. . . that as a homeowner you're responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank? If properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn't maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.
How It Works ...
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a drain field, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. All of your household wastewater exits your home through a pipe to the septic tank.
Septic Tank The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drain field.
Drain field The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drain field for further treatment by the soil. The partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the drain field for further treatment every time new wastewater enters the tank. If the drain field is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in plumbing fixtures and prevent treatment of all wastewater. A reserve drain field, required by many states, is an area on your property suitable for a new drain field system if your current drain field fails. Treat this area with the same care as your septic system.
Soil Septic tank wastewater flows to the drain field, where it percolates into the soil, which provides final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients. Suitable soil is necessary for successful wastewater treatment.
Why Maintain the Septic System...
When septic systems are properly designed, constructed, and maintained, they effectively reduce or eliminate most human health or environmental threats posed by pollutants in household wastewater. However, they require regular maintenance or they can fail. Septic systems need to be monitored to ensure that they work properly throughout their service lives.
Saving Money A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected regularly (at least every 3 years) is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping (generally every 3 to 5 years), depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property value and could pose a legal liability. Protecting Health and the Environment Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
How To Maintain a Septic System...
You should have your septic system inspected at least every 3 years by a professional and your tank pumped
as recommended by the inspector (generally every 3 to 5 years). Systems with electrical fl oat switches, pumps,
or mechanical components need to be inspected more often. Your service provider should inspect for leaks and
look at the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank. If the bottom of the scum layer is within 6 inches of the
bottom of the outlet tee or the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet tee, your tank needs to be
pumped. Remember to note the sludge and scum levels determined by your service provider in your operation
and maintenance records. This information will help you decide how often pumping is necessary.
Four major factors influence the frequency of pumping: the number of people in your household, the amount of wastewater generated (based on the number of people in the household and the amount of water used), the volume of solids in the wastewater (for example, using a garbage disposal increases the amount of solids), and septic tank size.
In the service report, the pumper should note any repairs completed and whether the tank is in good condition. If the pumper recommends additional repairs he or she can't perform, hire someone to make the repairs as soon as possible
What Can Make It Fail ...
If the amount of wastewater entering the system is more than the system can handle, the wastewater backs up into the house or yard and creates a health hazard. You can suspect a system failure not only when a foul odor is emitted but also when partially treated wastewater flows up to the ground surface. By the time you can smell or see a problem, however, the damage might already be done.
By limiting your water use, you can reduce the amount of wastewater your system must treat. When you have your system inspected and pumped as needed, you reduce the chance of system failure. A system installed in unsuitable soils can also fail. Other failure risks include tanks that are inaccessible for maintenance, drain fields that are paved or parked on, and tree roots or defective components that interfere with the treatment process.
The Top 4 Things You Can Do to Protect Your System...
1. Inspect your system (every 3 years) and pump your tank as necessary (generally every 3 to 5 years). 2. Use water efficiently. 3. Don't dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets. 4. Care for your drain field.