Owning a septic system can be a new experience for many homeowners. Here are the ins and outs of owning a septic system on Cape Cod including helpful information and links.
Put simply it is an engineered system that, along with your modern plumbing, safely removes waste water from the home. In their simplest form these systems include a tank which captures solids and a leaching field (called a drainfield in this diagram by the EPA) wherein the liquid waste is distributed over a large area and allowed to percolate back into the ground, thereby removing pathogens.
Septic Systems on Cape Cod
Living on Cape Cod so close to the water is wonderful but, from your septic system's perspective, can come with a few downsides. If you live in an area close to groundwater you may have or need an 'above grade' septic system (what the EPA shows here as a 'mound' system). These are visible throughout the Cape in low-lying areas and resemble hills, mounds or, short concrete retaining walls. Believe it or not what you are seeing is often not the tank that holds solids (which is water tight) but the leaching field that has been raised a minimum distance from the aquifer. In these systems an electric pump is used to pump water uphill so it can be drained through the sand filter in the leaching field.
Luckily modern septic systems are low maintenance. Once every three years (for average use and if you don't have a garbage disposal) your system should be pumped out. This recommendation can change though as seasonal home use can affect the helpful bacteria that breakdown much of the solid material in your tank. In this case more or less frequent pumping may be required. Always choose a licensed septic pumper, a list of which can be found at many municipal health departments. For more information on caring for your septic system here is a useful article from the MA DEP and another from the EPA.