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Maintain Your Septic System to Keep it Healthy
Have your septic tank pumped regularly; how often it should be pumped depends on a number of factors including the size of the tank, the number of people in your home, your lifestyle, or whether you use a garbage disposal. Aqua Resources will come to your home, assess your needs, and put a plan together to maintain your system. Most septic tanks need to be pumped every two or three years, while others might require it annually.
Make sure that your septic tank is pumped only through the manhole access opening and not the 4-inch above-ground pipe. The pipe should be used for snaking the line in the event of a clog, but will not allow enough room for the technician to perform a thorough cleaning of the entire septic tank.
While you should never attempt to open the tank yourself, as bacteria and gases that build up can be dangerous, you can periodically walk around your drain field/absorption area and inspect for surface breakout conditions, excessive saturation or sewage odors.
Consider installing a filter on the washing machine discharge line to remove lint and keep it out of your septic tank—just remember to clean the filter regularly.
Plant only grass over and around your septic system as roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drain field. Most trees should be planted at least 100 feet from your system, while those with aggressive roots, such as willows, should be planted even further away. Make sure grass or other vegetative growth over your drain field/absorption area is trimmed regularly to prevent soil erosion.
Become Familiar With Your Septic System
If not obvious or already well marked, take the time to identify the location of each component within your septic system so you can access it during the winter months should you need servicing then. It’s a good idea to make a sketch of the septic system and keep it handy for service visits. Also, mark the location of the pump-out access cover if it’s below grade. If the cover is more than 12 inches below grade, a riser should be installed for easier access. Be sure to keep records of pumping, maintenance, repairs, inspections, permits issued, and other system maintenance activities.
Routinely Conserve Water
Using too much water puts a strain on your septic system, so it’s important to conserve water use whenever possible. There are many ways to do this that require small changes in behavior—and while adopting one or two of them alone might have an insignificant impact, when used in combination and over time, the differences really do add up!
- Periodically check all faucets for leaks, and make repairs as necessary.
- Do the same with your toilet flush valve (flapper) to be sure water is not running continuously.
- Use high efficiency plumbing fixtures.
- Upgrade your old, inefficient appliances to water conserving models.
- Rather than doing all of your laundry in a single day, break it up over a period of several days to avoid overburdening your septic system with high volume flows all in one day.
- If your washing machine does not do so automatically, choose reduced water levels for small loads of laundry.
- Wait until your dishwasher is full before running it.
- Use a displacer on your toilet to reduce the amount of water needed to flush.
- Use a water efficient showerhead.
Minimize or Eliminate Garbage Disposal Use
Some areas have ordinances that do not permit the use of garbage disposals for properties with a septic system. Check with your local regulatory agency before installing a garbage disposal unit to make sure that your septic system can handle this additional waste. Garbage disposals definitely put an additional strain on your septic system, and some estimate the use of one can more than double the amount of solids entering your tank. If you do have a garbage disposal, choose a high quality model that grinds food into tiny particles, and dispose of especially large amounts of food/garbage in the trash.
Flush Items Other than Waste or Toilet Tissue
Never flush semi or non-biodegradable items into your toilet including coffee grounds, cooking fats, paper towels, wet-strength towels, sanitary wipes, facial tissues, cigarette butts, newspapers, writing paper, rags, disposable diapers, baby wipes, cat litter, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, or condoms. These items will very quickly clog your septic tank.
Flushing large amounts of chlorine bleach or lye products can harm the bacteria necessary to break down solids in your septic tank; however, normal household use of these products is fine. Other chemicals such as paint thinners, degreasers, automotive antifreeze or used motor oil can have a similar disruptive impact.
Don’t use sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide (drain cleaners) to unclog drains. These chemicals will affect the ability for solids to settle properly and cause the sludge to flow into the absorption area. Instead, use boiling water, a drain snake or compressed air devices to loosen clogged piping.
Unused or expired medicines, especially antibiotics or chemotherapy medication, should be properly disposed of according to medical guidelines, and should never be flushed down your toilet.
Compromise Your Drainfield
Never drive or park vehicles, four-wheelers, or construction equipment over septic tanks and drain fields/absorption areas. Never position heavy objects, like a portable swimming pool, in this area either. Doing so can compact the soil in your drain field (making water absorption difficult) or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components.
Avoid building anything above or over the absorption area with a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt.
Introduce Additives to Your System
Avoid using chlorine type tablets or dispensers in your toilet tank or bowl.
Don’t try home remedies such as ‘yeast,’ dead animals, hydrogen peroxide, or beer to aid in your septic system’s performance. These items are not only unproven as septic tank treatments, they might cause additional problems.
Just like home remedies, commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping, and can be harmful to your system.