Basics of Septic System Maintenance

Good solid maintenance, along with reasonable moderate use, and common sense are of major importance to manage and maintain most septic systems. While your septic system won’t last forever, you can prolong its life by conserving water and having your septic tank(s) routinely cleaned.

Pump your septic tank regularly. The frequency of pumping the tank or tanks is based on how many people live in the house, usage, capacity and age for each specific system. Generally, do not allow more than 2 years for a family of 4 to go by without pumping the tank to keep the accumulation of solids and sludge to a minimum, preventing them from flowing to the absorption area. If the tank is not pumped routinely, the system will fail due to the increased percentage of solids and scum that have clogged the soil.

Always pump the tank through the large central manhole, not the baffle ports. This minimizes the risk of harm to the baffles and maximizes the ability to properly clean the solids from the tank. Baffles should be checked at this time and if they are missing or damaged they should be replaced as soon as possible. An extension, or riser, can be installed on the manhole to make it more accessible for pumping. State regulations require that the manhole cover be no deeper than 12 inches below grade.

Do not pour grease, fats, or oils from cooking down the drain and do not use the sinks to dispose of food scraps, eggshells or coffee grounds. Grease can cause serious and costly problems for your septic system. Garbage disposals are usually not recommended for septic systems due to the potential for significant additional solids, fats, greases and oils being added to the system. When disposals are present use them minimally. DO NOT dispose of petroleum related products, paints of any type, cigarette butts, cat litter and feminine products of any type down the drains. A septic tank is not a trashcan. NEVER put harmful products or objects into your system ~ read product labels carefully to make sure they are safe for your septic system. Chlorine and bleach products should be used sparingly.

Monitor your water consumption. Even if your tank(s) are properly cleaned routinely, you can still cause failure by hydraulically overloading it by using more water than your system was designed to handle or can handle. A septic system is designed, when it is installed, to handle a certain daily water usage based on the number of occupants proposed to be living in the home. Think water conservation! Average water usage: shower: 2.5 gallons per minute, toilet: 2 gallons per flush (for toilets bought in the last 20 years), washing machine: 40 gallons per load, dishwasher: 10 gallons. Front loading washers use 1/3 less water than top loading units. Large flows such as laundry should be spaced out across the week (no more than 2 loads per day is recommended), rather than running 5 or 6 loads on a single day. Only use the clothes washer and dishwasher when you have a full load. Always promptly repair leaky fixtures, faucets and toilets. A running toilet can add as much as 200 gallons per day of flows to a septic system. Water treatment equipment / softeners should also be kept in check to minimize the number of backwash cycles per week to the least necessary to sufficiently treat the water conditions. Large whirlpool tubs should also be used with moderation since some tubs can hold close to the equivalent of an entire family's daily flow.

Chemical or biological additives are not a substitute for regular pumping. They are not needed to improve or assist tank operation. Additive producers claim these products eliminate the need for pumping. It is our experience that these products cause harm to systems by breaking up the solids and sludge, allowing a greater percent of suspended solids to flow to the absorption area clogging the soil and lateral pipes.

Always keep your drain field free of trees, roots, plantings, storm and surface water as well any other things that may obstruct and damage the area. Do not construct patios, walkways, and such over your septic system. Never drive heavy equipment or vehicles over your drain field.

Septic System Information