SEPTIC TANK CARE
The Septic Tank
Many types of containers have been used as septic tanks over the years, and many older ones are no longer safe or effective. Systems installed prior to the 1970s may suffer from corrosion, and lids have been known to collapse on these older tanks.
To protect the system, your property and your health, septic systems need regular maintenance. Even if you plan to have a professional come inspect and clean your tank, it’s a good idea for you to know where all the components of the system are located on your property.
A technical diagram of your septic system as built should be available at your local health department. This record drawing can tell you what type of system you have, where the components are located on your property, and other useful information.
A word of warning, though. Record drawings are not always accurate, so make sure you verify it's correct. If you need to have your system located, be sure you know the location of your septic tank, (pump or tank sand filter distribution box, that applies) and your drain field.
Caring for Your System Every Day
Believe it or not, one of the worst household offenders is the garbage disposal. Food processed into fine particles can clog pumps or even drain field pipes and soil. Use your disposal sparingly, and consider composting food trash instead.
Laundry also has a big impact on your system, so space out your laundry loads to allow your septic tank to settle properly. Water that flows too rapidly through the system can prevent solids from separating, and they can then move on to more sensitive parts of the system. And do make sure you have an outlet baffle screen installed to help protect the drain field.
You’ll want to limit the use of bleach, too, because bleach kills the helpful microbes which treat the wastewater. Liquid fabric softener is also known to seriously alter the chemistry within the septic tank, hindering proper wastewater treatment.
Other Helpful Practices
- Although it is an initial cash outlay, installing high-efficiency washers and toilets can increase the life of your septic system and save you money on repairs and replacement.
- Keep garbage and feminine products and wipes out of your toilet (yes, even the flushable ones).
- Flushable kitty litter and any kind of pet waste should never go into your septic. Try to use septic-safe cleaning products around them, preferably ones with everyday ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
- Never put paint thinners or strong chemicals of any kind down your drains. Most areas have disposal services for dangerous or toxic material. Hot tubs and water softeners can also harm your septic system.Try to return all unused medicines to a local drug take-back program. If you don’t have one, bag up you meds and dispose of them in the garbage.
- Treat your septic system carefully, and you probably won't need to spend money on special septic system cleaners. Your annual maintenance check-up should suffice.
Be Sure to Protect Your Drainfield
It's critical to protect your drainfield, so be sure it’s in a reserved area of the property, away from motor vehicle parking, heavy loads and livestock areas. Never use heavy fertilizer or weed killer on your drain field, and be sure not to build anything over it, either.
You can also protect your drainfield by diverting surface or roof water runoff away from it, and covering the area with shallow root plants. A local nursery, extension office, or Health Department can provide more information about what's safe to plant over septic systems. Trees planted too close to a septic drainfield may well send roots down into the moist soil, and start filling the drain pipes in the process.
And just like the septic tank itself, the drainfield requires routine inspection and maintenance. Gravity systems require maintenance every three years, while all other systems need an annual inspection and maintenance. Be sure to hire only a licensed pumper. They should pump out the entire contents of the tank, then inspect for leaks and verify that everything's working well.
Keep in mind that pumping your tank is not the same as having a certified system inspection.
How Often Should You Pump Your System’s Tank?
That’s going to depends on the size of your tank, number of people in your home, and your water use. Three years is considered a reasonable maximum, but there are many types of potential repairs that may be needed to keep your system operating. These might include replacing broken baffles, repairing broken transport lines, balancing your D box, replacing pumps and others. So an annual inspection is probably going to keep your system safely in check.
When repairs are not performed in a timely manner, the system may, in fact, fail. Failure symptoms might be sewage surfacing over the tank. or a slow or squishy drainfield. You may even find rain water or sewage backing up into the home. To avoid health issues and to protect your home and land, call a professional immediately if it appears your system is failing.
If you correct small problems as they arise, you prevent the larger and more costly problems that come with system neglect. The USDA has some financial aid available, and your health department may be able to direct you to other financial resources available to you.
Need an inspection or pump-out in a hurry ? Call us at 417-326-4330.