From the EPA’s “A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems” :
“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.”
Here are some suggestions to help keep your system in proper working order:
- Periodic tank pumping is required to maintain a healthy system. Based on a family of four we recommend that a 500 gallon tank be pumped every two years, a 1000 gallon single compartment tank be pumped every three years, and a 1000 gallon two compartment tank be pumped every two or three years.
- Any home with a garbage disposal should be pumped every year. Garbage disposals are actually not intended for use with a septic system. Besides an excessive use of water, garbage disposals increase the amount of sludge and scum, requiring the more frequent pumping. The excess organic material can also clog or inhibit the leach process, possibly causing the system to fail.
- When you have your tank pumped, have the service technician check the rear and front baffles. Older septic tanks can be upgraded to improve the leaching of liquid waste (effluent) by replacing the rear baffle with a gas deflection baffle or filtered baffle.
- Install septic tank access covers (risers) to ground level or within 12 inches of the ground to facilitate future maintenance.
- Keep a map with the measurements and location of your septic tank near the outgoing pipe in your basement.
And finally some steps to prolong the life of your system and reduce water consumption:
- Click here for a diagram of the typical household’s water usage
- Fix all faucets and toilet leaks.
- Use water saving fixtures on sinks, showers and toilets.
- If you are installing a new toilet, get a low volume, air assisted model.
- Turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, etc.
- Wait until the dishwasher is full before starting.
- Space out laundry loads. One load per day is better than five.
- If you’re buying a new washer, get a front load model, as it only uses half as much water as a top load model.
- Do not dump any toxic products down the drain (pesticides, disinfectants, medicines, acids, bleach, paint or paint thinner).
- Do not dump any cooking oils, shortening, chicken fat, bacon grease, or any other oils or fats. They are slow to break down and clog pores of the soil, decreasing the leaching ability.
- The only paper product to go into the system is toilet tissue. Even if a product is advertised as flushable, that only means the toilet has the ability to flush it, not that it is safe for septic systems.
- Do not run over your septic tank with any vehicles.
- Do not treat your system with any chemicals, enzymes, or bacteria additives. These products may allow percolation and the solids may become re-suspended, which will accelerate the clogging of lines a leach fields.