We’ve all heard nightmare stories about smelly, messy, and costly home waste backups, all because a critical component of household operations — the septic system maintenance— was overlooked. Don’t want this to happen to you? Use these helpful tips from Infiltrator Water Technologies to maintain a healthy septic system.
Septic System Basics
According to the US EPA website, one in five households in the United States use a septic system onsite to process household waste consisting of blackwater (toilet waste) and greywater (kitchen and laundry waste). The septic system naturally treats and purifies this wastewater and returns it safely to the environment to recharge groundwater supplies. Sometimes, it’s even incorporated into a reuse system for irrigation, saving even more money for the savvy homeowner. Today’s septic systems are safe, efficient, and cost effective. They can be basic or they can be designed with special features and components for homes with high water use or those in environmentally sensitive areas.
What Makes Up A Septic System?
Each septic system has two basic components: A septic tank and a leachfield (sometimes called a drainfield). Wastewater travels from the home through the waste pipe and into the septic tank. Primary wastewater treatment occurs in this tank where bacteria digests organic materials in the wastewater. The effluent then flows into the leachfield for secondary treatment. Here, bacteria complete the digestion and purification process as the wastewater slowly leaches back into the soil.
Why Do I Need To Know This?
A septic system may be out of sight, but septic system maintenance definitely should not be out of mind. Just as you need to have your furnace serviced and keep the oil changed in your car, proper septic system maintenance and awareness of your daily living habits and your system’s operation will improve the life and health of your system, protecting your home investment and your family.
How Do I Operate a Healthy Septic System?
Conserve water. Large volumes of water entering the system over a short period of time will flush untreated solids out of the tank before this pretreatment process is complete.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth
- Spread out heavy water use such as washing clothes and showers
- Repair leaky faucets
- Replace old toilets with new low flow or dual flush models
Keep drains clean. If it’s not biodegradable, it doesn’t belong in the system.
- No cat litter, coffee grounds, cotton swabs, diapers, cigarettes, or sanitary products
- No paints, oils, chemical drain cleaners, solvents, poisons or pesticides
- No grease or cooking oils
- Go easy with the garbage disposal
- Reduce use of disinfectants, antibacterial soaps, commercial cleaning products and bleach.
Schedule Regular Septic System Maintenance. Most septic tanks need pumping every three to five years. High water usage may result in the need for more frequent service.
- Hire a septic system contractor to inspect your tank
- Keep a regular maintenance schedule and record
Keep surface water away.
- Divert water from downspouts, roofs, driveways, and sump pumps away
- Landscape your yard to channel rainwater away from your septic system
- Do not install sprinkler systems over the drainfield
Encourage the right plants.
- Grow grass or ground cover over the septic system to prevent soil erosion
- Plant beneficial evergreens, such as pines, near the leachfield to absorb water
- Avoid planting water-loving trees such as willow, poplar, swamp maple, or cypress
Avoid physical damage.
- Don’t drive over your septic system
- Don’t dig in the leachfield, or cover it with a structure, concrete or blacktop
Suspect you have a problem? Contact a professional septic contractor for help. Should a repair or replacement be necessary, review your options carefully. Ask about the options for advanced and environmentally superior technologies for your septic system.
Photo courtesy of Infiltrator Water Technologies.