As a homeowner you are responsible for maintaining your onsite septic system (otherwise known as an onsite wastewater treatment system). The regular maintenance will not only protect nearby surface and groundwater from being contaminated, but also will protect your health and your investment in your home.
Typical pollutants found in household wastewater include nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. A properly designed, constructed, and maintained system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If not properly maintained, a failing system can cost thousands of dollars to replace.
How to Maintain your Septic System:
1. Regularly inspect your system and pump your tank as necessary. It’s a good idea to have your system inspected every two to three years. In general, your system should be pumped every three to five years, but this depends on how much your system is used and its size. Your inspector can determine when it is time to pump your tank.
2. Use water efficiently. The less water you use, the less water that enters your system. This helps it operate properly and reduces stress on your system and the risk of a failure.
3. Don’t dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets. Avoid paints, chemicals, cleaners, gasoline, oil, or other toxic materials that could kill the good bacteria in your system as well as things that can clog pipes such as diapers, coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, and grease and fat from cooking. Avoid frequent use of a garbage disposal.
4. Care for your drainfield. Plant only grass or groundcover with shallow roots over or near your septic system. Deep roots could clog and damage the drainfield. Don’t drive or park vehicles on the drainfield either. This could compact soil or damage the pipes. Keep roof drains, sump pump drains, and other surface water runoff away from the drainfield to avoid flooding it.
We also commonly get questions about the use of anti-bacterial soaps and additives that claim to help septic system performance. Normal use of antibacterial products such as hand soap is fine – you just want to avoid excessive use which might kill too many beneficial bacteria in your system for it to continue to work properly. More research is still needed on additives — and there are many options available on the market. The general thought is that additives are not needed for a system to work — and there is a possibility that they could cause harm — so it is best to avoid them.
Avoid overloading your system with more water than it is meant to handle.
- Don’t do multiple loads of laundry all in one day — spread it out instead.
- Don’t drain a hot tub or pool into your tank or over your drainfield.
- Some water softeners or filters flush themselves daily. Make sure these aren’t discharging into your system.
Keep an eye out for signs of a failed system:
- Pooling water or muddy soil around the tank or drainfield or in your basement;
- Bad smell coming from the area of your tank;
- Toilet or sink backs up when you flush the toilet or do laundry;
- Bright green grass over the drainfield.
If you notice any of these signs – call a professional.
Due to unsuitable soils, high bedrock or groundwater, or small lot size – you may have a hard time making a traditional septic system work on your property. There are alternative systems now available that use new technologies to improve treatment processes – many of which need less space to function. Such systems use sand, peat or plastic media instead of soil to treat the wastewater. The peat moss system show at right is designed by a company called Puraflo. Contact our office at 518-668-3558 to learn more about these alternative systems.