Maintaining Your Septic System

The way you maintain and operate your septic system will determine how it functions and how long your system will last.  Septic Systems are designed to handle domestic wastewater and some items you flush down a toilet or pour down a drain can significantly reduce the ability of the beneficial bacteria in a septic system to break down and treat domestic sewage.  Bulky or hard-to-break down items can clog pipes, quickly fill septic tanks, and decrease the effectiveness of the system.

Items or substances that should NEVER be allowed to be put into your septic system include: facial tissues, large amounts of vegetable scrapings and kitchen waste, coffee grounds, chemicals, paints, oils, sanitary napkins, applicator, condoms, medicines, pesticides, poisons, strong disinfectants, antifreeze, cat box litter, etc.

Property owners can improve the function of their septic system and extend its life by following a number of tips as listed below:

  • Conserve water and reduce waste flow into your system.  Too much water will overload a septic system.  Install water saving fixtures.  Ensure that wastewater from foundation weeping tile drains, hot tubs, swimming pools, and water conditioning equipment does not enter the septic system.
  • Install an effluent filter in the septic tank to reduce the amount of solids entering the leaching bed and prevent clogs.
  • Do not construct parking areas, patios, tennis courts or decks in the area of or over the septic field / leaching bed.  The extra weight can crush pipes or compact the soil and can also limit oxygen from getting into the soil or fill.  Do not use snowmobiles over the septic field / leaching bed area as this will reduce the natural insulation of the bed provided by the snow cover and will drive frost into the system causing it to freeze.
  • If not already in place, install watertight access risers to simplify septic tank access.
  • Maintain adequate vegetative cover over the disposal field. Keep the grass trimmed.  Clear trees or shrubs from the distribution leaching bed area since roots can clog the perforated distribution pipes and shade the distribution leaching bed area, thereby limiting evapotranspiration.
  • Direct eavestrough downspouts, and other surface water to flow away from the septic tank and disposal field.
  • If pumps are used in the septic system, have any pump screens cleaned (make sure they are re-installed) and have the control operations checked.

If you take good care of your system, you will save yourself the time and money involved in replacing a failed system. Failed systems can be hazardous to your health and the environment. It is recommended that a licensed sewage hauler or on-site sewage system professional inspect the system every 3 to 5 years and pump out the solids and scum when required.