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What is a Septic System?
A cesspool is a home's waste disposal method, when the home is not connected to a municipal sewage system. The waste from sinks, dishwashers, clothes washers and toilets is sent to the cesspool or septic system. Depending on the age of your home, septic systems on Long Island usually consist of a primary receiver (septic tank) or main cesspool and a drainage area (overflow cesspool). The system consists of a main waste receptacle (either a septic tank or main cesspool) for catching large sediment, and typically connects to an overflow cesspool to catch all the waste water. According to an environmental group, the Woodstock Conservation Commission, homeowners should have their septic system or cesspool cleaned every two years.

How Do Cesspools and Septic Systems Work?
Wastewater leaves your home through a pipeline called the mainline, then enters the septic tank or main cesspool. The septic tank or main cesspool holds the waste for primary treatment where solids and liquids are separated by gravity. The heavy digested solids form a layer called "sludge" that accumulates at the bottom of the tank. The lighter materials, form a "scum" layer that floats to the top of the tank. Natural bacteria generated by the solid waste partially decomposes the waste in the cesspool and septic tank and reduces the amount of solid material by as much as 60 percent. The septic tank, only one part of your system, is designed to remove solids from your wastewater as shown, prior to the wastewater entering the cesspool (drainage area). Solids and sludge should be pumped from the tank every 2 years by a licensed septic contractor. This service frequency will prevent solid material overloading the septic tank and more importantly from entering and clogging the cesspool. Homeowners who routinely maintain the cesspool/septic tank will avoid costly repairs to the cesspool drainage area commonly referred to as the overflow.

Why do Septic Systems Fail?
It is important to understand how your system works in order to properly diagnose problems. Generally, systems fail due to lack of maintenance. When a septic tank or cesspool is not pumped regularly, it will become overloaded with solid waste. This solid waste can prevent proper flow through the tank and allow solid waste to enter the cesspool. Solid waste entering the cesspool or septic tank will clog the surrounding soil, preventing proper drainage. This will cause the system to overfill leading to the possibility of waste backing up into the household.

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