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Septic Tank Maintenance

Homeowners and residents have a great effect on septic system performance. Using more water than the system was designed to handle can cause a failure. Also disposal of chemical or excess organic matter, such as that from a garbage disposal, can destroy a septic system. The following maintenance tips can help your system provide long-term, effective treatment of household waste.

Inspect and Pump Frequently

The most important step to maintaining your septic tank is to remove sludge and scum build-up before it washes into the drain field. How often your tank needs pumping depends on the size of the tank, the number of people in your household, the volume of water used, and amount of solids (from humans, garbage disposals, and any other wastes) entering the system. Generally, tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years.

For more info, see: Septic Inspection and Pumping Guide and Inspecting Your Septic Tank.

Use Water Efficiently

Excessive water is a major cause of system failure. The soil under the septic system must absorb all of the water used in the home. Too much water from laundry, dishwasher, toilets, baths, and showers may not allow enough time for sludge and scum to separate. The less water used, the less water entering the septic system, resulting in less risk of system failure.

For water conservation info, see: Every gallon of water you save, saves you money

Minimize Solid Waste Disposal

What goes down the drain can have a major impact on your septic system. Many materials do not decompose and consequently, build up in your septic tank. If you can dispose of it in some other way, do so, rather than putting it into your system. Use of single ply toilet paper will decomposed twice as fast as two or four ply type of paper. Dyes and or print paper decompose very slowly.

Keep Chemicals Out of Your System

Keep household chemicals out of your septic system, such as caustic drain openers, paints, pesticides, photographic chemicals, brake fluid, gasoline, and motor oil. Improper disposal of toxic chemicals down the drain is harmful to the environment, as well as the bacteria needed to break down wastes in the septic system.

Septic System Additives

Adding a stimulator or an enhancer to a septic tank to help it function or "to restore bacterial balance" is not necessary. The naturally occurring bacteria needed for the septic system to work are already present in human feces. Products like RID or a simple packet of bread yeast flushed down the toilet every 2 – 3 months, depending on the used, will accelerate the decomposing process.

What Can Go Wrong?

Like an automobile, septic systems are designed to provide long-term, effective treatment of household waste when operated and maintained properly. However, most systems that fail prematurely are due to improper maintenance. If you notice any of the following signs or if you suspect your septic system may be having problems, contact a qualified septic professional.

  • Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots, or lush vegetation growth in the drain field area
  • Plumbing or septic tank backups (often a black liquid with a disagreeable odor)
  • Slow draining fixtures
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