Water that flows down any drain in the home is wastewater. This is water that must be cleaned before it is returned to the environment.
If you live where a municipal system is in place, then wastewater will leave your home through a series of pipes below the street. Using gravity, or pumps, the water flows through larger and larger pipes until it reaches a treatment facility to be properly cleaned.
If you do not live in an area where a sewer treatment plant is available, then you may have a private septic system consisting of a large underground tank and absorption field on your property. Wastewater flows out of the house and into the tank, where bacteria work to break down the solids. Liquid wastewater is eventually released into a drain field, a series of perforated pipes that allow the water to be released into the soil. Microorganisms in the soil finish the cleaning process.
When purchasing a home with a septic system, you may want to consider having the system inspected. An inspector will attempt to locate the septic tank, drain field and any well on the property and visually examine accessible parts of the system for evidence of problems. Because much of the system is housed underground, the inspector may also perform a dye test or other tests. During a dye test, the tank is hydraulically loaded. The inspector will then check for evidence of problems. The inspector must recheck the site in 48 hours to look for evidence of dye around the septic tank and drain field. Following the second inspection, a written report and recommendation is provided.
Septic systems should be pumped and serviced periodically by a certified technician to remove solids and help microorganisms clean the wastewater more effectively. Prior to selling the home, you may want to have the system pumped and serviced.