The disposal of waste is a necessity in modern society. Diseases would be prevalent without sewer and septic systems, and the environment would be irreversibly contaminated. In addition to providing drinking water to a home, plumbing systems facilitate the removal of waste. Homeowners and business owners have different septic system options depending on the size of the property and the number of people the home or business will be serving. All of these systems work differently, but they all have the same goal: to break down organic waste that is flushed down pipes and into septic tanks safely, affordably and effectively.
On This Page: Difference Between A Community And A Cluster Septic System, When is a Community or Cluster System Recommended?, Can You Use A Community System for Commercial Buildings?, Maintenance Needs
All septic systems work on the same principle of decomposing organic waste after it passes through the pipes of a home or building and into the septic tank. It is important to note that all septic systems are not simply buried septic tanks –– septic systems consist of two main components: the septic tank and the drain field.
A septic tank is a tank used to collect wastewater from a residence. These are watertight tanks that are connected to the home and the drain field through inlet and outlet pipes. During the breakdown of fluids and solids in the septic tank, three layers are formed. Solids and heavy sediment fall to the bottom of the tank and create sludge, while clarified wastewater is found in the middle, and oils and grease are found on the top layer. Septic systems remove harmful bacteria through natural processes and discharge the clarified wastewater underground.
One type of septic system that is not often talked about is a community septic system. Otherwise known as cluster septic systems, many do not realize that septic systems are not just for single-family homes. Community septic systems are a type of septic system that can be used for decades if installed and maintained properly. More often than not, cluster septic systems are used to treat wastewater coming from multiple sources that lie outside the reach of town or city sewer systems.
Many believe that community septic systems and cluster septic systems are two separate types of septic systems. However, these two terms can be used interchangeably to describe one type of septic system.
Commonly, community or cluster septic systems are used in rural subdivisions –– essentially, when a subdivision or group of homes is too far away from the city’s local sewer connections. In order to treat the wastewater that comes from the homes in the community or cluster of homes, each home has its own septic tank, but all the wastewater comes together and is dispersed underground into a mass drain field. This means that, unlike traditional single-family home septic systems, each home within the community only has a septic tank, and in a secluded area of the community is usually where the mass drain field is located.
When there is a community septic system, there are pipes and pumps that run throughout the neighborhood which carry the wastewater to the drain field., and will also clean water that comes from a community well. These types of systems are comparable to single-home septic systems; however, cluster septic systems reduce maintenance costs that single-family septic system owners would have to pay to maintain their own system. Although, these costs may be offset by the community fees.
Before the creation of community or cluster septic systems, rural communities did not have group septic systems. Homeowners had to rely on their own individual septic systems and had to pay for the cost of maintaining, repairing and replacing them. However, with the creation of community septic systems, those who live in communities too far away from the local sewer connection can utilize cluster septic systems to treat the wastewater coming from the homes. Community and cluster septic systems are highly recommended when HOA or county regulations do not prohibit them. The design of a residence is more flexible when individual drain fields are not a requirement for each lot. There must be due care taken Care must be taken to maintain drain fields when they are located in a community or cluster of homes, driveways or parking lots as they cannot be placed above the drain field. There is a possibility of soil compaction, clogging or even crushing due to the weight and pressure of the vehicles. In contrast, builders and homeowners have more choices when it comes to driveways, garage entrances and the orientation of the home on the property with a community or cluster septic system. A home without an on-site septic system provides the homeowner with a greater amount of space for the construction of a pool, shed, mother-in-law suite or anything else a homeowner wishes. In some cases, the treated wastewater may be used for irrigation purposes, such as watering lawns, gardens, or agricultural fields. To use a community septic system for irrigation water, the treated wastewater must meet certain quality standards to ensure that it is safe for use on plants and does not pose a risk to human health or the environment. It is important that the treated wastewater is approved by your governing body for irrigation and laws and standards in your own area should be consulted before you set up a system like this.
Typically, community or cluster septic systems have too many components and are meant for a much greater scale than a farm or business with additional buildings. When business owners need a septic system for multiple buildings, they should choose a large-capacity septic system. Large-capacity septic systems are better suited to serve businesses or farms with multiple buildings or over 20 people per day.
Due to each home within a rural community having its own septic tank and pump, it is recommended that each septic tank be maintained at least once a year. However, due to the mass drain field handling multiple households’ worth of wastewater, it should be inspected and maintained more often.