Who owns your septic system? Your city? You as a homeowner? If you said the latter, you are correct.

While septic systems in general are designed for long term, effective treatment of household water waste, if problems arise and you have to replace it, it could cost you thousands of dollars.

A How Septic Systems Work typical septic system has four main parts: a pipe leading from the home, the septic tank, a drain field, and the soil. As wastewater runs away from your home into the drain field, microbes in the soil digest and remove most of the contaminants before it drains back into the groundwater.

The septic tank itself is buried away from your home, and can be identified through drawings filed at your local land office, or by manhole covers. An inspector can also help you locate your septic system. The septic tank is generally made from concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene, and holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle, forming sludge, and oil and grease to float to the surface, also known as scum. Special compartments prevent both sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area.

In order to prevent buildup of scum and sludge, regular inspections and periodic pumping should be performed. It is the best and cheapest way of preventing backups, leading to wider and more costly problems down the road. Choose a reputable inspector with knowledge and experience in working with septic systems, and have your system checked once every 3 to 5 years.