Caring for a Conventional Septic System

If you live in a rural area you probably have a septic system instead of a sewer connection. These systems are designed to have a useful life of 20 to 30 years if properly cared for. Proper operation and maintenance is not difficult but it is key in protecting your health, property value and water resources.

Learn the location of your septic tank and absorption field. Keep a sketch of it handy for service visits and keep a record of pumping, inspections and other maintenance.

Inspect and pump out the septic tank on a regular basis. The frequency depends on the size of the tank and the amount of wastewater generated in the household. Typically, pumping every 3 to 4 years is sufficient.

Practice water conservation. The more wastewater your household produces, the more the soil must treat and dispose.
For water conservation tips, click here.

Water runoff from roofs, driveways or patios should be diverted from septic systems and the soil over your system should be slightly mounded to help surface water flow away.

Keep traffic such as vehicles, heavy equipment or livestock off your drainfield. The pressure can damage the pipes or compact the soil, limiting its ability to properly absorb.

Don't plant trees or shrubbery in the absorption field area. The roots will get into the lines, plugging them up. Planting grass is acceptable and will help to prevent soil erosion.

Never flush harmful materials into the septic tank. Grease, paper towels, coffee grounds and filters, cigarettes and sanitary products cannot easily decompose in the tank.

Chemicals such as bleach, oils, pesticides and caustic drain openers can destroy the biological digestion necessary for the system to work properly and introducing harmful chemicals may pollute the groundwater. Septic tank additives do not improve the performance of the septic tank nor do they reduce the need for pumping.

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