I recently wrote about Understanding Title V in my blog. Today, let’s talk about caring for your septic system. Septic systems must be maintained regularly to stay working. Any type of neglect or abuse can cause harm to you and others as well as to the environment. Here are some simple maintenance guidelines to follow.
DO have your tank pumped out and system inspected every 3 to 5 years by a licensed septic contractor. If the tank fills up with an excess of solids, the wastewater will not have enough time to settle in the tank. The excess solids can then pass into the leach field and clog you drain. You can find one listed in the yellow pages under Septic Tanks & Systems-cleaning.
DO keep a record of pumping, inspections, and other maintenance. Use a file folder to hold all records and receipts of maintenance.
DO know the location of your septic system and drain field. Keep a sketch of it handy for service visits.
DO practice water conservation. Repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets, run washing machines and dishwashers only when full, avoid long showers, and use water-saving features in faucets, shower heads and toilets.
DO divert roof drains and surface water from driveways and hillsides away from the septic system. Keep sump pumps and house footing drains away from the septic system as well.
DO take leftover hazardous household chemicals to your approved hazardous waste collection center for disposal. Use bleach, disinfectants, and drain and toilet bowl cleaners sparingly and in accordance with product labels.
DO use only septic system additives that have been allowed for usage in Massachusetts by MassDEP. http://www.mass.gov/dep/water/wastewater/addallwd.htm
DON’T perform excessive laundry loads with your washing machine. Doing load after load does not allow your septic tank time to adequately treat wastes and overwhelms the entire system with excess waste water. Consult a tank professional to determine how many loads of laundry you can do in a row to keep your tank operating properly.
DON’T use a garbage grinder/disposal, which feeds into the septic tank. By adding food waste, you decrease your system’s capacity and increase your need to have the tank pumped more often. If you have a garbage disposal severely limit its use.
DON’T allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system. The area over the drainfield should be left undisturbed with only a mowed grass cover
DON’T make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining the required health department permit. Use professional licensed contractors when needed.
DON’T use commercial septic tank additives. These products do not help and some may hurt your system in the long run.
DON’T use your toilet as a trash can by dumping non-biodegradables down your toilet or drains. Non-biodegradables can clog the pipes. Grease can also thicken and clog the pipes. Store cooking oils, fats, and grease in a can for disposal in the garbage.
NON-BIODEGRADABLES include: grease, disposable diapers, plastics, etc.
DON’T poison your septic system and the groundwater by pouring harmful chemicals down the drain. They can kill the beneficial bacteria that treat your wastewater. Keep the following materials out of your system:
POISONS include: gasoline, oil, paint, paint thinner, pesticides, antifreeze, etc.
And be alert to these warning signs of a failing system:
- sewage surfacing over the drainfield (especially after storms)
- sewage back-ups in the house
- lush, green growth over the drainfield
- slow draining toilets or drains
- sewage odors