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Wade A. Tillett Septics & Excavating specializes in septic system installation, maintenance, repair & replacement as well as a variety of other services:


How does a Septic System Work?


A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and drainfield. All water and waste run out of your house from one main drainage pipe into the septic tank. The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete. Its job is to the hold the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom (forming sludge), while the oil and grease float to the top (as scum). Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and going into the drainfield area.


The liquid wastewater then exits the tank and into the drainfield. If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in your toilets and/or sinks. Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful bacteria, viruses and releasing nutrients.



Here is a basic diagram of a conventional system which is used often in Dare and Currituck counties. This system consists of three main parts: the septic tank, the drain field, and the soil beneath the drain field.

Close up of a septic tank layout & basic understanding of how it works.

Your Septic System is designed to accept the maximum anticipated waste usage for your household. Soil types, depth to seasonal water table, slope of the land, and bodies of water, such as streams or lakes are all factored into the equation.


In many cases a conventional drainfield will be permitted, however land with heavy soils, high water tables, flooding conditions, poor drainage or steep slopes limit the suitability of a site for waste water disposal. If these conditions are severe, non-conventional septic systems such as pressurized systems, mounds, or drip irrigation may be required. We work closely with local Health Departments to determine the best suitable system for your application.


What is required before installation?

First, we visit your property to troubleshoot and diagnose the problem and also look for any access issues or landscaping that may interfere with our work. For new installations and replacement systems a permit must be issued from your county Health Department. There is an application fee for the permit which covers sight analysis and a final inspection before the installed system is backfilled. The homeowner can contact the Health Department to apply for the permit or we can take care of the complete permitting process at no additional cost. Finally, we arrange for NC-811 to mark all utility lines so nothing is damaged during installation.


Dare County Health Department Permitting

Currituck County Health Department permitting


Do’s and Don’ts for a Healthy Septic System:


  1. Yearly inspect filter and pump your tank as necessary. We do not pump out septic tanks, but contact us for a referral to a local company.

  2. Use water efficiently: do laundry throughout the week instead of all at once, use flow reducing nozzles in your showers and install water conserving toilets. High water usage will stir up your septic tank, disturbing the settling process and push solids out into the drainage area or prematurely clogging the filter.

  3. Do not dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilet. Do not overuse heavy cleaners, especially those containing bleach. They kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank and harm your system. Never pour hazardous chemicals down the drain.

  4. Properly protect your drain field. Plant grass (and only grass) on the drainfield to minimize soil erosion. The roots from trees and shrubs can cause major damage to your drain field. Do not place small buildings, decks, patios or driveways over any part of your system. Do not drive or park any car or other heavy vehicle over your drain field. We can provide you with an as-built drawing of your system components so you know the exact location.

  5. Design landscape, roof drains, and foundation drains to divert excess water away from the septic system area. A drainfield cannot function properly in saturated soils. 

  6. A septic tank is not a trash can! Avoid flushing cat litter, disposable diapers, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, tampons, paper towels, facial wipes, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, or similar items down the toilet. Some items used excessively (baby wipes, anti-bacterial soap) can kill needed bacteria in your septic tank. Facial wipes can elevate the greases and oil levels in your tank.

  7. Try to use your garbage disposal sparingly and do not food scraps down the disposal if possible. Scrape dishes into garbage, rinse in sink then use disposal.

  8. Do not EVER pour grease down the drain. It most likely will clog your drainfield.

  9. Do not discard medications into sinks or other drains that lead to the septic tank. 

  10. Do not install a sprinkler system or waterline on or within 10 feet of any septic system component.



Warning Signs of a Failing System:


  • Sluggishness when flushing toilet or slow
    draining in sinks

  • Any plumbing backups into household drains

  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing

  • Grass suddenly growing faster and greener in
    one particular area

  • Ground is mushy and saturated

  • Obnoxious odors inside or outside

  • Low spots appearing in yard

More septic system information can be found here: 


In addition to specializing in septic system installation and repairs, we also offer beach pushing service (more information below) as well as various site preparation and land clearing services on a case by case basis. Call us today to chat about your needs!  



Beach pushing (or beach bulldozing) is a common method of oceanfront erosion management that moves beach sand from areas seaward of the first line of natural, stable vegetation to repair storm damage to an existing dune or to create a protective berm for an imminently threatened structure.  We can handle all CAMA permitting for the customer. To avoid impacting nesting sea turtles, beach push work can only occur from November 15 through May 1. 

Beach push in Southern Shores, January 2013.

before & after. 

we are only a phone call away

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