There are approximately one million systems in Ontario. They treat wastewater on properties that are not serviced by a municipal sewer system, if you live in a rural area or a small community, or if you have a cottage or other recreational property, chances are you have a septic system.

It’s simple: a tank, a network of pipes and billions of microscopic organisms. Yet it’s received every flush, every shower, and whatever else you and anyone else who’s lived in your house has ever poured down the drain.

Your septic system treats tonnes of organic waste each season. The tank treats sewage by letting the heavy solid material settle and allowing time for lighter “scum” to float to the top. This partly treated liquid then flows into perforated pipes, called the leaning bed, where it filters into the ground and is further treated. Helpful bacteria and other soil organisms do the bulk of the work.

What happens when a septic system malfunctions?

Plenty. A clogged septic system can be hazardous to the environment and to your pocketbook. It can degrade water supplies and reduce your property value. The required repairs can be messy, often involving excavation and replacement of the whole drainage field. Frequently, the local building Department will require replacement of the entire system and any damaged landscaping.