Caring for Your Septic System

Caring for Your Septic System

What is a Septic System:

A septic system is a form of wastewater treatment commonly used in areas where connection to a municipal wastewater system is not practical. The system consists of piping, a septic tank, a drain field, and the soil.

The septic tank holds the wastewater long enough for solids to settle into a sludge at the bottom of the tank, while oils and greases float to the top, forming a scum layer. Bacteria in the tank consume a small amount of waste as nutrients.

Tank effluent flows to a drain field where pipes below the surface distribute the wastewater throughout the drain field. The wastewater then percolates through the soil. As the wastewater moves through the soil, some waste products adsorb to soil particles, while microorganisms in the soil ingest other waste products, providing final treatment of the wastewater.

Caring for Your Septic System:

When properly designed and constructed, your septic system can reduce the environmental impacts of household wastewater. But proper system operation requires some routine maintenance and care:
  • Have your septic system inspected. Have your septic system inspected by a qualified professional at least every three years—every year if your system has electrical components—and have the tank pumped when necessary.
  • Pump your septic tank. Pump a septic tank at least every three to five years (recommended) depending on use and sludge depth within the septic tank.
  • Use water efficiently. Excessive flows can overload the septic system, causing wastewater to back up into the house or yard.
    • Use the proper load size when washing clothes and avoid doing all the laundry in one day.
    • Do not empty your hot tub into the septic system.
    • Consider replacing older toilets and inefficient showerheads with more efficient models.
  • Do not flush materials that can clog your septic system. Such as diapers, cat litter, cigarette filters, coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, dental floss, and paper towels.
  • Do not pour toxic chemicals down the drain. Household chemicals, paints, gasoline, and pesticides can harm or kill the bacteria that digest and treat waste.
  • Minimize (or eliminate) your garbage disposal use. Kitchen scraps significantly increase sludge and scum in your septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping. Compost these wastes instead.
  • Dispose of old medicines, such as antibiotics, in the trash. Medicines may kill the bacteria in your septic tank if flushed and result in ground water contamination

Giving Your Septic System More Life

  • Add an effluent filter. An effluent filter, placed in the septic tank outlet baffle or tee, prevents excess solids from flowing to and clogging the drain field.
  • Protect your system’s drain field. Plant only grass on top and never park or drive vehicles on the drain field. Direct roof drains, basement sump pump flows, and other drainage systems away from the drain field.
  • Add a washing machine filter. Washing machine filters trap lint and fibers that may accumulate in the septic tank and drain field. If these fibers discharge to the drain field, they may cause premature failure.
  • Do not flood irrigate over your drain field. Flooding over your drain field can cause it to become too saturated to operate correctly.

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