Proper septic maintenance largely depends on the following :
- Total Number of people living in your household (permanent and vacation homes will differ in the amount of time between recommended routine maintenance)
- Amount of wastewater generated (permanent and vacation homes will differ in the amount of time between recommended routine maintenance)
- Volume of solids present in the wastewater (i.e. use of a garbage disposal will increase the frequency of recommended routine maintenance)
Additional Ways to Protect Your Investment
- Pump Your Septic Tank Regularly
- If the buildup of solids in the tank becomes too high and solids move to the drainfield, this could clog and strain the system to the point where a new drainfield will be needed.
- Routine pumping costs over the extended lifetime of your system are far less than replacement costs.
- Yearly pumping is suggested or when the total depth of sludge and scum exceeds one-third of the liquid depth of the tank.
- Routinely servicing your septic system is the most important factor in maintaining and ensuring your septic system is properly protected.
- With proper maintenance, you can decrease the risk of a damaged drainage field due to solids flowing in to the drainage field.
- Simple routine maintenance can minimize the potential need for a new drainage field and protect your investment.
What causes septic system to fail?
These are some of the main reasons for system failure:
- Lack of maintenance
- Missing outlet baffle
- Improper construction
There are two primary types of septic system failures: hydraulic failure and phosphorous treatment failure.
Hydraulic failure occurs when the soil cannot handle the volume of wastewater and, as a result, sewage backflows in to the house or surfaces on the ground.
This is caused by:
- Failure to pump out the tank: Wastewater will back up in to the house or break out on to the ground when sludge and scum from an overfull tank flows in the leach field and clogs the soil.
- Poorly sited or built systems:
- (When the septic system is sited in or too close to the high water table, or is constructed with improper fill, saturated soil can cause wastewater to back up or break out. This is particularly likely to occur in the spring when the water table is high.)
- Tree and bush roots: tree and bush roots over a leach field can break or block pipes and interfere with the distribution system. Phosphorous treatment failure occurs when coarse, sandy soils allow phosphorous to pass untreated through to the ground water. In this case, all pipes and pumps are working properly and there is no apparent evidence of a malfunction. The problem lies in the inability of surrounding soils to absorb and treat the phosphorous.
Signs of a Failing Septic System
- Standing Water over the tank or leach field (ground wet or mushy)
- Slow draining sinks and toilets
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing
- Plumbing Back ups
- Grass growing faster and greener in one particular area of the yard, especially during the extreme parts of summer or winter – excess algae or plant growth
- Tests showing the presence of bacteria in well water
Septic system failures also can occur without warning signals. A yearly inspection of your septic system is recommended and even required by some communities.
If Your Septic System Fails
- Call DiMeglio for an evaluation of your system to uncover the reason for malfunction.
- DiMeglio will be able to quickly detect the problem and offer suggested solutions in fixing it.
- It is recommended that you let a trained technician perform repairs and diagnostics
- Toxic and explosive gases are present and hazardous.
- Never enter a septic tank!
- The failing system could be a result of neglecting to have your system pumped.
- Conserve Water in Your Home. It can help lessen the problem for a short time until you are able to have the situation corrected.
- Fence off the Area. If effluent is seeping to the surface, prevent people and pets from coming I to contact with it.
- Contact DiMeglio at the first sign of a problem to avoid long term damage of your system or to begin the process in designing a new system –immediately to make sure that your home’s onsite waste system is not out of order for a lengthy amount of time.
Protect Your System
- Planting anything other than grass near your septic system, such as shrubs and trees, can cause damage
- Do not allow anyone to drive or operate heavy machinery over any part of the system.
- Do not build anything over the drainage field.Most septic systems, even with routine maintenance, will have an average lifetime of 15 to 25 years.Protect against premature failure, by following a few simple procedures:
- reduce sludge build-up
- reduce water use
- eliminate toxic waste
- keep the system’s bacteria working properly and protect the leach field.
Things That You Should Not Do
- Don’t use a garbage disposal – it adds 50% more solids to your system.
- Don’t pour automotive oil, cooking oil or grease down the drain
- Don’t drive vehicles over the septic system or leach field
- Don’t plant bushes or trees over the leach field
- Don’t install a in-ground or above ground pool near the drainage field
- Don’t dump recreational vehicle (RV) waste in to your tank. The system is designed for your residence flow and may not be able to handle the extra solids load. RV waste may also contain chemicals that are toxic or may hamper the biological activity in your system.
- Don’t use too much water, especially during rainy, wet seasons when the ground is saturated
- Don’t pour paint or paint thinner down your drain
- Don’t ever connect rain gutters or storm drains to the septic system or allow surface water to drain in to it.
- Don’t use drain cleaners and other toxic chemical products
- Don’t use chemical or biological septic cleaners which can plug up your leach fields and ruin your system.
- Don’t discharge water softener backwash in to the septic tank. The backwash brine contains high levels of chlorides that can destroy microorganisms
- Don’t flush feminine hygiene products, cat litter, disposable diapers or other non-biodegradable products in to your system
- Don’t flush medicines, particularly antibiotics
- Don’t use products labeled antibacterial
- Don’t Flush hair combings coffee grounds dental floss disposable diapers kitty litter feminine hygiene products cigarette butts contraceptives gauze bandages fat, grease, or oil paper towels
- Don’t Flush paints varnishes thinners waste oils photographic solutions pesticides
- Don’t ever enter a septic tank or breathe in the gases (people have died from gas asphyxiation)
Homeowners wanting to take good care of their septic systems should make note of the above 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.
Things That You Should Do
- Inspect your tank for signs of sludge buildup and make sure the baffles are in working order.
- Pump you tank as needed
- Compost food garbage or put it in the trash
- Keep a grease can handy
- Mark your septic system so you can protect it from vehicles and encroaching trees and shrubs
- Divert excess water like roof drains and surface water away from your system
- Conserve water; install water-saving devices, such as front-loading washers low-flow faucets and shower heads and wash clothes and dishes only when you have a full load and avoid several loads in one day.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products such as baking soda to scrub toilets or boiling water to drains.
- Plant shrubs, trees and grasses downhill from your system to act as a sponge (they will tie up excess nutrients and water as well as prevent soil erosion). Keep small trees and shrubs at least 10 feet away from your leach field and large trees at least 20 feet away.
- Spread out your laundry loads to even out your water use and avoid flushing your system
- Keep an “as built” drawing in a safe place for your records
- Prevent heavy vehicles or livestock from the area over and around your system. If necessary consider placing a fence or some other barricade around area to prevent damage. (field compaction)
- Contact DiMeglio if your septic system shows signs of failure or if others in your immediate area are suffering from malfunctioning septic systems
- Use liquid detergents instead of powdered detergents
Protect Your Absorption Field
- Do not drive over the absorption field with cars, trucks, or heavy equipment.
- Do not plant trees or shrubbery in the absorption field area, the roots can get into the lines and plug them.
- 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.
- Do divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways, and other areas away from the absorption field.
Help With Clogged Drains:
- Use a plunger or mechanical snake to remove the blockage
- Or, pour on handful or baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar down the drainpipe and cover tightly for one minute. Repeat process as needed.
- Or, pour ½ cup salt and ½ cup baking soda down the drain followed by six cups of boiling water. Let sit for several hours or overnight then flush with water.
Routine Septic System maintenance and inspections will extend the life of your septic system.
- Keep in mind that the cost of a replacement system far exceeds the cost of regular maintenance (much like a vehicle) and can affect the resale of your property.
- We suggest yearly pumping and service. This will vary with the size and usage of the tank. Just make sure the large opening (approximately 24”-30” in diameter) is used every time for thorough service.
- Install a riser on the main cover for easy access.
- Fix all leaking toilets and sinks
- Keep a record of all maintenance, inspections, and modifications to your system