever possible, sewage should be collected in community
sewers connected to a central treatment plant.

System Components
A household sewage treatment system will serve a home satisfactorily only if it is properly located, designed,
A typical household sewage treatment system consists of a house sewer, septic tank, distribution box and

constructed and maintained. The purpose of this brochure is to explain how your system works and how it

absorption field or seepage pit.

should be operated and maintained.

House Sewer - The pipeline connecting the house and drain and the septic tank.

Operation and Maintenance


The contents of the septic tank should be pumped every two to three years or when the total depth of
sludge and scum exceeds one-third of the liquid depth of the tank. If the tank is not cleaned
periodically, the solids are carried into the absorption field; rapid clogging occurs; premature failure
follows; and finally, the absorption field must be replaced. Pumping your septic tank is less expensive
than replacing your absorption field.
Detergents, kitchen wastes, laundry wastes and household chemicals in normal amounts do not affect
the proper operation of household sewage treatment systems. However, excessive quantities can be
Avoid the disposal of cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, plastics, trash, etc., into
your household sewage system. These items are not readily decomposed.
Septic tank additives are not recommended. Additives are unnecessary to the proper operation of
household systems and may cause the sludge and scum in the septic tank to be discharged into the
absorption field, resulting in premature failure . Some additives may actually pollute groundwater.
Garbage grinders substantially increase the accumulation of solids in the septic tank, as well as the
solids entering the absorption fields and pits. Their disadvantages outweigh the convenience they
provide and are not recommended for households with their own sewage treatment systems. If used,
the septic tank size should be increased.
Connecting your laundry wastes to a separate waste system (dry well or seepage pit), while not
normally necessary, will reduce the load on the regular system and permit the survival of a marginal
All roof, cellar and footing drainage, and surface water must be excluded from the system. This
drainage water can be discharged to the ground surface without treatment; make sure it drains away
from your sewage treatment system.
Roof downspouts should not drain toward the absorption field.
Backwash from water softeners and/or iron/manganese removal equipment may be discharged to the
septic tank and absorption system or to a separate system.
Roots from trees in the immediate area of the absorption lines may clog the system.
Keep swimming pools (above or in-ground) away from the absorption field.

Avoid entering your septic tank.

Individuals have died from gas asphyxiation.
Never permit heavy equipment to pass over the absorption field.
Conserve your water usage; this can prolong the life of your sewage treatment system. Check
defective toilet tank valves, repair leaky fixtures, install appliances and fixtures that use less water
and avoid wasteful practices.
Your sewage treatment system is normally designed to accommodate two persons per bedroom. If
your household is larger than this, or if you add additional bedrooms, enlarge the system.
If surface water from higher ground is flowing onto your absorption field, install a ditch or berm to
intercept this surface water.

Septic Tank/Absorption Field Systems:

A Homeowner's Guide to
Installation and Maintenance
Robert A. Schultheis
Agricultural Engineering Specialist

A septic tank/absorption field is the most common onsite sewage treatment

system in use in Missouri. Nearly 30 percent of all housing units in Missouri
use onsite wastewater treatment systems most of these are septic
tank/absorption field systems. Several surveys throughout the state have
shown that 70 percent, or 150,000, of these systems are not functioning
properly. Based on the General Soils Map of Missouri, counties in the Missouri
Ozarks are particularly at risk. Depending on the county, 60 to 99 percent of
the soils show severe limitations for using absorption field systems.
Human contact with sewage is a serious public health risk. Drinking water
contaminated with sewage can cause health problems such as diarrhea,
nausea, cramps, dysentery and hepatitis. Exposure to sewer gases can also
cause discomfort and illness.
For at-risk areas, connecting to an adequate public sewer system is generally
the best alternative for disposing of domestic sewage from private
residences. Where access to a public sewer system is unfeasible or too
expensive, proper siting and design of an onsite sewage system is critical to
avoid its premature failure. In many situations, an existing system that is
failing may not be "repairable." Thus a completely new system may be
needed. Misuse of individual sewage systems results not only in water quality
problems and nuisance conditions, but also in costly repairs to rehabilitate a
failing system. Failing systems include both those that you can see and smell
and those that seep effluent, or waste liquids, into groundwater supplies
before the soil can properly remove disease-causing pathogens.
To reduce public health risks and protect drinking water supplies, state
legislation that took effect Jan. 1, 1996, sets minimum construction, design
and permitting standards for onsite sewage systems. Individual counties may
adopt stricter standards than those outlined by the state legislation. To

ensure compliance with local codes and to reduce their environmental

liability, homeowners should consult with their county health department
sanitarian or building regulations department prior to new construction or
repair of any onsite sewage system.
For counties that have adopted the state standards without modifications,
homeowners with single family residences on lot sizes of less than 3 acres
must obtain a county permit before beginning construction of any sewage
How does a septic tank/absorption field system work?


septic tank system consists of three major components: the septic

a distribution device and an absorption field. A septic tank is a
large, watertight, corrosion-resistant, buried container that
receives raw sewage from the plumbing drains of the home. In it, solids are
separated out of the raw sewage and are partially digested by anaerobic
(oxygen-lacking) bacteria.
The septic tank must be large enough to allow retention of the raw sewage
and some decomposition for at least 48 hours. Solids that are not digested
either float to the top to form a scum layer or settle to the bottom of the
tank as sludge. Depending on tank size and sewage volume, the sludge and
scum must be pumped out at least every 2 to 5 years to allow bacterial
digestion to continue in the tank. Otherwise, raw sewage may flow directly
through the tank and into the absorption field, causing its failure.
After primary treatment in the septic tank, the liquid effluent flows through
the distribution device, which ensures that equal quantities of effluent go to
each pipe in the absorption field. The absorption field is a subsurface
leaching area within the soil that receives the liquid effluent from the
distribution device and distributes it over a specified area where it is allowed
to seep into the soil. The filtering action of the soil, combined with further
bacterial action, removes disease organisms and treats the harmful material
in the effluent, completing the treatment process so that the water is
recycled to the surface or groundwater source.

If properly designed, installed and maintained, a septic tank system can

effectively treat household wastewater for more than 20 years. All design
and construction must be in accordance with Missouri Department of Health
(DOH) Rule 19 CSR 20-3.060, Minimum Construction Standards for On-Site
Sewage Disposal Systems.

locations. To ensure adequate room for the eventual replacement of the new
or existing septic system, identify a location for an alternate system.

Site selection

Minimum distance in feet from:



Many Missouri soils have a high clay content, which makes them poor
absorbers of septic tank effluent and may prevent the use of a septic
tank/absorption field system. In addition, southwest and south central
Missouri are particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination because
soils are extremely porous due to cherty gravel and/or fractured bedrock
below the clay topsoil.

Private water supply well***



Public water supply well









Classified stream, lake or impoundment****



Stream or open ditch*****



Property lines



Building foundation





Swimming pool



Water line under pressure



Suction water line



Figure 1 shows areas where potential groundwater pollution may restrict

location of the absorption field. If you live in one of these areas, or if you are
not sure of the pollution potential from your proposed system, seek
professional help with your site selection. Help is available through your local
Department of Health office, MU Extension center, Natural Resources
Conservation Service office or the Missouri Division of Geology and Land
Survey in Rolla, Mo.
Figure 1
Areas where potential groundwater
pollution may restrict location of
absorption field.

Table 1 shows the minimum

setback distances that must be
observed for septic tanks and
absorption fields. On small or
restrictive lots, a good way to
locate the site for the system is
to make a scale drawing of the
site, marking out areas that are
off-limits according to Table 1
and leaving the remaining open
areas as potential system

Table 1
Setback distances for sewage tanks and disposal areas

Upslope interceptor drains


Down-slope interceptor drains


Top of slope of embankments or cuts of 2 feet or more

vertical height


Edge of surficial sinkholes

Other soil absorption system except repair area



*Includes sewage tanks, intermittent sand filters and dosing chambers.

**Includes all systems (sand filter, wetland and the like), except wastewater stabilization lagoons.
***Unplugged abandoned wells, or wells with less than 80 feet of casing depth shall have 150foot minimum setback distance from all above.
****A classified stream is any stream that maintains permanent flow or permanent pools during
drought periods and supports aquatic life.
*****Sewage tanks and soil absorption systems should never be located in the drainage area of a

Health. This includes soil scientists or persons completing specific schooling

and field practice requirements in soil morphology. A current list of qualified
soil scientists is available from your county health department sanitarian.
Soil morphology evaluations are done by digging one or more 4- to 6-foot
deep soil pits using a backhoe. The soil scientist then examines the soil
profile for its texture, color, structure, mottling and rock fragment
characteristics and assigns a "loading rate" in gallons per day per square foot
for that particular site location. The soil scientist will also provide a site plan,
showing major topographical features such as streams and drainage patterns
and locations for proposed buildings. The recommended trench depth for the
absorption field will be specified and, if needed, the methods for diversion of
surface and subsurface water flow.

******Recommend 25 feet of downslope property line initially, but repair may be allowed to 10
feet of downslope property line.

Determining soil suitability

The absorption field provides final treatment of the wastewater, so it is
critical to have uncompacted, unsaturated soil surrounding the soil treatment
system. The effluent leaving the septic tank contains viable pathogenic
organisms. The soil's purpose is to destroy these pathogens, treat and
degrade organic materials, and act as a physical, chemical and biological
filter to purify the effluent and make it acceptable quality for groundwater.
Soils must be capable of absorbing the volume of wastewater from the septic
tank at all times of the year.
With more than 400 different kinds of soils in Missouri, it is likely more than
one type will be found on even a small lot. Because many of these soils are
unsuitable for conventional gravel trench absorption fields, two methods
soil morphology evaluations and percolation tests are commonly used for
sizing the absorption field.

Soil morphology evaluations

Soil morphology evaluations are preferred for sites where soil conditions
suggest a potential pollution risk to groundwater. In Missouri, these
evaluations may only be done by individuals approved by the Department of

Since soils can be quite variable even 50 to 100 feet apart, it is wise to dig
several pits for evaluation of the best site. Soil morphology evaluations are
preferred in the Missouri Ozarks because they are more reliable, more
informative and generally less expensive than percolation tests.

Percolation test procedure

Locate a site for the potential absorption field.

Dig a minimum of four holes at least three holes around the perimeter
of the absorption field and one in the middle of the field. This may require
estimating the percolation rate to arrive at the approximate field size.
Holes must be 6 to 8 inches in diameter (all the same diameter), vertical,
and to the proposed depth of the trenches (18 to 30 inches deep). No
power augers may be used.
Roughen or scratch any smeared areas of the hole sides and bottoms to
provide a natural soil surface for water to penetrate.
Remove loose material from the holes and add a 2-inch layer of 1/4- to
3/4-inch washed rock into the bottom of holes to prevent scouring when
water is added.
Add 12 inches of water (measured from the bottom of the hole) and
maintain that level for a 4-hour presoak period. This saturates the voids
between soil particles with water.

Watch the hole for the first 10 minutes. If the 12 inches of water completely drains away in less
than 10 minutes, you can begin the percolation testing immediately. With this soil, you begin by
setting the water level to 8 inches, and you can measure every 10 minutes. If 8 inches of water

seeps away in less than 10 minutes, use a shorter interval. It may be easier for you to measure
the amount of time it takes for water to seep 1 inch. Even with this type of soil, you may not
exceed the 8-inch maximum depth.

Twenty-four hours after the start of the presoak process, you are ready to
begin the perc test measurements. This time period is required to allow
intrusion of water into the individual soil particles, thus simulating wet soil
conditions that can cause absorption field failure.
Adjust the water level in each hole to an 8-inch depth, measured from the
bottom of the hole. Start timing.
At 30-minute intervals, read the drop in water level to the nearest 1/8-inch
increment (1/16- inch increments are recommended).
Replace water up to the 8-inch depth.
Continue reading at 30-minute intervals, then replacing water to 8 inches
above the hole bottom until you have three consecutive readings within 10
percent of the previous reading.
If the percolation rates of the holes are within the required 10 to 60
minutes per inch range, design the absorption system based on the hole
with the slowest perc rate.
If the percolation rates are not within the required 10 to 60 minutes per
inch range, or if the perc rate of the slowest hole varies more than 20
minutes per inch from any of the others, the site must be evaluated by a
registered soil scientist.

Percolation tests

Percolation rate inch

Absorption area per


Loading rate per square


less than or equal to 10


150 square feet

1.0 gallon

11 to 30 minutes

200 square feet

0.8 gallon

31 to 45 minutes

265 square feet

0.45 gallon

46 to 60 minutes***

300 square feet

0.4 gallon

61 to 120 minutes****

600 square feet

0.2 gallon

*Gallons of sewage tank effluent per day per square foot of trench bottom.
**Soils with percolation rates of 1 to 10 minutes per inch or less shall either be evaluated for
severe geological limitations by a registered geologist, or a soil morphology examination shall be
***When percolation rate is greater than 45 minutes per inch, backfill above infiltration barrier
shall be sand, loamy sand, or sandy loam, when available. Two to 4 inches of loamy soil shall be
used to cap the sandy backfill to keep rainwater from entering the system.
****When percolation rate is greater than 45 minutes per inch, backfill above infiltration barrier
shall be sand, loamy sand, or sandy loam, when available. Two to 4 inches of loamy soil shall be

Percolation, or "perc," tests are best suited for sites that do not have
significant groundwater pollution potential. In Missouri, perc tests for sewage
systems requiring Department of Health permits may only be conducted by
registered engineers, geologists, sanitarians, soil scientists or other persons
who have received Department of Health training and certification. Results of
these tests are only accepted for design purposes if the percolation rates
(measurements of how fast water drains from holes in your soil) are between
10 and 60 minutes per inch. If perc rates are outside this range, a soil
morphology evaluation must be used to size the absorption field. Table 2
shows the minimum absorption field area needed based on various
percolation rates. If a sewage system permit is not required, you may follow
the steps listed in the "Percolation test procedure" section for conducting a
percolation test.
Table 2
Minimum absorption field area based on percolation rate

used to cap the sandy backfill to keep rainwater from entering the system. Sewage system must be
designed and approved by a Missouri registered engineer.

Septic tank components

Septic tanks are constructed of many materials, including reinforced
concrete, fiberglass or metal. The tank may contain up to three
compartments. Most important is that the septic tank must be watertight to
prevent leakage of untreated sewage that might pollute groundwater and to
prevent leakage of groundwater into the tank that could overload the
absorption field.

Figure 2
Typical components of a reinforced
concrete septic tank.

Reinforced concrete tanks, the

most common, are built using
one of three configurations:
mid-seal, top-seal or monolithic
cast. The mid-seal tank is cast
in two nearly identical halves
that are joined together with a
sticky, tar-like mastic sealant.
The top-seal tank is formed into
a one-piece tank portion with a
concrete lid secured to the open top with mastic sealant. The monolithic cast
tank is factory-formed as one unit, making it more watertight but more
expensive than the other two types of concrete tanks.

operations. Manhole openings should be covered with tight lids of heavy

metal or concrete for safety purposes.
A relatively new technology, septic tank filters, are basket-like screens that
enhance treatment by trapping and retaining solids in the tank. They are
included with some newer septic tank designs or can be retrofitted to work
with older designs through use of added manhole openings. Regular
maintenance is important: These screens must periodically be removed,
hosed clean with water and replaced in the tank. These devices still need to
be cleaned by a service professional.
A watertight, 4-inch diameter Schedule 40 PVC pipe should connect the
septic tank to the plumbing drains of the home. Slope the pipe 1/4 inch per
foot (1/8 inch per foot minimum) toward the tank. Install cleanouts (Figure
3) every 50 feet (100 feet minimum) along the pipe or wherever the pipe
turns corners sharper than 45 degrees.
Figure 3a
Manhole cleanout for drain pipe.

Fiberglass or composite plastic tanks offer a near-perfect watertight seal.

These tanks may cost more than concrete tanks and require extra care when
installing on sites with rocky fill material that could damage the tank.
Metal sewage tanks are not to be used unless specifically allowed by the
regulatory agency on a case-by-case basis, and then should be used only if
they are covered inside and outside with a bituminous coating. Even with
such a coating, metal septic tanks are prone to corrosion and subsequent
In all septic tanks, the inlet and outlet pipes should be at least 4-inch
diameter Schedule 40 PVC, cast-iron or other approved pipe and be
protected by baffles or sanitary tees made of acid-resistant concrete, acidresistant fiberglass or plastic. The baffles or tees ensure that floating scum
from the tank doesn't plug the absorption field or inlet pipe. Six-inch
diameter inspection pipes should be located above the baffles or tees and
extend to the top of the ground surface. These pipes are for checking solids
levels and clogs and should be capped when not in use. A 20-inch or larger
square or round manhole should be installed in the cover of the tank over
each compartment to provide access for agitation and cleaning. Extending
the manhole riser to the top of the ground surface will simplify cleaning

Figure 3b
PVC pipe cleanout for drain pipe.

Septic tank size

Septic tanks come in rectangular, oval or round shapes. The shape of the
tank has little to do with its performance, but tank size is important. The
tank must retain at least two days (48 hours) of sewage flow from the
house; size is based on the number of bedrooms in the dwelling. The
retention capacity allows time for solids to properly separate from the liquids
before the liquids pass into the absorption field. Current regulations specify a
sewage quantity of 120 gallons flow per day per bedroom for design
purposes. Table 3 gives a quick match of septic tank size to house size. If the
dwelling has a hot tub or whirlpool, it is wise to add one bedroom of capacity
for each of these fixtures present.
Table 3
Minimum septic tank sizes.
Number of bedrooms

Minimum tank liquid capacity

1 to 3

1,000 gallons

1,250 gallons

1,500 gallons

For homes with more than 5 bedrooms, Tank volume in gallons = (1.5 x Daily sewage flow) + 500.

These minimum tank sizes will be adequate to handle all household wastes,
including water from the toilet and kitchen drains, referred to as blackwater,
and water from the bathtub, shower, sinks and laundry, which is called
graywater. Larger tanks allow longer intervals between tank clean-out
If a lift-station pump will be installed in the septic tank to allow pumping to
an upslope absorption field, the regulatory agency may require the next size
larger tank to offset the displacement volume of the pump.

Closing an abandoned septic system

To decrease the risk of personal injury or environmental harm from a septic
system that is no longer in use, it is important to take the following steps.

First, the septic tank should be pumped by a qualified service professional so

that effluent will not seep into the environment of that human contact is
minimized. The tank should then be removed and the hole filled with soil.
Alternatively, the tank should be filled with coarse aggregate or sand. The
riser should then be collapsed and filled with soil.

Sizing the absorption field

If your septic tank/absorption field system has not been designed according to the capacities of
the soil in the field area, the system will not function properly no matter how good the
construction. This section shows typical calculations involved in sizing an absorption field system
using the two methods described in the "Determining soil suitability" section.

Using soil morphology results

Example: A state-approved soil scientist evaluates the soils exposed in
several backhoe pits. The soils are determined to be of Soil Group III, with a
silty clay loam texture with low to moderate shrink-swell potential, and
prismatic soil structure. A backhoe with a 2-foot wide bucket will be used to
dig the trenches to serve a 3-bedroom home with a conventional septic
tank/absorption field system.

From the DOH sewage standards manual, a single-family home produces

120 gallons per day per bedroom. So 120 gallons per day per bedroom x
3 bedrooms = 360 gallons per day flow.

From the DOH manual, the soil described above has an allowable
application rate of 0.3 gallons per day per square foot of absorption field.
360 gallons per day 0.3 gallons per day per square feet = 1,200 square
feet of absorption area.
1,200 square feet 2 feet. width = 600 lineal feet of trench.
Laterals cannot exceed 100 feet in length, so
600 lineal feet 100 lineal feet per trench = 6 trenches needed.

Using percolation test results

Example: Four perc holes are dug and the perc rate is measured in minutes
per inch (mpi), with the following results: #1 = 28 mpi, #2 = 36 mpi, #3 =

47 mpi, #4 = 31 mpi. A backhoe with a 2-foot wide bucket will be used to

dig the trenches to serve a 3-bedroom home with a conventional septic
tank/absorption field system.

Use the slowest of the four perc rates for sizing the absorption field = 47

From the DOH sewage standards manual, a 47 mpi perc rate requires 300
square feet of absorption area per bedroom, so 300 x 3 = 900 square feet
of absorption area.
900 square feet 2-foot width = 450 lineal feet of trench. Laterals cannot
exceed 100 feet in length, so 450 lineal feet 90 lineal feet per trench = 5
trenches needed.

Installing the absorption field

Construction of the absorption field should be done when the soil is crumbly
never wet. Construction in wet soil causes puddling, smearing and soil
compaction, which reduces soil permeability and can contribute to system
failure. If occasional soil smearing does occur, scratch or rake those soil
surfaces when dry to re-expose the natural soil characteristics.
The absorption field may be arranged in trenches or a bed. Trenches are
preferred for flat and sloping sites because they allow the sewage more
sidewall contact with the soil. Beds work best on sites with up to 5 percent
slope and on smaller lots that do not have room for trenches. Trenches laid
on sites with 4 percent or more slope must be installed along the
contour. Use of a builder's level or transit is critical for such

applications. Examples of trench and bed layouts are shown in Figures 4 and
Figure 4
View of a typical absorption trench field.

Figure 5
View of a typical absorption bed.

The absorption trench should be 18 to 36 inches wide and 18 to 30 inches

deep. If a trench or bed depth of less than 18 inches is specified by the
results of a soil morphology evaluation, "shallow placement" procedures
should be followed ("Shallow placement of trenches" section). The
recommended vertical separation distance between the bottom of the
absorption field and any limiting layer, such as a fragipan, creviced bedrock
or seasonal high water table is 2 feet or more for standard systems. Contact
your county regulatory agency for the specified separation distance on your
site. Trench construction using cherty clay soils located in areas of severe
geological limitations must have less than 50-percent rock fragments and a
vertical separation distance of 4 feet or more between the trench bottom and
seasonal high groundwater table or bedrock. Figure 6 shows these trench
Figure 6
View of typical trench
construction dimensions.

When the effluent

discharges from the
septic tank, it should
first flow by watertight
4-inch diameter pipe
through a distribution
box, or "D-box" (Figure
7), and then enter the
absorption field through
4-inch diameter
perforated plastic pipe.
Slope of the watertight

pipe should be a minimum of 1/4-inch per foot toward the field to prevent
clogging. Holes in the perforated pipe should be 1/2- to 3/4-inch in diameter.
The lateral pipes must be of rigid construction and laid as level as possible,
with not more than 1/4-inch drop in 10 feet of horizontal distance. On
sloping sites, a distribution box with watertight piping to each lateral (Figure
8) is strongly encouraged over use of stepdown boxes (Figure 9), because
the D-box ensures equal flow to all laterals. Use of inexpensive plastic
equalizing V-notches in the D-box openings will further enhance its flow
performance. Coiled black tubing that is designed for roof or basement
drains is not suitable for lateral pipes.

center, whichever is greater. Make the trench bottoms level, and fill the
trenches at least 12 inches deep with 1-1/2- to 3-inch diameter clean,
washed gravel or crushed stone. If limestone is used, all fine materials
should first be screened out to prevent clogging the system. Place at least 6
inches of the gravel below the perforated pipe and 2 inches over the pipe.
Cap or plug the ends of the pipes or, when they are at equal elevations, you
can connect them. Before placing soil backfill over the trenches, cover the
gravel with building paper, synthetic drainage fabric, or other approved
material to keep soil from clogging the gravel. Figure 10 shows the proper
placement of the pipe, gravel and backfill in the trench.

Figure 7
Section view of a
distribution box, or D-box.

Figure 10
view of an

Figure 8
Layout of distribution box piping on a sloping site.

Figure 9
Section view of a stepdown or
drop box.

The absorption trench field

should have at least two
trenches, with a maximum
trench length of 100 feet.
Space the trenches a
distance of three times the
trench width apart, or a
minimum of 5 feet on

Interceptor "curtain" drains

A seasonally high water table can cause saturation of the absorption field
area during rainy periods, preventing sewage effluent from dispersing
properly in the trenches or bed. Curtain drains intercept this surface and/or
subsurface runoff and divert it around the field.
Curtain drains are dug 12 to 24 inches wide and cut a minimum of 6 inches
deep into the top of the restrictive subsurface soil layer, at a distance of at
least 10 feet upslope of the absorption field. Provide a minimum trench slope

Figure 11a
View of curtain drain location.

Figure 11b
A curtain drain diverts water around an absorption field.

Shallow placement of trenches

Where conventional trenches cannot be used due to a seasonally high water
table or lack of soil depth, "shallow placement" or "modified shallow
placement" of trenches may be an option.

of 4
inches of
drop per
100 feet

Perforated pipe (not coiled tubing) is placed in the trench, with the holes
pointed upslope toward the perched water table. Gravel fill must be brought
completely to the surface so that surface runoff water may drain into the
trench. If soil is placed over the surface, the interceptor drain will not
perform its purpose, possibly leading to failure of the absorption system.
If the site has enough slope, the pipe outlet can be brought to ground level
downslope of the absorption field and screened to allow free drainage. On
level sites, pumps must be used to remove the collected water. Figure 11a
and Figure 11b shows the proper placement of the curtain drain to protect
the absorption field.

With shallow placement, a minimum of 2 feet of natural soil separation

between the trench bottom and the uppermost elevation of the seasonally
high water table or rock must be maintained. The trenches are dug to 12
inches deep and filled to the original ground level with 1-1/2- to 3-inch
diameter clean gravel. The gravel is then covered with building paper,
synthetic drainage fabric, or other approved material to keep soil from
clogging the gravel. The absorption field is then covered with loamy soil or
good topsoil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches at the center, extending the fill at
least 5 feet past the trenches before feathering it down to ground level. A
turfgrass cover is established on the fill immediately after construction.
With modified shallow placement, a minimum of 1 foot of natural soil
separation between the trench bottom and the uppermost elevation of the
seasonally high water table or rock must be maintained, and a curtain drain
must be installed to divert subsurface water around the absorption field. The
trenches and fill material are then finished like those of shallow placement
systems described above. Figure 12 shows examples of these two types of


determine when scum and sludge in the septic tank should be cleaned out. If
the scum or sludge is allowed to enter the absorption field, plugging and
irreparable damage can result; when this occurs, a new septic system in a
different location is the best solution. A thorough inspection includes the
following steps.

Hire a pumping contractor

Cleaning, or "pumping," should be done by a licensed and bonded
professional contractor. The contractor can also check for cracked pipes
and the condition of the tank baffles or tees and other parts of the system.
Disposal of the septage from the tank must follow EPA Title 40 Code of
Federal Regulations Part 503 (40 CFR 503). This regulation is
administered in Missouri by the Department of Natural Resources.

Locate the system

If the tank access hole locations are unknown or buried, look in the
basement or crawlspace of the home to see which direction the sewer
pipe goes through the wall. It is usually the largest diameter pipe in the
home and is typically made of plastic or cast-iron with a cleanout access.
Then start probing the soil with a metal rod 10 to 15 feet from the
foundation while listening for a hollow thudding sound. The tank will be at
least as deep as the sewer pipe from the house. Once the system is
found, make a map showing the location of the septic tank, distribution
box and absorption field relative to the home and/or other permanent
landmarks. Keep this information with your house records.
Uncover the access holes
Uncover the manhole and inspection ports. This may entail some digging
in the yard. Make buried ports easier to service in the future by installing
risers that bring the openings to ground level. These risers will serve as a
reminder of the location of the system components and for regular
Flush the toilets
Flush the toilets to confirm that the plumbing going to the system is
working properly.
Measure the scum and sludge layers
Check the scum and sludge levels in the septic tank at least once a year.
There are two frequently used methods for measuring the sludge and
scum layers inside the tank. One method uses a clear plastic tube with a
check-valve on the end can be pushed through the different layers to the
bottom of the tank. When brought back up, the tube retains a sample
showing a cross-section of the contents of the tank.

placement of absorption trenches.

Figure 12b

System maintenance
One advantage of the septic tank/absorption field system is that it has no
moving parts, but it does require maintenance. Annual inspections of your
septic system are recommended to ensure that it is working properly and to

For the second method, the layers can also be measured using a long
wooden stick. Attach a 3-inch long piece of wood to one end of the stick to
form a "foot" (Figure 13). To measure the scum depth (Figure 14), lower the
stick through the manhole until the foot rests on the mat of scum and mark

the stick at the top of the tank opening. Then force the stick down through
the scum layer and bring it back up until you feel resistance from the bottom
of the mat. Mark the stick again. The distance between the two marks is the
scum depth. Locate the lower end of the submerged tank outlet baffle or tee
the same way.
Figure 13
Wooden stick for measuring scum and sludge depth in
a septic tank.

be cleaned. Add the scum and sludge depths. If this figure is more than half the liquid depth,
clean the tank. The maximum available liquid depth in this example is 60 inches. The scum
depth is 12 inches and the sludge depth is 20 inches a total of 32 inches. Since this is more
than half of the maximum liquid depth, this tank should be cleaned.

To measure sludge depth, drop the stick through the hole made previously in
the scum layer until you feel resistance, then mark the stick at the top of the
tank opening. Then force the stick all the way through the sludge to the
bottom of the tank and mark the stick again. The distance between these
two marks is the sludge depth. If the tank has a baffle in front of the outlet
pipe, measure the sludge behind that baffle.
It is time to pump the tank when one of the following conditions exists:

Figure 14a
Measuring the scum level in the septic tank. Left: Lower the bottom of the board to the top of
the mat of scum. Mark the stick at the top of the tank opening. Right: Force the board all the
way through the mat. Bring it back until you feel the bottom of the mat. Mark the stick again.
The distance between these two marks is the scum depth.

Figure 14b
Measuring the sludge depth
in the septic tank. Left:
Measure the depth of liquid
and the depth of sludge. Let
the stick drop until you feel
resistance. Mark the stick.
Right: Force the board all
the way through the sludge
to the bottom of the tank.
Mark the stick again. The
distance between these two marks is the sludge depth. If you do not know the maximum
available liquid depth for your
tank, measure from the
bottom of the board to the
wet line on the stick to find

Figure 14c
Determine if the tank should

The bottom of the scum layer is less than 3 inches above the bottom of
the outlet baffle

The scum layer is more than 12 inches thick

The sludge level is less than 12 inches below the bottom of the outlet
The total of the scum and sludge depths is more than half the liquid depth.

Once you know the normal sludge accumulation rate, adjust your inspection
frequency accordingly.
Table 4 shows the estimated septic tank pumping frequency in years, based
on tank capacity in gallons and number of people in the household. It should
be remembered that garbage disposals will increase by 50 percent or more
the rate at which solids accumulate in the tank and that a 1,000-gallon tank
is the minimum allowable size for all new installations.
Table 4
Estimated septic tank pumping frequencies in years (for year-round residences).
Tank size

Household size, number of people








Pumping frequency, years

500 gallons




adequate. Some additives can actually be harmful to the septic system and
can pollute groundwater.
750 gallons










1,000 gallons










1,250 gallons










1,500 gallons










1,750 gallons










2,000 gallons










2,250 gallons










2,500 gallons










Pumping frequency can increase by 50 percent if garbage disposal is used.

Clean the tank

Cleaning should remove all scum, sludge and liquid from the septic tank. This
is accomplished by pumping the liquid contents back and forth several times
between the septage truck's tank and the septic tank. This agitation process
mixes the scum and sludge with the liquids, allowing all solids to be removed
using the truck's suction hose. Cleaning will leave a black film on the tank
walls and a small amount of liquid on the tank floor. This contains sufficient
numbers of bacteria to help get the tank working following the cleaning.
At this time, ask the pumper to make sure the baffles or sanitary tees are in
place and working properly. Contractors attempting to clean a tank through
the small 6-inch diameter inspection pipes will often leave solids in the tank
and damage the baffles. Insist that the tank be cleaned through the manhole
if the tank has one, even if it costs slightly more. After cleaning, it is not
necessary to add yeasts, enzymes, or other "starters" or "inoculants" to get
the tank working. Bacteria present in wastewater and in the tank will be

The most common cause of the shortened lifespan of the system is soil
clogging caused by neglecting regular pumping of the septic tank. Although
the average dwelling has a life of about 80 years, the useful life of an
absorption field system, with proper maintenance, can be greater than 25
years. Corrosion-resistant metal tanks will last up to 10 years if properly
maintained. However, the internal baffles of the metal septic tanks are not
corrosion resistant and will last a maximum of 5 to 7 years before
replacement is needed.
Table 5 suggests tips for extending the life of your septic tank/absorption
field system.
Table 5
Maintaining your septic tank/absorption field system.


Do obtain necessary permits from the appropriate local agency before

doing any construction or repairs.

Do use professional certified installers when needed.

Do keep your septic tank and distribution box accessible for pumping and
adjustment. Install risers if necessary. The covers should be locked or of
sufficient weight to prevent a child from lifting them.
Do have your septic system inspected annually and tank pumped out
every 2 to 5 years by a professional contractor.
Do keep a detailed record of repairs, pumpings, inspections, permits
issued and other maintenance activities.
Do conserve water to avoid overloading the system. Repair dripping
faucets and leaking toilets, avoid long showers and run washing machines
and dishwashers only when full. Use water-saving features in faucets,
shower heads and toilets.
Do divert other sources of water, such as roof drains, house footing drains,
sump pump outlets, and driveway and hillside runoff away from the septic
system. Use curtain drains, surface diversions, downspout extensions,
retaining walls, etc. to divert water.
Do take leftover hazardous household chemicals to an approved
hazardous waste collection center for disposal. Use bleach, disinfectants
and drain and toilet bowl cleaners sparingly and in accordance with
product labels.


Don't go down into a septic tank for any reason. Toxic gases in the tank
can be explosive and can cause asphyxiation.

Don't allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system.
Don't cover the absorption field with a hard surface, such as concrete or
asphalt. Grass is the best cover for promoting proper functioning of the
field. The grass will not only prevent erosion but will help remove excess
Don't plant a garden, trees or shrubbery over or near the absorption field
area. Tillage may cut absorption trenches. The roots can clog and damage
the drain lines.
Don't make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining the
necessary permits.
Don't pour into drains any grease, cooking fats, chemical drain openers,
paint, varnishes, solvents, fuels, waste oil, photographic solutions,
pesticides or other organic chemicals. They can upset the bacterial action
in the tank and pollute groundwater.
Don't use your toilet as a trash can. Keep out coffee grounds, bones,
cigarette butts, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper
towels, facial tissues and other materials that decompose very slowly.
Don't add enzyme or yeast additives to the septic tank in hopes of
improving bacterial action. None have been proven beneficial and some
actually cause damage to soil and vegetation and may pollute

Sewage backs up into

house and/or plumbing
fixtures don't drain or
are sluggish.

1. Pipe may be clogged between

house and septic tank.

a. Remove blockage with sewer

routing tool. This usually is a job
for a professional.
b. If roots have penetrated pipe
joints, reseal joints after routing
or replace pipe.
c. Avoid planting fast-growing
trees near system.

2. Scum layer may be plugging the

septic tank inlet.

a. Pump the septic tank.

b. Check inlet baffle or tee after
pumping tank.

3. Tank outlet may be plugged by a

collapsed baffle or by solids overflow.
The pipe from the tank to the
absorption field may be partially
collapsed or plugged by tree roots.

a. Pump the septic tank.

b. Route out the line and replace
defective baffles, tees or pipe
c. Establish a regular pumping

4. Blockage that reoccurs in a new

system is likely caused by improperly
installed sewer line(s).

Reconstruct the sewer line(s)

using the correct slope.

5. Blockage that reoccurs in a

previously trouble-free system is
probably caused by a broken sewer
pipe connection.

Locate and replace broken pipe.

6. Excess water is entering the


a. Install interceptor drains to

lower or divert the high water
b. Fix water leaks and use water
conservation practices.
c. Replumb backwash from water
softener system out of septic
d. Check septic tank for water
e. Check to see if dripline or
downspout water is running onto
absorption field.
f. Install surface diversion where
surface run-on to absorption field
is a problem.
g. Replumb sump pump out of
septic system.

7. House sewer vent (soil stack) is

Clear plugged vents using a

Existing septic systems may fail for a number of reasons. In addition to
leaking at the soil surface, a system is failing if it is not treating the
household wastewater effectively. The most common causes of system
failure are from excessive water entering the system, lack of regular
maintenance, or improper siting, sizing and design of the system. Diagnosing
the specific cause may be difficult for the homeowner and often requires the
skills of a professional. Table 6 shows common problems and their possible
causes and remedies.
Table 6
Septic system troubleshooting guide.

Possible causes

Suggested remedies

plugged or frozen closed.

garden hose. Enlarge undersized

vents. In winter, check for ice
buildup on vents.

8. Lift-station pump has failed.

Repair or replace the pump.

9. Septic tank effluent filter is


Sewage is surfacing in

1. Absorption field is too small.

2. Water use is excessive.

3. A seasonally high water table

during rainy periods saturates the
soil and limits its ability to accept
wastewater from the house.

Pump septic tank, then remove

and clean filter. To be performed
by certified professional.
a. Consult county health
department sanitarian or Missouri
Department of Health for proper
size of field based on soil
conditions and household
sewage input.
b. If undersized, enlarge the
existing field or build a new one.

Sewage odors are

present indoors or
there are gurgling
sounds in sink or tub

a. Install water conservation

devices, such as low-flush toilets,
low-volume shower heads and
faucet aerators.
b. Minimize use of the hot tub or
c. Monitor water use habits of
household. Check for leaks in
plumbing fixtures.
a. Install interceptor drains to
lower or divert the high water
b. Use water conservation
c. Modify absorption field system
using "shallow placement of
trenches" alternatives.
d. Monitor water use habits of
household. Check for leaks in
plumbing fixtures.
e. Divert dripline and downspout
water from field.
f. Replumb sump pump out of
septic system.
g. If the site permits, build an
alternative system, such as a
lagoon, low-pressure pipe
system, or sand mound.

Sewage odors are

present outdoors.

Drinking water and/or

surface waters are
contaminated with

4. Solids are overflowing from the

tank to the absorption field.

a. Pump the tank and check the

baffles or tees.
b. Minimize garbage disposal

5. Pipe slopes or tank elevations are


Rebuild absorption field on

alternate site using correct pipe
and trench or bed elevations.

6. Lift-station pump has failed or float

switches are improperly set.

Clean septic tank, check pump (if

used) and adjust float switches.

1. House sewer vent (soil stack) is

plugged or frozen closed.

Clear plugged vents using a

garden hose. Enlarge undersized
vents. In winter, check for ice
build-up on vents.

2. Water has been sucked from

plumbing traps.

Replace water in traps by briefly

running faucets.

3. Improper plumbing.

Have plumbing system checked

by a professional.

4. Sewage backup in house.

Clean tank and check pump (if


1. Sewage is surfacing in yard. (See

also earlier problem section.)

Repair or replace absorption

field. Clean tank and check pump
(if used).

2. Inspection pipe caps damaged or


Replace and secure damaged


3. Source is from location other than

homeowner's system.

Contact county health

department sanitarian to
investigate other potential

1. Septic system is too close to well,

water table or fractured bedrock;
cesspool or drywell is in use; or
sewage discharges to surface or

Replace with approved septic

system on alternate site.

2. Well is improperly constructed.

Consult state-certified well driller

or pump installer for options.

Lift-station alarm is

3. Water supply pipe from well is


Repair piping and disinfect the

entire plumbing system.

4. Source is from other than

homeowner's system.

Contact county health

department sanitarian to
investigate other potential

1. Circuit breaker is tripped.

Check electrical connections to

pump and reset the breaker.

2. Pump has failed.

Make sure a professional

replaces pump with proper size

3. Controls are malfunctioning.

Check float switch controls and


1. System is improperly constructed.

Have system repaired or

replaced by a qualified contractor.

2. There is foot or vehicle traffic over


Keep people and vehicles off


3. The flow rate is too low from lack

of use.

a. Have someone use water in

house if you are away.
b. Operate septic tank as a
holding tank.
c. Don't use antifreeze.

Tips for Septic Absorption Fields

By Tom Raley, eHow Contributor
updated: December 18, 2009
Your septic system has two primary components, the septic tank itself, and the
field lines. Keeping the field lines in good condition is key to a trouble-free
septic system and requires minimal maintenance or effort by the homeowner.
While minimal, these steps are crucial to the continued efficient absorption of
the waste water and a trouble-free system.


Distribution pipes
and/or absorption field
freezes in winter.


4. Lift-station check-valve is not

working, or pump is not cycling

Examine check-valve and/or

replace it. Increase frequency of
pump cycling.

Field lines, by their very nature, are a fertile growing area for
plant life. A thick carpet of grass helps to speed the evaporation
process and control erosion. Other than grass, do not allow
vegetation to grow over the field lines. The roots from trees or
large shrubs will eventually find their way into the field line pipes.
Once this happens, the pipes become clogged and cease to
function properly. If the clog is at the midway point of a 60-foot
field line, that line has now essentially become a 30-foot field line.
This reduction greatly alters the area's ability to absorb and
process the water being supplied by the septic tank.

Your field lines should be off limits to all vehicle traffic. The field
line pipes are not buried deeply enough to provide adequate
protection from the weight of a vehicle. A pickup truck can weight
in excess of 3 tons, empty. This amount of weight can damage
and crush a PVC pipe. Once the pipe is damaged, dirt, gravel and
other debris begin entering. Eventually this debris either fills the
entire pipe, or creates a clog that blocks all water flow. This has
the same effect as the clog mentioned in Step 1 and results in a
failed septic system.

Excess Water


Make sure your absorption field is the right size. The field lines
were designed to handle a specific amount of water. Prior to
installing the field line a perc test should have been completed
telling how much field line is needed for a tank of a specific size
with the soil conditions of the area. The system, if functioning
properly, is adequate for the septic system plus any normal
precipitation. At no time after the installation should you alter any
water source such as a run-off or drainage ditch in such a manner
as to cause additional water to enter the field line area. This will
cause an oversaturation of the area and hinder the soil's ability to
properly absorb the water at the intended rate. Keep the water
conditions in this area as close to original as is possible to
maintain your system in its current capacity.

Votre installation septique

Savez-vous o va leau lorsque vous videz lvier ou tirez la chasse deau
de la toilette? Si vous habitez en ville, les eaux uses sont achemines
vers le rseau dgouts municipal, pour aboutir la station dpuration.
Si vous habitez dans une zone rurale ou une petite collectivit, il est
probable que vous fassiez partie du quart des Canadiens dont les eaux
uses sont traites par une installation septique (aussi appele
installation dassainissement autonome). Une installation septique traite
les eaux uses sur votre propre terrain et vacue leffluent qui en rsulte
dans les eaux souterraines (voir la figure 1).

Source : ric Brunet, Centre ontarien des eaux uses rurales,

Universit de Guelph
Figure 1 : Recyclage des eaux uses par use installation autonome

Comment fonctionne mon

installation septique?
Lorsquelle fonctionne bien, linstallation septique reoit toutes les eaux
uses produites par un mnage (par lutilisation des toilettes, de la
douche, des viers, du lave-vaisselle, de la laveuse, et le reste) et les
traite suffisamment pour que leffluent soit sans danger avant de
retourner vers les eaux souterraines. Une installation septique est
habituellement constitue dune fosse septique et dun sol filtrant appel
champ dpuration. Le champ dpuration est parfois appel un champ
dpandage, un lit filtrant ou un tertre dinfiltration.

La fosse septique
La fosse septique a pour but de sparer les solides des liquides et
damorcer la dcomposition des matires organiques prsentes dans les
eaux uses. Il sagit dun contenant tanche en bton, en polythylne

ou en fibre de verre quon enfouit dans le sol. Dans le pass, la fosse

tait parfois faite en acier ou en bois. Si vous possdez une fosse en
acier, elle est sans doute perfore par la rouille et vous devrez la
remplacer; si elle est en bois, elle est srement pourrie et devra aussi
tre remplace. Les dimensions de la fosse varient en fonction de la taille
de la maison (cest--dire du nombre de chambres) et de la quantit
deau utilise par les occupants. Les plus petites ont un volume variant
entre 1 800 litres et 3 600 litres, selon la province ou le territoire. Les
vieilles fosses peuvent tre plus petites que celles qui sont installes de
nos jours et elles peuvent avoir plus dun compartiment selon lendroit et
le moment o elles ont t mises en terre.
mesure que les eaux uses de la maison entrent dans la fosse
septique, leur dbit est ralenti, de sorte que les solides les plus lourds se
dposent au fond et les matires plus lgres flottent la surface (voir la
figure 2). Les solides accumuls au fond de la fosse sappellent les
boues , et les solides plus lgers (graisses et gras) qui sagglutinent en
surface forment des couches flottantes appeles cume . Les
bactries anarobies, toujours prsentes dans les eaux uses, digrent
une partie des solides organiques qui se trouvent dans la fosse. Les eaux
uses clarifies du milieu de la fosse se dplacent vers le champ
dpuration afin dy subir un second traitement dans la couche de sol.

Source : ric Brunet, Centre ontarien des eaux uses rurales,

Universit de Guelph
Figure 2 : Vue en coupe d'une fosse septique courante avec
regards de prlvement et filtre deffluent

Le champ dpuration
Les eaux uses partiellement traites par la fosse septique se dversent
dans le champ dpuration (voir la figure 3). Le champ dpuration se
compose gnralement dun rseau de drains de distribution en plastique
dposs dans des tranches de gravier par-dessus une couche de sol.
Dans la plupart des provinces, la couche de sol doit se trouver au
moins 0,7 1,2 m au-dessus de la surface de la nappe phratique ou
dune couche restrictive comme un sous-sol rocheux ou un sol argileux et
elle doit possder une certaine permabilit (capacit dabsorption). Les
vieilles installations taient parfois ralises avec des tuyaux dargile au
lieu de drains en plastique, et les nouvelles installations comportent
parfois des chambres dinfiltration en plastique pour remplacer les
tranches de gravier et les drains perfors. Les dimensions, la conception
et la disposition des champs dpuration sont prvues par les codes et les
rglements provinciaux et territoriaux et sont fondes sur le volume

deaux uses produites, la capacit dabsorption des sols sous-jacents et

la distance par rapport au niveau suprieur de la nappe phratique ou
la couche restrictive. Les eaux uses peuvent se dplacer par gravit
entre la fosse septique et les drains de distribution ou, lorsque cest
ncessaire, peuvent tre recueillies par une chambre de pompage et tre
releves vers un champ dpuration surlev.
Le champ dpuration est un filtre amnag mme le sol qui traite
leffluent de la fosse septique laide de processus naturels. Les
contaminants prsents dans les eaux uses se composent de matires
organiques solides et dissoutes (composs du carbone), de substances
nutritives (azote et phosphore) et de bactries et virus nocifs. Une
pellicule biologique constitue de bactries, quon appelle le lit bactrien,
se forme au fond et sur les parois de chaque tranche de distribution.
Cest dans cette pellicule quune large part du traitement se produit. Les
bactries prsentes dans le lit bactrien et dans le sol environnant se
nourrissent de la matire organique qui se trouve dans les eaux uses et
transforment lazote ammoniacal, une substance toxique pour certaines
espces aquatiques, en nitrate qui est une forme moins toxique dazote.
Les bactries et virus dangereux prsents dans les eaux uses sont pour
la plupart limins dans le champ dpuration par filtration, par prdation
(consomms par dautres microbes) et par exposition lenvironnement.
Le sol de certains champs dpuration renferme du fer, de laluminium ou
du calcium capables dadsorber le phosphore transport par les eaux
uses. Les bactries du sol qui se chargent du traitement ont besoin
doxygne pour agir. Cest pourquoi le champ dpuration doit tre plac
dans un sol non satur par le ruissellement des eaux de surface ou par
une nappe phratique superficielle. Il ne doit pas non plus tre asphalt
ou recouvert de pavs, dun patio, dune remise, etc.

Source : ric Brunet, Centre ontarien des eaux uses rurales,

Universit de Guelph
Figure 3 : Installation septique traditionnelle
Le sol du champ dpuration doit tre appropri afin de pouvoir retenir les eaux uses suffisamment longtemps pour que le

traitement se fasse tout en permettant aux eaux uses de sinfiltrer dans

le sol (consultez les rglements de la province ou du territoire).
Dans les cas o la distance entre la nappe phratique ou le sous-sol
rocheux est suffisamment grande, le rseau de drains peut tre dpos
directement dans le sol en place, ou dans un lit de sable import si la
permabilit du sol est inapproprie. Cest ce que lon appelle une
installation traditionnelle (voir la figure 3). Lorsque le sous-sol
rocheux ou la nappe phratique se trouvent prs de la surface, le champ
dpuration doit tre surlev afin quil y ait suffisamment de sol non
satur sous les drains. Il sagit dans ce cas dune installation surleve
avec tertre dinfiltration (voir la figure 4).

beaucoup plus petite que ce que requiert normalement un effluent trait

par un champ dpuration classique. Chaque province et territoire
possde ses propres rglements en matire de traitement arobie.
Consultez les autorits locales pour savoir quelles techniques ont t
approuves pour votre secteur.

Source : ric Brunet, Centre ontarien des eaux uses rurales,

Universit de Guelph
Figure 4 : Installation surleve

Les techniques de traitement

Il arrive souvent quun terrain ne se prte pas la mise en place dune
installation septique ordinaire cause, par exemple, du niveau lev de
la nappe phratique, dun sous-sol rocheux, de pitres conditions de sol
(compos dargile, de limon ou de till) ou de limpossibilit de respecter
les normes concernant les marges de reculement relativement aux eaux
superficielles, un puits ou aux limites de la proprit. Dans ces cas, on
a souvent recours une technique de traitement arobie. Ces techniques
prouves, qui existent sur le march nord-amricain depuis les annes
1970, ont fait lobjet de nombreuses installations. Les techniques
arobies traitent les eaux uses un degr suprieur (niveaux
secondaire et tertiaire) ce que peut accomplir une fosse septique
ordinaire, ce qui permet de dverser leffluent ainsi trait dans une zone

Source : ric Brunet, Centre ontarien des eaux uses rurales,

Universit de Guelph
Figure 5 : Autre technique de traitement
Les techniques de traitement arobie ont trois lments en commun : un
bassin de dcantation (qui peut tre plus petit quune fosse septique
ordinaire), un dispositif de traitement arobie, qui retire la majeure
partie des matires organiques prsentes dans les eaux uses, et un
systme de dispersion, qui prend souvent la forme dun petit champ
dpuration (voir la figure 5).
Les techniques de traitement arobie misent toutes sur les microorganismes arobies pour dcomposer les matires organiques dans
leffluent. Afin doptimaliser le traitement, les composants du systme de
traitement comportent soit un matriau destin supporter la croissance
des micro-organismes (appel milieu de croissance attach), ou un

agitateur qui garde les microorganismes en suspension (quon appelle la

biomasse en suspension). Bien des techniques ont recours soit une
pompe air ou un ventilateur pour alimenter les micro-organismes en
oxygne, tandis que dautres techniques font appel des filtres
bactriens. Dans ce dernier cas, leffluent passe lentement dans un
milieu non satur et les microorganismes utilisent loxygne dans lair qui
entoure le milieu de croissance.

Que dois-je faire pour que mon

installation septique continue
de bien fonctionner?

Une fois trait, leffluent est habituellement achemin vers un petit

champ dpuration. Il arrive toutefois que des administrations exigent un
systme de distribution sous pression prs de la surface du sol ou mme
un dversement dans les eaux de surface. Consultez les autorits
provinciales ou territoriales pour savoir quelles mthodes de dispersion
sont permises dans votre secteur.

Maintenir laccs la fosse septique est la premire mesure dentretien

rgulier quil faut prendre. Dans le cas des fosses enterres, il serait utile
de mettre en place des regards de prlvement sur les ouvertures de la
fosse afin de prolonger ces dernires jusqu la surface du sol ou prs de
la surface (voir la figure 2). Dans lventualit o il faudrait accder la
fosse en hiver, ces regards faciliteront grandement la tche. Les regards
peuvent tre faits de plastique ou de bton et doivent tre verrouills
pour prvenir toute entre

Dans la plupart des provinces, les propritaires-occupants quips dune

installation de traitement arobie sont tenus de conclure un contrat
dentretien avec un fournisseur de services autoris qui se chargera
dinspecter et dentretenir leur installation. Posez-vous les questions
suivantes au moment de vous procurer un systme de traitement arobie

La technologie ou la marque du produit est-elle approuve

par votre province?
Le fabricant offre-t-il un contrat de service et dentretien
fiable dans votre rgion?
Quelles sont les exigences dentretien et les cots associs
cette technologie (frquence et moment des inspections,
chantillonnage de leffluent et pices de rechange)?
Combien cotent les pices de rechange et est-il facile de
sen procurer?
Quels sont les cots dnergie annuels (pompes, arateurs)?
quelle frquence faut-il vidanger linstallation, combien
cela cote-t-il et quel est le volume utile de la fosse?
Que faut-il savoir pour une installation saisonnire et la
fermeture hivernale?

Les regards de prlvement

La vidange de la fosse
Avec le temps, les boues saccumulent au fond de la fosse septique. Si on
les laisse saccumuler, elles finiront par se dverser dans le champ
dpuration et auront tt fait de boucher les drains de distribution. Quand
cela se produit, les eaux uses montent la surface du sol ou, pire, sont
refoules lintrieur de la maison. Non seulement une installation
septique obstrue peut tre dangereuse pour lenvironnement et la sant
de votre famille, mais elle entrane des frais de rparation trs onreux.
Une fosse septique doit gnralement tre vidange tous les trois cinq
ans ou lorsque les boues occupent le tiers de son volume (ce qui doit
tre dtermin par un spcialiste). La frquence des vidanges dpendra
de la quantit deau quutilise le mnage (le nombre de personnes
occupant la maison) et du volume de la fosse septique. Par exemple, une
famille de cinq personnes possdant une fosse de 2 300 L pourrait devoir
faire vidanger son installation aussi souvent quaux deux ou trois ans,
alors quun couple de retraits quip dune fosse de 3 600 L pourrait le
faire faire uniquement tous les cinq sept ans. Certaines administrations
ont tabli la frquence laquelle les vidanges doivent tre faites. Au
Qubec, par exemple, les propritaires de fosses septiques sont tenus de

les faire vidanger tous les deux ans, dans le cas dune habitation occupe
en permanence, et tous les quatre ans pour les rsidences saisonnires.
La saison estivale ou le dbut de lautomne sont les meilleurs moments
pour vidanger la fosse septique. Comme la terre nest pas gele, il est
facile daccder la fosse et laction biologique dans la fosse peut
recommencer avant quil fasse trop froid (les micro-organismes prfrent
la chaleur). Au printemps, si la nappe phratique se situe prs de la
surface du sol cause de la neige fondante, elle exerce parfois une si
grande pression sous une fosse vide que cette dernire peut merger du
sol. Ce problme est le plus souvent associ aux fosses lgres faites de
polythylne, de fibre de verre ou dacier qu celles qui sont faites en
Vous ne devez ni inspecter ni vidanger vous-mme votre fosse septique.
Il ny a pas doxygne dans la fosse, et elle contient des gaz nocifs qui
peuvent vous tuer en quelques secondes. Lorsque vient le moment de
nettoyer ou dinspecter votre fosse, faites appel un vidangeur de fosse
Le filtre deffluent
Un filtre deffluent est un accessoire relativement nouveau pour les
fosses septiques. Cest un filtre simple qui, une fois install la sortie de
la fosse septique, sert viter que de grosses particules solides
schappent de la fosse pour atteindre le champ dpuration. Un filtre
deffluent peut donc prvenir lobturation prmature du champ
dpuration. Il existe de nombreux types de filtre deffluent dans le
commerce; il est donc conseill de consulter un entrepreneur local pour
savoir quel filtre convient le mieux votre installation.
Les filtres deffluent doivent aussi tre nettoys priodiquement, selon
leur type et leurs dimensions ainsi que selon le volume deau utilis par
le mnage. Certains modles peuvent tre quips dune alarme qui
retentit lorsque le filtre doit tre nettoy.
Substances ne pas jeter dans les tuyaux dvacuation

tant donn que les installations septiques ont besoin des microorganismes pour la dcomposition des dchets, il est important de ne
pas les empoisonner . Mme une petite quantit de peinture, de
solvant, de dcapant, de dissolvant de vernis ongles ou de tout produit
de nettoyage vacu ou vers dans les tuyaux peut tuer les bactries qui
dcomposent les matires organiques dans les eaux uses. Les
dsinfectants mnagers, comme leau de Javel et les nettoyeurs de
toilette, peuvent tre utiliss avec modration sans nuire au bon
fonctionnement de linstallation septique; toutefois, lemploi immodr
des dsinfectants peut dtruire les bactries de la fosse septique.
Certains fabricants favorisent lutilisation de certains produits pour
nettoyer ou encore amorcer ou intensifier la digestion des boues. La
plupart de ces produits ne sont pas trs utiles; ils sont donc dconseills.
vitez de jeter dans linstallation septique des substances qui ne se
dcomposent pas naturellement ou qui se dcomposent trs lentement
(huiles, graisses et gras, couches jetables, tampons et leur contenant,
condoms, essuie-tout, papiers mouchoirs, litire pour chats, matires
plastiques, filtres cigarette, marc de caf, coquilles duf et autres
dchets de cuisine). Les broyeurs dchets installs sous lvier sont
galement proscrire, moins que la fosse septique et le champ
dpuration soient conus pour absorber le surplus deau et de matires
organiques associs ces appareils.

Pourquoi surveiller ma
consommation deau?
Chaque fois que vous vacuez de leau vers la fosse septique, une
quantit gale deau se dplace vers le champ dpuration. Plus les eaux
uses demeurent longtemps dans la fosse septique, plus leffluent est
dbarrass des matires solides et organiques en suspension. En
revanche, si leau passe trop rapidement travers linstallation (lorsquun
mnage utilise beaucoup deau), les solides nauront pas le temps de se
dposer au fond de la fosse avant que leffluent natteigne le champ
dpuration. Cest pourquoi il faut, autant que possible, rguler la
quantit deau vacue dans linstallation septique. Par exemple, au lieu
de faire toute la lessive le samedi, talez le travail sur toute la semaine.
Vous pouvez aussi rduire votre consommation deau en installant des

dispositifs pour conomiser leau sur les appareils sanitaires et en faisant

fonctionner la laveuse ou le lave-vaisselle seulement lorsquils sont
remplis. Rparez les robinets qui fuient et soyez lafft des toilettes qui
coulent (une toilette qui coule peut gaspiller une norme quantit deau
et peut lessiver la fosse septique). Leau issue du drainage des fondations
(pompe de puisard) et le condensat du gnrateur de chaleur ne doivent
pas passer par linstallation septique. Vous pouvez aussi matriser la
quantit deaux uses qui pntrent dans linstallation et le moment o
elles y entrent en utilisant une pompe de distribution qui dosera
lacheminement de leffluent vers le champ dpuration.

Comment devrais-je moccuper

du champ dpuration?
Il est facile de soccuper dun champ dpuration. Il ny a vraiment rien
faire; plutt, certaines choses ne pas faire. Le champ dpuration
devrait tre bien recouvert de gazon. Une bonne aration et un
ensoleillement adquat sont galement propices lvaporation
ncessaire. Ce qui signifie que vous devez viter damnager des aires
de stationnement, un patio, des courts de tennis, une terrasse ou une
remise sur le champ dpuration. En outre, il est important de laisser
loxygne pntrer dans le sol, car les bactries qui traitent les eaux
uses ont besoin doxygne pour survivre et fonctionner.
Vous ne devez pas conduire de vhicule ou de machine sur le champ
dpuration, car leur poids pourrait craser les drains ou compacter le
sol. En hiver, vous ne devez pas non plus laisser des motoneiges circuler
sur le champ dpuration. La neige compacte en diminuerait leffet
isolant naturel, ce qui augmente les risques de gel des tuyaux.
Ne plantez pas darbres ou darbustes prs du champ dpuration. Les
racines de certains arbres, surtout des saules et des peupliers,
stendent sur de longues distances pour atteindre leau et elles
pourraient embourber et endommager les drains. Enfin, narrosez pas le
gazon qui pousse sur le champ dpuration et faites en sorte que tous les
tuyaux dvacuation de surface (comme les gouttires) se dversent loin
du champ dpuration. Leau excdentaire pourrait nuire la capacit du
sol dabsorber et de traiter les eaux uses.

Le champ dpuration dune installation septique traditionnelle devrait

durer au moins 20 ans. Toutefois, avec le temps, le milieu de croissance
va obturer les drains et il faudra alors rparer ou remplacer le champ

Comment savoir sil y a un

problme dans mon
installation septique?
Voici quelques signes que votre installation dassainissement fait dfaut :

Le sol autour de la fosse septique et au-dessus du champ

dpuration est imbib deau ou spongieux lorsquon y
Les toilettes, douches et viers refoulent ou prennent plus
de temps se vider.
Des odeurs dgout se dgagent parfois, surtout aprs une
chute de pluie.
Un liquide gris ou noir apparat la surface du gazon ou est
refoul dans les appareils sanitaires de la maison.
La bactrie E. coli, indiquant la prsence de coliformes
fcaux, est trouve dans un puits avoisinant ou dans un
foss de surface proximit du champ dpuration.
Leau dans la fosse septique atteint un niveau plus lev
que le conduit dvacuation (ce qui signifie que leau
saccumule dans les drains de distribution) il faut faire
inspecter linstallation par un spcialiste (un vidangeur ou
un installateur).
Les eaux uses saccumulent dans les drains de distribution
il faut faire inspecter linstallation par un spcialiste ou
par un ingnieur.

Que dois-je faire pour empcher

mon installation de geler?
Il y a de fortes chances que linstallation septique gle par temps froid lorsquil y a peu de neige au sol. La premire mesure de
protection contre le gel consiste assurer une bonne isolation. Il sagit donc dpandre un paillis (feuilles, paille, foin) sur une
paisseur de 0,3 m (1 pied) ou de laisser le gazon pousser trs haut sur le champ dpuration au cours de lautomne. Au dbut de
lhiver, on peut galement ajouter de la neige par-dessus celle qui recouvre dj le champ. Autres possibilits : isoler le tuyau situ
entre la maison et la fosse septique, ajouter des panneaux de styromousse au-dessus de la fosse septique et accrotre le couvre-sol
sur toute linstallation.

Une installation septique gle habituellement pour trois raisons :

1. Les tuyaux ne se vident pas suffisamment

Toute eau stagnante peut geler dans les drains. Cette
situation peut tre cause par une mauvaise installation (la
pente ntant pas suffisante), par un tassement du sol ou par
un soulvement d au gel. Dans ces cas, il faut excaver et
remplacer la section de tuyau qui cause le problme.
2. Une utilisation de leau peu frquente
Lorsquun filet deau coule continuellement dans les drains
( cause dun robinet qui fuit ou dune toilette qui coule), il
se cre un film deau qui peut entraner le gel complet des
drains. Un faible dbit deau (ou labsence des occupants)
pendant une longue priode peut entraner le gel de la fosse
septique. Si vous quittez les lieux pendant une priode
prolonge en hiver, il serait bon de faire vidanger la fosse
avant votre dpart.
3. Saturation de linstallation
Si votre champ dpuration est satur deau ( cause dune
conception dficiente ou de lobturation des drains), il

pourrait geler dur. En pareil cas, la seule solution consiste

utiliser la fosse comme rservoir de rtention jusquau
printemps, lorsque le champ dpuration dglera et pourra
tre rpar ou remplac. Cela signifie quil faudra vidanger
la fosse septique chaque fois quelle se remplit, ce qui
pourrait survenir aussi souvent que deux fois par semaine.
Si vous devez utiliser votre fosse septique comme rservoir de rtention,
il serait utile de demander au vidangeur dinstaller une alarme de tropplein pour signaler quand le temps est venu de vidanger la fosse.
Si votre installation gle, appelez un spcialiste (un vidangeur ou un
installateur). Bon nombre dentrepreneurs possdent des injecteurs
vapeur pour dgeler les tuyaux. Ils peuvent aussi mettre en place des
rubans chauffants ou un chauffe-rservoir. Najoutez pas dantigel, de sel
ou dautres additifs dans la fosse et renoncez laisser couler leau
continuellement pour dgeler linstallation.

Que faire si mon installation

septique a besoin de
Si vous remarquez un problme, il est imprieux dintervenir sans tarder
pour protger votre sant et votre milieu. Communiquez avec un
entrepreneur autoris pour obtenir des conseils. Selon le cas, il vous
proposera de vidanger la fosse, de rparer un sparateur endommag ou
un drain fissur, de remettre de niveau le conduit de distribution
principal, de remplacer la fosse septique ou mme peut-tre de
remplacer lensemble du champ dpuration.

Ce que dit la loi

La loi exige que vous signaliez tout problme aux autorits locales avant
de procder des rparations ou au remplacement de linstallation. Une
inspection finale devra tre faite et un permis dutilisation dlivr avant
que vous ne puissiez utiliser lgalement votre installation septique,

quelle soit nouvelle ou modifie. Votre entrepreneur ou les autorits

locales peuvent vous aider dterminer la taille de linstallation septique
dont vous avez besoin. Vous dcouvrirez peut-tre quil vous faut une
plus grosse installation que celle que vous possdez actuellement. Si
vous devez rparer, remplacer ou amnager une installation septique,
vous devez connatre les rglements relatifs son emplacement par
rapport votre maison et votre puits, la maison des voisins et leur
puits, de mme quaux tendues deau des environs. Certaines marges
de retrait sont obligatoires afin dempcher que les eaux uses de votre
installation septique atteignent et contaminent les sources
dapprovisionnement en eau avoisinantes. Selon la province, le champ
dpuration doit tre situ de 1,5 9 m des limites de la proprit, de 3
11 m dun btiment, de 15 30,5 m dun puits et de 15 75 m dun
plan deau.
Lorganisme responsable de la dlivrance des permis visant les
installations septiques change dune province ou dun territoire lautre,
tel que dcrit au tableau 1 ci-dessous.
Tableau 1 : Ministres chargs de rglementer les installations septiques
dans les provinces et les territoires

Province/territoire Ministre

Loi rglement


Technologie et

Environmental Protection
Act Sewage Disposal Regulation



Public Health Act Sanitation




Environment Act On-site Sewage

Disposal Regulation

Nouveau-Brunswick Sant et Mieuxtre

Loi sur la sant Rglement 88



Loi sur la qualit de

l'environnement Rglement sur
l'vacuation et le traitement des
eaux uses des rsidences isoles



municipales et

Ontario Building Code partie 8



Loi sur
l'environnement Rglement sur
les dispositifs privs d'vacuation
des eaux uses et les toilettes



Public Health Act Plumbing and

Drainage Regulation



Safety Codes Act Alberta

Private Sewage Systems Standards
of Practice


Services de sant

Health Act Sewerage System


Territoires du Nord- Sant et services


Public Health Act General

Sanitation Regulations

Territoire du Yukon

Public Health and Safety

Act Sewage Disposal System


Fosse septique
Un article de Wikipdia, l'encyclopdie libre.
Aller : Navigation, rechercher

3.3 Mthode prconise par la banque mondiale

3.4 Prise en compte de la frquence de vidange des boues
3.5 Mthode canadienne
3.6 Tables de dimensionnement
4 Entretien
5 Suite du traitement
6 Notes et rfrences

7 Voir aussi


Fosse et drains.



La fosse septique est l'un des lments constitutifs d'une installation

d'assainissement non collectif.
Elle reoit soit uniquement les eaux-vannes (sanitaires), soit l'ensemble
des eaux vannes et mnagres (cuisine, lavage). On lui prfre alors
l'appellation de fosse toutes eaux. Les eaux pluviales y sont proscrites
dans les deux cas car elles subissent de trop grandes variations de dbit
qui provoqueraient le dysfonctionnement de l'installation.

1 Fonctionnement
2 Construction d'une fosse septique[1]
o 2.1 Matriau
o 2.2 Taille minimale
o 2.3 Arrive
o 2.4 Sortie
o 2.5 Compartiments
o 2.6 Ventilation
o 2.7 Pente
3 Dimensionnement d'une fosse septique[2]
o 3.1 Mthode britannique
o 3.2 Mthode franaise

Fosse septique en cours d'installation.

Cette fosse a pour objet de faire dcanter les matires solides et les
hydrolyser (liqufier) par fermentation sous l'action des bactries
anarobies naturellement prsentes dans les effluents. Ce travail
demande plusieurs semaines plusieurs mois de sjour pour les
matires fcales et dchets de cuisine, la capacit de la cuve doit donc
tre calcule en consquence.
Le volume utile des fosses toutes eaux doit tre au moins gal 3 m3
pour des logements comprenant jusqu' cinq pices principales (nombre
de chambres coucher + 2) et doit tre augment d'au moins 1 m3 par
pice supplmentaire. Concernant les fosses septiques, le volume
minimal est de 1,5 m3 pour des logements comprenant jusqu' cinq
pices principales et doit tre augment d'au moins 0,5 m3 par pice

Les fosses septiques tant conues initialement pour ne recevoir que les
eaux vannes, elles doivent obligatoirement tre munies d'un bac
dgraisseur, s'il est prvu de les transformer en fosse toutes eaux
puisqu'elles ne sont pas habilites prtraiter les eaux grasses. Ce bac
doit tre d'un volume minimal de 200 litres s'il reoit seulement les eaux
de cuisine et de 500 litres s'il reoit les eaux de la cuisine accompagnes
des eaux de salle de bain. Les fosses toutes eaux en revanche sont
munies d'une paroi siphode assurant la fonction de dgraissage.

Construction d'une fosse septique1


Matriau [modifier]

Dans les cas o la fosse toutes eaux serait loigne de l'habitation (plus
de 10 mtres) il est alors recommand d'installer tout de mme un bac
dgraisseur, juste aprs le regard de collecte des eaux uses. Cela
permet de se prmunir contre tout risque de colmatage des canalisations
par les graisses.
La fosse n'assure qu'une fonction de pr-traitement ; seulement 30 % de
la pollution carbone est dtruite. Le traitement proprement dit est le
plus souvent assur par le sol, au moyen de tranches d'pandage. Cela
suppose que les caractristiques pdologiques des sols soient
compatibles : suffisamment permable mais pas trop pour viter un
transfert trop rapide vers la nappe phratique.
Dans le cas contraire, on doit recourir des massifs de sable
(permabilit insuffisante) ou des tertres filtrants si la nappe affleure.
Dans les cas difficiles, il faut mettre en place des installations plus
sophistiques (filtres bactriens par exemple) qui sont en fait de mini
stations d'puration.
Le rejet direct des eaux sortant de la fosse toutes eaux dans un puits est
videmment rigoureusement interdit en raison de la pollution. Mais le
rejet l'gout galement (article L. 1331-5 du code de la sant
publique), puisque la fermentation ayant commenc, elle s'tendrait
rapidement tout le rseau d'assainissement (odeurs, corrosion).
Il existe aussi un systme de traitement innovant qui associe deux
techniques : la filtration membranaire et le traitement biologique
enzymo-bactriens. Ce systme permet de s'affranchir des filtres sable
et autres pandages et permet de rutiliser 100 % des eaux traites, ce
systme est appel bio-racteur membrane.[rf. ncessaire]

Photo d'une installation d'une fosse septique a deux compartiments en bton

sur un chantier chinois en novembre 2008.
Pour les fosses septiques domestiques, le fond est gnralement en
bton et les parois en brique ou en pierre rendue tanche au ciment par
exemple. Le poids de bton dans le fond est suffisant pour lutter contre
la pousse d'Archimde lorsque la fosse est vide. Si le sol est meuble, un
bton arm pour le fond permet une plus grande rsistance.
Pour les fosses septiques de collectivits, les parois et le fond sont en
bton arm.
Dans les deux cas, le couvercle est en bton capable de rsister aux
charges et dispose de plusieurs ouvertures ou plaques amovibles.
Il existe galement dans le commerce toute une gamme de fosses
prfabriques, en ciment, en plastique ou autre. Les couvercles en
plastique sont renforcs par de la fibre de verre. Tous ces systmes
brevets sont des fosses domestiques. Les installateurs de fosses
prfabriques recommandent de poser la fosse sur un lit de 30 cm de sable tass.

Taille minimale [modifier]

Dans la fosse, les boues tombent dans le fond et l'cume surnage. La
hauteur d'eau minimale entre les deux ne doit pas tre infrieure un
mtre. La hauteur complte minimale est d'un mtre cinquante.
La largeur minimale d'une fosse est 60 cm. Les fosses les plus petites
font 1,5 m3, les plus grandes 100 m3.



Les eaux uses ne doivent pas perturber les boues en dcantation. Pour
viter les remous en entre, on utilise des tuyaux de drainage de grand
diamtre (au moins 100 mm) avec une faible pente (0,5 %) l'approche
de la fosse. Le tuyau est termine par un tube en T plongeant de 45 cm
sous le niveau d'eau et dpassant d'au moins 15 cm ou un dflecteur
inclus dans la paroi.

Sortie [modifier]
Pour les petites fosses (moins de 1,2 m de largeur), le mme systme de
tube en T ou de dflecteur peut tre utilis. Pour les fosses les plus
grandes, prfrer un dversoir sur toute la largeur pour permettre un
dbit rgulier. Dans ce cas, un pare-cume couvre la largeur.

Compartiments [modifier]

Selon la taille des fosses, un ou plusieurs compartiments la divise. Une

construction courante est compose d'un premier compartiment de 2/3
de sa longueur puis un deuxime compartiment d'1/3, relie au premier
uniquement par la mi-hauteur, afin de ne permettre ni au dpt du fond
ni l'cume du dessus de passer du premier vers le second. La largeur
de la fosse est gale au tiers de sa longueur (donc le deuxime
compartiment est carr).
Le moyen de liaison entre les compartiments ne doit pas perturber les
boues en dcantation. Les fentes de passage dans la paroi doivent donc
tre rparties sur la largeur. ventuellement les entres et sorties des
compartiments sont identiques celui de la fosse tuyau en T,
dflecteur ou dversoir faisant en quelques sortes des diffrents
compartiments comme autant de fosses septiques en srie.

Ventilation [modifier]
La fermentation produisant des gaz, un vent doit tre prvu. Ce dernier
doit ncessairement tre mont en fatage du btiment, au-dessus des
locaux habits et surmont d'un extracteur statique ou olien, ceci dans
le but d'engendrer un effet d'aspiration des gaz (effet Venturi). Ces gaz
s'ils s'accumulent sont susceptible d'attaquer les btons et parties
mtalliques de la filire d'assainissement.
Une deuxime ouverture pour l'entre d'air complte cette ventilation.
Un grillage en protge l'accs.

Pente [modifier]
La pente (ou radier) permet un stockage des premires boues. Le
volume stocker est plus important au plus proche de l'entre, on
prvoira donc une pente de -25 % dans le premier compartiment. Les
autres compartiments auront un radier plat. Le radier du premier
compartiment impose de creuser plus profond, une vidange plus
rgulire permet d'en limiter la profondeur.

Construction typique d'une fosse septique 2 compartiments.

Dimensionnement d'une fosse

septique2 [modifier]

On dtermine le volume d'une fosse septique en fonction du nombre

d'utilisateurs. On prfrera toutefois se baser sur la surface d'une
habitation plutt que sur le nombre d'habitants car une maison ou un
appartement peut changer de propritaire.


Selon le pays, il existe plusieurs mthodes de calcul pour dterminer le


On estime que les boues s'accumulent en moyenne de 0,18 0,30

L/usager/jour selon la taille et la construction de la fosse. S'il est
prconis de vidanger les fosses chaque anne, les calculs sont tablis
pour un minimum de 2 ans d'accumulation avec un encombrement de la
fosse de moins de 50 %.
On note A le taux d'accumulation, F la frquence (0,5 pour 2 ans).

Ces calculs permettent de dimensionner un volume minimal. Une fosse

de plus grande capacit permet une rtention plus longue, donc une
meilleure sparation. Les calculs prennent un minimum d'une journe de
rtention, dans l'idal le temps de sjour des eaux est entre 5 et 10
Note : dans les paragraphes suivants, on note V le volume de la fosse en
litres et P le nombre d'usagers potentiel.

Mthode britannique [modifier]

Prise en compte de la frquence de vidange des boues


V=1000 P A F/50 %
Le tableau ci-dessous est tabli d'aprs les recommandations techniques
des constructeurs pour le calcul de A.

Nbre d'usagers Volume

V = 180 P + 2000

Mthode franaise [modifier]

1 180

Le dimensionnement des fosses en France est calcul par rapport au

nombre de pices principales du domicile, savoir 3 m3 jusqu' 5 pices
principales, puis 1 m3 supplmentaire par chambre supplmentaire.


2 520

Pour appliquer ce dimensionnement aux industries, le rapport retenu est

de 0.2, c'est--dire que 5 ouvriers comptent comme une chambre.


3 600


4 550


10 040


23 300

Mthode prconise par la banque mondiale [modifier]

Le volume doit tre gale trois fois la capacit journalire multipli par
le temps de rtention. Le temps de rtention R est variable, minimum un
On note Q le volume d'eaux uses par jour et par personne, estime
60 L en moyenne, jusqu' 200 L selon les pays.
D'o la formule :

de pices principales)




32 900

Camping, htel, cole

+ internat (nombre 6








Usine, chantier, salle

de sport, cole + 12








cole + externat, salle

des ftes, magasin, 18








44 200

65 500

Mthode canadienne [modifier]

Ce calcul est progressif en fonction du dbit.
Pour un dbit D = P Q compris entre 1 900 et 5 700 L par jour :
V=1500 D


Pour un dbit compris entre 5 700 et 34 200 L par jour :

V=4300 + 750 D
Pour ces deux calculs, si la frquence de vidange des fosses est faible, on
peut ajouter un volume de stockage des boues. Par exemple pour une
vidange tous les deux ans, ajouter 0,3 surface de la fosse.

Tables de dimensionnement [modifier]


Les professionnels prfrent en rgle gnrale des tables empiriques aux calculs, la table ci-dessous est issue d'un catalogue d'un fournisseur franais .

3 m3 4 m3 5 m3 6 m3 8 m3 10 m3 12 m3 15 m3

Habitations (nombre 5


Un bac dgraisseur doit tre nettoy trs rgulirement (3 6 mois). Les

boues accumules au fond de la cuve doivent tre vidanges tous les 2
4 ans environ. Ces boues de curage ne doivent pas tre utilises
directement comme fertilisant sur des cultures alimentaires, prs ou
prairies, ni stockes proximit de l'eau.

Suite du traitement


Environ 30 % des dchets sont traits par la fosse septique, par

dcantation4, l'eau pr-traite, les effluents doit ensuite tre filtre.
Le traitement domestique des eaux uses se fait par un lit filtrant. Audel d'un certain volume d'eau traiter et conformment la lgislation
en vigueur selon les pays, les industries installent une station de
traitement des eaux dans lequel se dversent la fois les eaux
industrielles et les eaux de sortie des fosses septiques.

Des applications professionnelles de fosse septique proposent un procd

d'puration arobie culture fixes sur textiles permettant un rejet
direct des effluents dans la nature.

Notes et rfrences


Fiche rdige par l'quipe technique du RFEA [archive].

[[pdf]fiche rdige par l'quipe technique du RFEA [archive]
Calona purflo S.A, BP92 49290 Chalonnes-sur-Loire
(en)Site d'information sur la lgislation franaise ddie aux
britanniques. [archive]

Voir aussi