Maintaining Your System
Sound operation and maintenance practices include water conservation, keeping harmful substances out of the system, and having the system inspected and pumped on a regular basis. Pumping the septic tank regularly is the single most important practice that can protect your system. The solids that settle out in the tank should be removed every 2 to 3 years depending on water usage and the amount of inorganic materials entering the system. When not removed in a timely manner, overflowing solids from the tank accumulate in the drain field clogging the soil and backing up the system. This damages the drain field and may require construction of a new drain field in a different location on the property. When the drain field is clogged with solids, pumping the tank does not rejuvenate the drain field. It provides only a few days of relief until the tank fills again and delivers wastewater to the drain field. Some clogging of soil pores occurs quite slowly even in a properly maintained system, but this should not cause system failure for 20 years or longer.
Do's and Don'ts
- Have your septic tank pumped out by a licensed operator every 2 to 3 years. (more often if you use a garbage disposal)
- Have the operator check to be sure there is a tee or baffle in place on the outlet of the septic tank. The baffle or tee stops the scum layer from entering the drain field.
- Check with a licensed engineer if you are having problems. They can assist you with
- operation, maintenance and design questions.
- Learn the location of your septic tank, drain field and well. Keep a sketch of it along with your septic maintenance records for service visits.
- Divert sources of clean water, like downspouts from roof drains, house footing perimeter drains and sump pumps away from your systems drain field area. Excessive water floods the system, flushing the tank too quickly before the bacteria can break down solids and saturating the drain field rendering it ineffective. Also limit the amount of water entering your system by using water-saving faucets, showers and toilets.
- Take leftover household chemicals to an approved collection center for disposal. Use bleach disinfectants, and toilet bowl cleaners sparingly and in accordance with product labels.
- Don’t allow heavy vehicles to drive over or park on the drain field.
- Don’t plant trees of shrubs on the drain field. The roots from the plants could damage the system.
- Don’t cover the drain field with a hard surface such as concrete, asphalt, decks or above ground pools. The area should have a grass cover.
- Don’t overuse kitchen garbage disposal units. Use of garbage disposals is not recommended with a septic system. This type of waste can be disposed of by discarding in your trash or placing it in a compost pile, (with the exception of spoiled food and meat). Households with garbage disposal units produce about double the solids as those without. If you must keep your garbage disposal, it is very important to pump your septic tank more often.
- Don’t use your toilet like a trash can or poison your septic system and groundwater by pouring harmful chemicals and cleaners down the drain. Harsh chemicals can kill the beneficial bacteria in your system that treats the wastewater.
- Don’t ever go down into a septic tank. Toxic gases are produced by the natural treatment process in septic tanks and can kill humans. Extreme care should be taken when inspecting a septic tank, even when just looking in the lid opening.
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