Septic Systems

If your home has a septic system, you are no doubt aware that this is a common way to treat residential wastewater.  In fact, septic systems and related forms of treatment that experts call decentralized wastewater treatment systems are some of the most common waste dispersal methods in the country. (Pipeline, Summer 2008, Vol. 19, No 1)

A typical septic system consists of two main parts: a septic tank and a soil absorption system, also known as a drainfield, leachfield, or disposal field.  Underground pipes connect the entire system.  The septic tank is a buried, watertight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene.  It holds the wastewater long enough to allow the solids to settle out and the fats, oil, and grease to float to the surface.  It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials.  Effluent from the middle layer flows out to the drainfield for further treatment in the soil.

Septic systems can contribute to source water contamination for various reasons including improper location of the system, poor design, faulty construction, incorrect operation, and poor or no maintenance of the system.

Maintenance Pays!  Since it can be difficult for homeowners to know if their systems are slowly failing, you can greatly reduce that likelihood, and gain peace of mind, simply by having your system regularly pumped and inspected.  This preventative measure costs thousands less than does the cost of repairing or replacing a non-functioning system. The following tips will also help maintain a healthy septic system:

  • Do not use caustic drain cleaners on clogged pipes.  Instead, use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs.
  • Conserve water to avoid hydraulic overloading of the system.  Repair leaky faucets and toilets.  Use low-flow fixtures.
  • Use bathroom cleaners and laundry detergent in moderation.
  • Your septic system is not a trash can.  Do not flush disposable diapers, tampons, condoms, paper towels, cat litter, or cigarettes into the system.  These items quickly fill your septic tank with solids, decrease the system’s efficiency, and will require it to be more frequently pumped.  Trash flushed down the toilet can also clog the pipelines, causing wastewater to back up into your home.
  • Avoid dumping grease or fats down the kitchen drain.  They solidify and the accumulation may contribute to plumbing and system blockages.
  • Keep paint, varnish, thinners, oil, photographic solutions, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals out of your system.  Even in small amounts, these items can destroy the biological digestion taking place in your septic system.  Do not flush unused medicines. heck with your local health department for disposal recommendations for your area.
  • The use of garbage disposals is discouraged.  If your have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly.  Garbage disposals add unnecessary solids and nutrients to the system.
  • Do not drive over the system or the drainfield.  This can compact the soil and break the piping of the system.
  • Redirect surface water flow away from your system.
  • Plant a ‘green belt’ or grassy strip between the drainfield and the shoreline if near a body of water.
  • Periodically check for signs of system failure: areas in the yeard that remain moist during dry weather or patches of lush grass or plant growth.  If you see signs of failure, schedule an inspection immediately.

An economic benefit of maintaining your onsite system is that it helps ensure the clean, safe drinking water, which is an essential ingredient of a healthy and viable community.  Contamination of drinking water sources can cause a community significant expense and affect public health.  Remember, it will cost you less in the long run if you can prevent contamination of your drinking water source rather than incur the high cost of treating the water or locating and developing alternate water sources.

Check out this link – Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems: Short Version