Septic Systems

Septic Systems Maintenance for the
Homeowner

Septtank[1]

If you own a septic system, it is important that it be properly maintained. How often you need to pump the solids out of your septic tank depends on three major factors:

  1. the number of people in your household;
  2. the amount of wastewater generated (based on the number of people in the household and the amount of water used); and
  3. the volume of solids in the wastewater (e.g., using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids).

Although your septic tank absorption field generally does not require maintenance, you should adhere to the following rules to protect and prolong its functional life:

  1. Do not drive over the absorption field with cars, trucks, or heavy equipment.
  2. Do not plant trees or shrubbery in the absorption field area, because the roots can get into the lines and plug them.
  3. Do not cover the absorption field with hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt. Grass is the best cover, because it will help prevent erosion and help remove excess water.
  4. Do divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways, and other areas away from the absorption field.

Septic Tank Maintenance

Homeowners wanting to take good care of their septic systems should make note of the following items that should never be flushed down the drain or toilet. These items can overtax or destroy the biological digestion taking place within the system or clog pumps and pipes.

Take care not to flush the following:

  • hair combings
  • coffee grounds
  • dental floss
  • disposable diapers
  • kitty litter
  • sanitary napkins
  • tampons
  • cigarette butts
  • condoms
  • gauze bandages
  • fat, grease, or oil
  • paper towels

and NEVER flush chemicals that could contaminate surface and groundwater, such as:

  • paints
  • varnishes
  • thinners
  • waste oils
  • photographic solutions
  • pesticides

The National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC) offers a series of three brochures about septic system operation and maintenance. These brochures describe how septic systems work and give some general guidelines to help protect the groundwater and prolong the life of your septic system.