Tips for Using and Maintaining you Septic System

  • Check your system annually for leaks and sludge.
  • Have your septic tank pumped by a licensed pumping contractor.
  • Practice water conservation. Repair leaky faucets and toilets. Spread clothes washing over the entire week, and operate only with a full load of laundry.
  • Learn the location of your septic systems. Make a map and keep it handy.
  • Keep a maintenance record.
  • As you use your septic system, sludge will accumulate in the tank. Properly designed tanks have enough space for up to three years of safe accumulation. Once the sludge has reached this level, the separation of solids and scum no longer takes place, and sewage may overflow into the absorption area causing leach field failure. Leach Fields cannot be repaired. They must be replaced and this is very costly. This can be prevented by periodically pumping the accumulated sludge.
  • Do not put substances such as motor oil, gasoline, paints, thinners, and pesticides in drains. These materials may pollute the groundwater and are toxic to the microorganisms that maintain an active septic system. Moderate use of household cleaners, disinfectants, detergents, or bleaches will do little harm to the system, but remember that where there is a high density of septic systems there may be a cumulative impact on groundwater from household cleaners. Fats, grease, coffee grounds, paper towels, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, and other such items will clog your septic system.
  • Keep automobiles and heavy equipment off the absorption field. Grass cover and shallow-rooted plants are beneficial over the absorption field, but the deep roots of trees and shrubs stress and may plug nearby drain tiles. Do not fertilize the soil above the drain field. Grass on the surface of an absorption field should be mowed regularly to promote evaporation and removal of water through the leaves. This helps prevent water from unnecessarily infiltrating the soil above the absorption field.
  • Remember to consider the capacity of your septic system when installing new appliances or plumbing. Limit the water entering the tank. Use water-saving fixtures. Repair toilet float valves, leaks, and dripping faucets.
  • Yeasts, bacteria, enzymes, and chemicals are sold with the claim of helping septic systems work better; however, there is no scientific evidence that additives are effective. In fact, some cleaners allow the solids in an overloaded tank to be re-suspended and clog the drainage lines. Additives are not an alternative to proper maintenance and do not eliminate the need for routine pumping of a septic tank. Commercial biological additives are not necessary for restarting decomposition after pumping because the sludge residue contains active microorganisms.
  • Learn how to recognize problems with septic systems. For example, unusually lush and green grass over your drain field may indicate trouble. Also, pay attention to slow-draining toilets or drains, sewage odors, or sewage backing up into the house or over the drain field.

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— Matt M., Felton, CA

 

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