As a professional working in the well and septic industry, you’ve probably seen more than your fair share of septic tank backups. While these situations aren’t fun for anyone involved, they can be especially hard on a homeowner. The enormous repair, cleanup and remediation costs can send even the most stable household budget into a tailspin. Add in the inconvenience, stress and worry about potential health risks, and you start to realize the full extent of damage that septic problems can create. Help set your customers with sewage disposal tanks on the right path with these Keys to a Healthy Septic System.
Prevent Problems Before They Start
Many septic problems are caused by improper use or neglect. The silver lining is that these problems can be prevented with proper use and maintenance. What do we mean by proper use? Well, first and foremost, it means keeping solids that won’t dissolve out of the sewage disposal tank. Adhering to the list below may mean changing some behaviors, but the results will be worth it in the long run.
Ditch the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals add solids, grease and oils that won’t dissolve, causing buildup that will clog the system and negatively affect how the septic system works.
Only flush toilet paper. The no-flush list includes wet wipes, Kleenex, paper towels, tampons, cotton balls, cotton swabs, medications, disposal diapers and dental floss. Even products advertised as flushable may not be suitable for an on-site sewage system. When choosing toilet paper, stick with brands labeled “safe for septic tanks.”
No cleaning solutions. Don’t pour cleaning solutions down the drain or into a toilet connected to a septic system. This includes the water used to mop floors, pipe/drain cleaners and drain deodorizers. Household cleaning products and chemicals will kill the septic system bacteria that break down solids and could damage concrete or fiberglass tanks.
Skip septic tank additives. These products add extra solids to the system and the jury is out on whether they offer any benefits. Some departments of health have banned the use of these additives because they can leach out of the perforated pipes to pollute ground and surface water.
Watch for Warning Signs
While some disasters in life hit without warning, septic problems often come with some red flags. It’s possible to prevent expensive problems down the line by contacting a certified professional if any of the following are observed:
Smelly black liquid in toilets or drains
Toilets that flush or drain slowly
Drains that are running slowly
Wastewater seeping from the absorption field
Greener grass over the septic system
Protect the Drainfield and Tank
To people unfamiliar with using a septic system to treat wastewater, the ground over a septic system may look like the perfect place for extra parking, a new tree or even a garden shed. None of these would be a good idea. Instead, adhere to the following recommendations for drainfield and tank protection:
Don’t drive or park over any part of a septic system
Don’t plant anything but grass near a septic system
Don’t build anything over the drainfield (also known as a leach field)
How often a septic system tank should be pumped depends on the amount of water entering the wastewater treatment system. Additional people in a household will result in higher water usage which will decrease the time between pumping. Most systems will require pumping every 3-5 years. This will clear sludge and scum that floats to the top and the solids that settle to the bottom. Annual system inspections are also recommended to head off minor problems before they become larger. Homeowners should contact a certified On-site System Maintainer (OSM) or plumber who knows how these systems are designed, for regular inspections and keep accurate inspection and septic system maintenance records.
Reduce Water Entering the System
Too much water, in the tank itself or in the drainfield, is a frequent factor in failed septic systems. Using less water and keeping excess water out of the drainfield may increase the lifespan of a septic system. Some water management strategies include:
Repairing leaky faucets and running toilets
Choosing “low flow” fixtures
Only doing laundry when there’s a full load
Not running the washing machine and dishwasher at the same time
Never draining a hot tub or swimming pool into a septic system
Directing water from downspouts away from a drainfield
Going with the Flow
For the best possible outcome, it’s a good idea to share this information with everyone using a septic system. Knowing the difference between what’s flushable and non-flushable is more than half the battle in the fight for a healthy septic system.