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The Do’s and Do Not’s of Septic Systems

DO have the septic tank pumped out by a licensed operator every 1 to 2 years or as needed.
DO know where it is located and have a way to reach it so that the tank can be pumped easily.
DO limit the amount of kitchen waste you put into the system through the garbage disposal.
DO NOT allow heavy vehicles to drive over the tile field, the drain tiles will be damaged.
DO NOT allow trees and shrubs to grow over the septic field.
DO NOT allow large amounts of water to be drained into the septic tank at the same time.
DO NOT connect downspouts, sump pumps or water softener backwash to the septic system.
DO NOT put harmful materials down your drains such as: fats, oils, solvents or solids (i.e. plastic), paper towels, feminine hygiene products or disposable diapers.

Warning signs

 During the natural lifespan of a septic system, the amount of solvents and waste that enter it can possibly lead to a system failure if not properly maintained.  Luckily, there are warning signs that your septic system is close to failure.  If you are able to pick up on these warning signs in time, giving us a call may prevent serious damage. 

Warning signs of a septic system failure include:

- Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots or lush vegetation in the drain field area
- Plumbing or septic tank backups
- Slow draining fixture not due to local clogging
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a septic tank system?

A septic tank is a small scale sewage treatment system common in areas where community sewage disposal facilities and sewer plants are not available and where soil drainage is acceptable. The term "septic" refers to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank and which decomposes or mineralizes the waste discharged into the tank. Septic tanks can be coupled with other on-site wastewater treatment units such as bio filters or aerobic systems involving artificial forced aeration.

How Does a Septic System Work?

A septic tank generally consists of a tank that is 500 and 2,000 gallons in size connected to an inlet wastewater pipe at one end and a septic drain field at the other. These pipe connections are generally made by a T pipe which allows liquid entry and exit without disturbing any crust on the surface. Today the design of the tank usually incorporates two chambers (each of which is equipped with a manhole cover) which are separated by means of a dividing wall which has openings located about midway between the floor and roof of the tank.

Wastewater enters the first chamber of the tank, allowing solids to settle and scum to float. The settled solids are anaerobically digested reducing the volume of solids. The liquid component flows through the dividing wall into the second chamber where further settlement takes place with the excess liquid then draining in a relatively clear condition from the outlet into the leach field, also referred to as a drain field, or seepage field. Certain septic tank designs include siphons or other methods of increasing the volume and velocity of outflow to the drainage field. This helps to load all portions of the drainage pipe more evenly and extends the drainage field life by preventing premature clogging.

Why is it important to maintain your septic system?

Waste that is not decomposed by the anaerobic digestion has to be removed from the septic tank, or else the septic tank fills up and decomposed wastewater discharges directly to the drainage field. Not only is this bad for the environment, but if the sludge overflows the septic tank into the leach field, it may clog the leach field piping or decrease the soil porosity itself, requiring expensive repairs.

How Often should my Septic System be serviced?

The frequency in which aseptic tank has to be emptied depends on the volume of the tank relative to the input of solids, the amount of indigestible solids and the ambient temperature (as anaerobic digestion occurs more efficiently at higher temperatures). The amount of time also varies greatly depending on jurisdiction, usage, and system characteristics. The Health Department requires that septic tanks be emptied every 2 years. However, some systems may require more frequent pumping, while others may be able to go 10–20 years between pumping's. Contrary to what many believe, there is no "rule of thumb" for how often tanks should be emptied. An older system with an undersized tank that is being used by a large family will require much more frequent pumping than a new system used by only a few people.

What are the warning signs that my System may be failing?

1. The lawn over the drain area has patches of oddly healthy-looking grass.
2. There are soggy areas, with grey water, or with surfacing sewage on/near the drain area.
3. The lawn on top of the drain area is extremely moist.
4. Sewage starts to back up in the toilet and drains.
5. The sinks, showers, and toilets drain more slowly than usual.
6. There is a sewage stench over the area of your drain.

A properly designed and normally operating septic system is odor free and, besides periodic inspection and pumping of the septic tank, should last for decades with no maintenance.