Guidelines for a Healthy Septic System
By following a few simple rules, you won't have to think about your system on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, with proper use, conventional onsite systems can operate for years without much management.
Maintenance begins with sound water use and waste disposal habits. Since your family will determine which materials enter the system, we encourage you to set rules and stick to them.
Here is a partial list of the items to keep OUT of your system. Do not introduce any of the following:
- Grease or cooking oils
- Disposable diapers
- BABY WIPES
- Feminine hygiene products
- Any latex products
- Paper towels
- Cat litter
- Latex paint, pesticides, or any hazardous chemicals
Many homes have garbage disposals to help manage vegetable and other food waste. Excessive use of your garbage disposal may introduce a high level of unwanted solids into your system. Use disposals moderately and consider composting as an option to handle vegetable waste. If you use a garbage disposal the septic Tank will need to be pumped every 3 years to ensure that solids to not reach the baffle level and potentially damage the drain field.
Do not put too much water into the septic system. Excess water puts too much strain on the decomposition process and can cause problems. Do not do all loads of laundry in one day, try to stager laundry over the week. Maximum water use should be about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family. Estimate by using the following numbers per person so you can keep track:
- Shower: 2.5 gallons per minute - 10 minute shower = 25 gallons
- Toilet: 2 gallons per flush (for toilets bought in the last 20 years)
- Washing machine: 40 gallons per load
- Dishwasher cycle: 10 gallons
With large families, keeping track of water use can be hard, but laying down guidelines can help everyone do their part. Also, consider getting energy and water-wise appliances when you need to replace your current models. Visit www.energystar.gov/ for suggestions. Be aware that your system is sized to handle the number of people anticipated to be using it when it is installed. If that number increases, you may need a larger system.
Do not use harsh drain openers for a clogged drain. The best alternative to conventional, caustic drain openers is to use boiling water or a drain snake to clear clogs. Though this approach may be a little messier, the chemicals in drain cleaners can cause havoc with your septic system.
Use mild or natural cleaners for your bathroom and kitchen. They should either be Okayed for use in septic systems or marked biodegradable.
Be aware that bleaches and antibacterial soaps can inhibit the enzymatic action necessary to help bacteria break down the solids in the tank.
Again, harsh chemicals can cause expensive and unpleasant problems in your system.
If you use or intend to use a water softener in the home, let your installer or maintenance contractor know. Under certain soil conditions, the salt recharge solution must be handled carefully and the size of your absorption field may need to be increased.
How to Take Care of Your Septic Tank System
The Septic Tank System like any machine that requires proper use and maintenance. This article provides information on the proper care and use of your septic Tank and Drain field “Septic System”. At the very least, the Septic Tank needs to be pumped out every three to five years. If you decide to not maintain your Septic Tank System the following is what you can look forward to:
1. A falling Septic System can be a threat to your family’s health and the environment, especially your well for your drinking water supply or nearby recreational lake waters.
2. Reduced Property Value and has a negative experience with your neighbors.
3. A Septic System is expensive to repair and may require constant pumping of the septic tank, possible installation of a holding tank, or possibly you could have to MOVE OUT of Your HOUSE until the costly repairs are complete.
4. Messy back-ups of sewage into the house (ruining your hardwood or carpet) or sewage gases smells in your home.
The warning signs that you may have a problem with your Septic Systems Drain field:
Sewage water surfacing over the drain field, sand filter or mound.
Slow drainage of bathtubs, sinks and toilets, frequent back-ups, and water over the Septic Tank Lid.
Lush green grass and wet to saturated soil over drain field. Sewage smells and gas odors.
DO NOT DO THESE THINGS
Add excessive amounts of caustic chemicals to the system. Normal household cleaners in moderate amounts won’t damage your Septic System, but concentrated or toxic chemicals may kill the good bacteria in the Septic System.
Do not drive cars or machinery, park cars or machinery over top of the Septic Tank or Drain field area.
Do not put cooking oils, lard, fats or greases into the sink drain. Separate this fats and greases into a can or container and throw it away in the garbage as part of your household trash.
Do not secondary bathrooms such as shop or garage bathrooms, motor homes or your gutter downspouts into the Septic Tank System.
Do not put baby diapers or WIPES, feminine products, or other materials containing non-biodegradable substances into the Septic Tank. (even if the baby wipes say flushable!! This is for homes on SEWER only)!
Do not waste water by leaving the shower running for long periods of time while waiting for it to warm up.
Do not use high volumes of water on the same day. Spread out high volume water usage, use throughout the week. In other words DO NOT do all your laundry on Saturday and it is better to run the dishwashers and washing machine on separate days.
Do not plant trees over or near the Septic Tank or the Drain field, Mound System or Sand filter box. Roots can intrude into the Septic Tank and baffles and clog or damage the Distribution Box and the drain field pipes.
Most of the time, Septic Tank additives are not needed for residential Septic Tank Systems and these products should never replace the routine maintenance septic tank pumping schedule. Most of the time, these so called cleaners will cause the sludge and scum layer to be broken down into fine enough particles that they will be pushed out into the drain field, which causes the drain field lines to become clogged.
**Caution** Do not believe these sales people for the Septic Tank Cleaning enzymes! They will tell you that if you use their product, you will never have to pump your Septic Tank again?. The truth is that these products will break down the solids in the tank and they then are sent out to the drain field. You might not have to pump your Septic Tank as often, but you will have to replace the drain field instead! This is not a good trade off. Pumping your septic Tank every 3 years or have your Septic System replaced. Be responsible and pump the Septic Tank every 3 years!
DO THESE THINGS!
Have a maintenance plan in place with your Septic Tank Pumping Professional - If you have a screened outlet baffle, schedule your septic System Maintenance professional from Lilly’s to clean the screen on a yearly basis. This will prevent blocked screens causing a messy backup into the house.
Properly use and maintain the system, which includes pumping the Septic Tank, inspecting the Septic system, bottle brushing the laterals (when recommended by your Septic Tank Pumping crew and other maintenance items recommended by your Septic System Service Technician.
Divert surface water and roof runoff away from the septic tank and drain field area.
Install low flow toilets and laundry washing machines and other water conservation devices.
Run the dishwashers and washing machine with full loads only and spread out the laundry throughout the week. It is best to run the Dishes and Laundry many times during the week rather than do all of the laundry on Saturday. NO MORE WASH Day !
Maintain records of your Septic Tank Pumping, Septic Tank lid and drain filed location, (AS-Built Drawing) Septic System Inspections, maintenance, and any repairs done to the system.
Avoid construction of sheds or parking area’s in the drain field area. Avoid having livestock in the area of the Septic Tank or drain field as they can damage the lines.
Make sure that the alarm is functioning properly for the pump and/or Sand filter for pressure distribution systems with an audible and visual alarm you to problems.