Septic System Maintenance
Q: How do I maintain my septic system? How often should regular septic system maintenance be required?
A: Septic systems last an average of 10-20 years. Properly constructed and maintained systems can last longer.
A system that is not maintained can fail in 2 years or less. Regular septic system maintenance protects the investment and avoids replacement costs. Maintenance also protects the health of your family, the community and the environment. Replacing a failing septic system can cost from $3,000 to $10,000 compared to costs to have the system inspected and pumped out.
When systems fail, inadequately treated household wastewater is released into the lech-field, (environment). This can contaminate nearby wells, ground water, and drinking water sources. Any contact with untreated human waste can pose significant health risks or even death.
- Septic system maintenance is simple:
- Every 3-5 years have a licensed septic system pumper pump the solids from the tank.
- Water conservation is very important.
- Knowing what not to flush is important. Never use the septic system for disposal of anything that can easily be put into the trash. This only adds to the solids build up that will eventually need to be pumped out.
- Avoid grinding up food scraps, coffee grounds, and disposing of grease and cooking oils down the drains.
- Use toilet paper only in septic system.
- Don’t plant trees within 6 feet of the system, their roots will clog the pipes.
- Don’t drive over or park on the septic system.
- Don’t fence livestock over the septic system.
- Don’t dig in or cover the drain field with concrete or asphalt. Grass should be the only cover.
- Don’t pour harmful chemicals or cleansers into the system. Paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, photographic solutions, and pesticides can destroy the biological action in the system and pollute the environment.
Q: What does having my septic system cleaned or pumped out mean?
A: With regular septic system maintenance, your system will have a better chance to work for you years longer.
Q: How do I know if there is something wrong with my septic system?
A: Home owners should be alert to the following warning signs of a failing septic system. Septic system maintenance may be required when:
- The ground in the area is wet or soggy.
- Grass grows greener or faster in the area.
- Sewage odors in the house or yard.
- Plumbing backups into the house.
- Slowly draining sinks and toilets.
- Gurgling sounds when flushing.
- Wet areas which may indicate a failing drain field.
- Could mean stopped up filter or filters in system.
If one or more of these warning signs exist, the you should contact a licensed septic services provider for inspection and needs to be pumped.
Q: Why is my septic system full? Is septic system maintenance required?
A: Your septic system will always look “full”- this is how it is designed to work. It is at a working level when it’s just below the outlet pipe. The “full” level does not necessarily mean that the tank should be pumped out, this is normally determined by the bottom sludge layer or the layer of scum (crust) on the surface.
However, if the water level is over the pipe, then it’s overfull and should be pumped out (this may be an indication of further problems involving your filter or lateral lines).
Q: What will happen if I do not service my septic tank?
A: Failing to establish a regular septic system maintenance is like driving your car for a hundred thousand miles and never changing the oil. Disaster awaits. Thus the old adage “You can pay now a little or a whole lot more later” Dumping some miracle cure in the crankcase is not going to magically fix the car.
Basically, neglecting the system by not pumping until it backs up usually results in drain field failure and requires drain field replacement or new system installation.
Q: Do I need to add any products (yeast, enzymes, other over the counter additives) to my septic system maintenance routine?
A: Digestion of the solids that accumulate within the septic tank is a naturally occurring process. The microbes that drive the digestion process are present in raw sewage at a high enough concentration that supplemental products are not necessary.
Q: How often should you service your septic tank?
A: Experts say septic systems should be pumped out every 3-5 years to insure proper operation. Septic system maintenance is required because sludge does not magically disappear by putting some additive in the system. After the bacteria do their work sludge is left and must be pumped out. The theory that “if it aint broke don’t fix it” does not apply here. Drain field failure and serious expense looms ahead if you do not act. Think of it this way. If you had city sewer you would pay around $35 / mo. or $420 / yr. This cost is more than what you pay every 3 yrs. to pump. With periodic septic system maintenance, you are over $1260 ahead and you are keeping your system running well and you don’t need to replace the system.
Q: Does the aerobic system grind everything up and make it go away?
A: No it does not dissolve the waste. The septic is tank to be pumped at same frequency. Regular septic systems have a 60%-40% break down going on. What this means is 60% stays in the tank 40% of wastewater goes to the field lines. Aerobic systems are much more efficient systems, they do a better job of treating the waste, and that means the effluent is 90% + is taken out in the treatment of the waste and 5% or less is going out to the field lines. Therefore, only clear water comes out of the system. Since the aerobic system does such a good job of separating the water from the waste, (the waste contuse to break down and turn to liquid then to treatment systems).