If your property has a septic system, it is important to understand how it works and what is required to maintain the system in order to maximize its life expectancy. Maintenance is the key to a properly functioning and long lasting septic system. A failed septic system can contaminate local water sources and cause serious public health risks and environmental harm.

How it Works

Septic systems consist of two main parts: the septic tank and the drain field. Waste water enters the septic tank where it needs to sit for at least a day to separate out heavy (sludge) and light solids (scum) from the water. As more water enters the septic tank, it pushes out waste water into the drain field. The drain field provides additional bacteria treatment as the material passes through perforated pipes, into a gravel bed and then into the soil. Overuse of the system, even for a short period of time, can cause water to be released into the drain field without being properly separated in the septic tank. This can contaminate ground water and damage the system by clogging the pipes.

Household soap, grease and garbage disposals are highly detrimental to a septic system.

Importance of Maintenance

Cost – Septic systems are expensive to repair or replace. Lack of maintenance is a primary reason for early failure.

Health and Safety – A failed septic system can release inadequately treated solid waste into natural water sources creating a risk to public health.

Property Value – A failed system can lower property value. In addition, occupational permits might not be approved because of a failed system.

Required Maintenance

Monitoring the functionality of the septic system and conducting maintenance accordingly is your best bet for maintaining a healthy septic system. Following these rules will help prolong the life of your septic system

  • Schedule annual inspections.
  • Develop a septic tank pumping schedule for your tank. Pumping frequency depends on the size of the tank, household water use and the volume of solids. Most tanks are designed for a three or more year pumping cycle.
  • It is a good idea to supervise cleaning to make sure it is done properly.
  • Divert rainwater from the drain field.
  • Check faucets and toilets for leaks. Make repairs if necessary.

Causing Harm to the System

Some actions can cause serious damage to the septic system and can reduce the life expectancy of the system. Properly managing the site of the septic system will also help prolong the system’s life. Following these simple guidelines will help keep your system safe.

  • Flush only easily digested organics and water down the drain. Refrain from flushing items that could be placed in the trash; napkins, cigarette butts, dental floss, feminine products, pharmaceuticals or condoms.
  • Minimize your use of household soaps and chemicals. They can destroy helpful bacteria that assist in the breaking down of solid waste in the system. Small amounts of drain cleaner can kill the needed bacteria and disrupt the system.
  • Experts believe that septic tank additives are unnecessary and provide little to no benefit for a properly managed system.
  • Avoid driving or parking on top of the system.
  • Plant only grasses near or above the drain field and tank
  • Avoid allowing animals to graze on the drain field.