Why should I maintain my wastewater treatment system?
When wastewater treatment systems are properly designed, constructed, and maintained, they effectively reduce or eliminate most human health or environmental threats posed by pollutants in household wastewater. However, they require regular maintenance or they can fail. Systems need to be monitored to ensure that they work properly throughout their service lives.
Save money. . .
A key reason to maintain your wastewater treatment system is to save money! Failing systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your system inspected regularly is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping periodically, depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable wastewater treatment system or one in disrepair will lower your property value and could pose a legal liability.
Treatment Field Maintenance
To protect your treatment field soil dispersal system, regularly pump the sludge and scum from the septic tank. An annual maintenance inspection will allow your maintainer to determine how often your septic tank requires pumping. An uncleaned tank has a reduced working capacity that results in overloads that send solids to the field, clogging the field and ruining its ability to dispose of wastewater.
Do not pave your dispersal field or drive or park on it as these activities compact the soil and damage field performance. Nothing heavier than a riding mower should be allowed on the field. Also avoid putting pathways or planting anything other than grass on top of the field.
A field performs best if covered with grass and mowed regularly. The grass cover and landscaping that channels rainwater away from the field improves its performance. Avoid landscape plastic or fabric under mulch as this can reduce the necessary air exchange in the drainfield soil. Mulch and bark are not recommended since they can reduce air exchange and retain water. Trees and shrubs generally have extensive root systems. This can interfere with or cause damage to your septic system. Consult with an expert before planting trees near a drainfield.
Livestock should never be grazed over a septic system. In the winter livestock can trample and muddy the soil; in the summer they can compact it. Both of these can decrease the soil’s ability the exchange oxygen and reduce the effectiveness of your septic system.
Surface Water Diversion
Direct water flowing from drains, downspouts, driveways, sump pumps away from your dispersal field as it must remain unsaturated for the bacterial action to take place.
Septic starters, feeders, cleaners and other additives
Normal wastewater is full of naturally-occurring bacteria which will start your system. It will work effectively without feeders and additives. If bacterial action in the tank is slow, look for the cause (i.e. every flush deodorizer) and reduce their presence.
Any cleaners that breaks up the sludge and scum creates the risk of solids reaching the final treatment field, ruining its ability to disperse the wastewater.
To reduce sludge accumulation:
To reduce the frequency of cleaning and the risk of failure keep these soil and tank-cloggers out: bath oil, facial tissue, personal hygiene products, condoms, paper towels & cigarette butts.
Things to Keep in Mind
Do have your system inspected (every one to three years) and pump your tank (as necessary, generally every 18 – 36 months).
Do use water efficiently.
Don’t dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks and toilets (i.e. pesticides, antifreeze, fertilizers, paint including latex solvents, prescription medication, degreasers, gasoline, oil, grease or chemicals)
Do plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the dispersal field.
Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your dispersal field or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components.