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Soil Science Society of America
5585 Guilford Road • Madison, WI 53711-5801 • 608-273-8080 • Fax 608-273-2021
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NEWS RELEASE
Contact: Susan V. Fisk, Public Relations Director, 608-273-8091, sfisk@sciencesocieties.org

How do septic systems work?

Understanding soils’ vital role in dirty work

Nov. 2, 2017 – Septic systems work 24/7 to process waste. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) November 1 Soils Matter blog explains how septic systems use soil’s underground resources to treat wastewater.

Cartoon of septic tank and field“Septic systems function because of soil, our greatest national resource,” says Jake Mowrer of Texas A&M University. “Soils have an amazing capacity to assimilate and transform organic matter, nutrients, and pathogenic bacteria.”

Rural septic systems consist of a holding tank and porous pipes that lead out to a drain field. Here, soil microorganisms work hard. These organisms include:

  • heterotrophs to break down organic molecules;
  • nitrifiers to convert ammonia to nitrate;
  • denitrifiers to convert nitrate to atmospheric nitrogen (N2 gas); and
  • general predators to consume the coli and other pathogens that cause human and animal diseases.

The end result is the transformation of wastewater into safe water in the environment.

“Soil performs crucial functions for us 24/7 without credit or complaint, even as we kick it about and treat it like dirt,” Mowrer says.

To read the entire blog post, visit https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/how-do-septic-systems-work/.

Follow SSSA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSA.soils, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on www.soils.org/discover-soils, for teachers at www.soils4teachers.org, and for students through 12th grade, www.soils4kids.org.

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

SSSA supports its members by providing quality research-based publications, educational programs, certifications, and science policy initiatives via a Washington, DC, office. Founded in 1936, SSSA proudly celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2011. For more information, visit www.soils.org or follow @SSSA_soils on Twitter.