Septic System Maintenance Explained

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Keep accurate records. Know where your septic tank system is and keep a diagram of its location. Records of its size and location may be available at your local health agency. It is also wise to keep a record of maintenance on the system. These records will be helpful if problems occur, and will be valuable to the next owner of your home.
  1. Pump out your septic tank every 3 years. Don’t wait until you have a problem. Routine pumping can prevent failures such as clogging of the drainfield and sewage back-up into the home. Using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids entering the septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping.
  1. Never flush harmful materials into the septic tank. No septic tank additives! Grease, cooking oils, newspaper, paper towels, rags, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, and cigarettes cannot easily decompose in the tank. Chemicals such as solvents, oils, paint and pesticides are harmful to the system’s proper operation and may pollute the groundwater. Septic tank additives are not necessary for the proper functioning of a septic tank, nor do they reduce the need for routine pumping. For information on the proper disposal of hazardous household waste, call the Recycle Hotline, 1-800-RECYCLE.
  1. Practice water conservation. The more wastewater you produce, the more wastewater the soil must treat and dispose. By reducing and balancing your use, you can extend the life of the drainfield, decrease the possibility of system failure, and avoid costly repairs.

    To reduce your water use:

    • Use water-saving devices.
    • Repair leaky faucets and plumbing fixtures.
    • Reduce toilet reservoir volume or flow.
    • Take shorter showers.
    • Take baths with a partially filled tub.
    • Wash only full loads of dishes and laundry.
  1. Divert runoff away from your drainfield. Water from surfaces such as roofs, driveways, or patios should be diverted away from the septic tank and drainfield area. Soil over your system should be slightly mounded to help surface water runoff.
  1. Inspect your system once a year. Check the sludge and scum levels inside your septic tank to assure that the layers of solids are not within the “early warning levels”. Also, check the tank to see if the baffles or tees are in good condition. Periodically inspect the drainfield and downslope areas for odors wet spots, or surfacing sewage. If your drainfield as inspection pipes, check them to see if there is a liquid level continually over 6 inches. This may be an early indication if a problem.
  1. Protect your system from damage. Keep traffic such as vehicles, heavy equipment, or livestock o˝ your drainfield or replacement area. The pressure can compact the soil or damage pipes. Before you plant a garden, construct a building, or install a pool, check on the location of your system and replacement area.
  1. Landscape your system properly. Don’t place impermeable materials over your drainfield or replacement area. Materials, such as concrete or plastic, reduce evaporation and the supply of air to the soil for proper effluent treatment. They can also hinder getting to the system for pumping, inspection, or repair. Grass is the best cover for your system.
  1. Never enter any septic tank. Poisonous gases or the lack of air can be fatal. Any work to the tank should be done from the outside. 10. Check with your local health agency for help with system problems. Although some malfunctions may require complete drainfield replacement, many problems can be corrected
  1.  Check with your local health agency for help with system problems. Although some malfunctions may require complete drainfield replacement, many problems can be corrected with a minimum amount of cost and effort.