Understanding Your Septic System & Septic Tank Layers

There are three layers that make up the wastewater in your septic tank: sludge, effluent, and scum. When each of these wastewater layers is balanced, your septic system will operate properly. As a homeowner, you should learn to recognize the signs of when the sludge layer has become too full and identify when your septic tank needs to be pumped out.

What Are The Three Layers of Wastewater?

  1. Scum – The top layer of the septic system is made up of scum. This comes from things like soap byproducts and cooking oils which go to the top of the wastewater tank.
  2. Effluent – The middle layer of the septic tank is called effluent, or wastewater that remains after the scum has risen to the top of the tank and sludge sinks to the bottom of the tank. It may have small pieces of waste products in it. When your septic system is working correctly, the effluent/water is discharged into the drain field from the tank
  3. Sludge – The bottom layer of your septic system is made up of a material called sludge. Sludge is comprised of byproducts of the decomposition of other wastes that are dealt with by your septic tank. Heavy materials that sink to the bottom of the septic tank also become part of the sludge.

To keep your septic system in good working order you must pump the sludge out of your tank routinely. Learn more about how often you need to pump your septic tank.

Homeowners in Pike County, PA, including Delaware Township and the suburbs of Northeast Pennsylvania can contact the Septic Medic team online or call 570-828-7444 to schedule routine septic maintenance or a routine tank pumping.


 Septic Emergency? Contact us immediately at 570-828-7444

Septic Medic Services: