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  • Jodi Eberhardt

Maintain Your Septic System

Proper operation and maintenance will extend the life of your system for many years and prevent costly repairs.

Pump the Tank Regularly

Have a licensed professional pump the solids (floating scum and sludge) that have accumulated from the septic tank every one to three years—the more use, the more often pumping is needed. Make sure they pump through the manhole. While garbage disposal use is not recommended with septic systems, pump annually if you are using one. Failure to remove the solids can cause them to enter the drainfield, which can result in expensive repair or replacement. For licensed and certified septic system maintenance services, refer to the yellow pages under septic tanks and systems-cleaning.

Practice Water Conservation

Too much water flowing into the tank will cause the tank to back up and lead to ineffective treatment of wastewater. To prevent this:

• Repair all leaky faucets, fixtures, and appliances.

• Install low water-use fixtures and appliances (especially toilets and shower heads).

• Do not empty roof drains and sump pump water into the septic system.

• Wash only full loads of clothing and dishes, and spread out water use, such as laundry, throughout the day and week. Consider front loading machines; they use less water.

• Reduce the length of showers and the number of toilet flushings, especially during high use periods.

• Reroute water softener discharge water out of the septic system.

• Do not hook floor drains or drain tile into the septic system.

Limit What Goes Down the Drain

• Do not put household cleaners, paint, solvents, medications, and other chemicals down the drain.

• Limit the use of antibacterial products. As the name suggests, they can reduce the amount of working bacteria in the septic tank.

• Use only the recommended amounts of liquid nonphosphorus detergents and cleaners.

• Prevent food particles, grease, lint, coffee grounds, plastics, and other non-degradable solids from getting into the system.

• Use single-ply toilet paper for the best decomposition.

Do Not Use System Additives

It is not necessary to use starters, feeders, cleaners, or other septic additives to enhance the performance of your system. If your system is properly maintained and operated,

it will operate at maximum performance with the use of naturally occurring bacteria.

Protect the Drainfield

Compacting or obstructing the soil over the treatment area can cause malfunctioning of the drain field. To protect it:

• Keep heavy vehicles off the drainfield.

• Maintain vegetative cover, but do not plant trees or shrubs on the drainfield because the roots may penetrate and clog the distribution system.

• Mow the area, but do not fertilize or water.

• Reroute roof drains and drain tile away from the drainfield.

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