Easy Steps to a Healthy Septic System
septic systems can make you or someone you know sick by polluting
your well or a neighbor’s well, can threaten the health of
children and pets playing in the effluent, and can make waterways
green with slime. Simple logical care of your septic system
can keep people and properties healthy, prolong the system’s
life, and save on very costly repairs. If you are like most
people, your home is your biggest asset, so it makes sense
– in terms of health, economics, the environment, and both
personal and community responsibility – to understand how
a septic system works and how to take proper care of it.
of a Failing Septic System
signs of failure are obvious: sewage odors, slow-draining
toilets or drains, and lush grass or slimy sewage over the
septic field, especially after a rainstorm or in a wet spring.
Does a Septic System Work?
the simplest terms, soiled water or effluent either runs by
gravity or is pumped from your house to a holding tank where
heavier solids settle to the bottom and the lighter liquid
gradually seeps out into the septic fields. There natural
biological reclamation, absorption, and evaporation render
the liquid harmless over time. There are various system designs
but the general principles remain the same. In newer tanks,
baffles direct the effluent downward into the first chamber
while lighter liquids float into the second half of the chamber.
Another baffle before the outlet pipe to the leaching field
tries to keep the solids from escaping and clogging the drainfields.
[The very newest tanks have a warning baffle system that will
back the effluent back up into the house – if the tank is
not pumped when full – rather than have the solids clog and
destroy the field.] As more and more homes are built and the
land available has more constraints, it is important not to
have to rely on reserve areas for the septic fields because
some of them are not readily accessible and would be very
expensive to prepare.
Easy Steps to a Healthy Septic System
basic, practical Do's and Don’ts for regular maintenance are
very easy to remember and to implement.
and map your tank and field (perhaps with your Health
Department's help) and keep a record of work done to the
your tank every 2 to 3 years to prevent scum and sludge
from clogging your field - more often if soils and heavy
use warrant it.
water to avoid flooding the system. Fix
leaks, stagger laundry loads each day, avoid long shower,
use water restrictors in showers, faucets, and toilets.
discharge water from hottubs or other highly chlorinated
water into the system.
not pollute or clog your tank with hazardous chemicals
or nonbiodegradable elements: no grease, diapers, feminine
sanitary products, kitty litter; no gas, paint thinner,
oil paint, pesticides, antifreeze. Do
not use tank additives. Use bleach, drain, and toilet
cleaners sparingly lest they kill the good bacteria that
cleanse the effluent.
use a garbage disposal. The tiny particles it creates
will clog fields. If you must use one, be prepared to
pump more frequently.
discharge water softeners to the system. Increased salts
in the groundwater can elevate blood pressure and be hazardous
surface water away from your tank and septic field.
heavy machinery and vehicles from driving over your tank
and drainfields, thereby crushing the piping and compacting
the soil. Plant and mow grass over your fields, avoid
bushes and trees whose roots can clog and break your pipes
a licensed professional for any septic repair or service.
Your Health Department can give you a list of reputable
of a Septic System over a Sewer
you live in a highly populated area or a place with unacceptable
soils or other topographic constraints, a septic system is
your best option. If properly installed and maintained, your
system should cost far less to maintain because there are
no monthly sewer fees, only the less expensive cost of pumping
out the tank every two or three years, although a limited
system or one with very heavy use may require more frequent
pumping. A septic system treats the effluent naturally and
lets the water seep into the ground, keeping moisture on site
to help plants grow and to gradually replenish the water supply.
In contrast, sewers treat the effluent and release it to a
river which, in our area of the state, flows to Long Island
Sound, where the water becomes salty and undrinkable. Areas
with septic systems require larger house lots, so there is
more room for gardens, playing, and a more rural feeling.
facts are that a properly installed and maintained septic
system is less expensive to run than a hookup to a sewer system
with monthly fees; and the septic system keeps the water used
in the area, where it is cleansed and reclaimed over time,
thus making it available for a constantly replenished groundwater
and drinking water supply. For further information, check
quality links on this website.
further information visit the New Products Page on the National
Small Flows Clearinghouse Web Site
Tank friendly Cloverwash and Cloverdish from Cloverdale,
Inc. are two great citrus-based, non-phosphate, and completely
biodegradable options to traditional cleaning products.