Septic Systems Q&A

When they are properly maintained, septic systems are an effective way to treat wastewater, and they can last for decades. But as with so many plumbing supplies, maintenance is key. Since one-fourth of U.S. households use septic tank systems, more than four billion gallons of wastewater is dispersed belowground daily, according to the EPA. If this water is not thoroughly treated by the septic systems, it poses a risk of contaminating groundwater, and causing disease and infection.

What are some of the most important steps the owner of a septic tank system needs to take to insure that the system doesn’t fail? The first one is pumping. It’s crucial that the septic tank have the sludge and scum that collect inside it pumped out by a professional every one to three years, depending on the type of tank. Reducing the level of solids in the tank makes it certain that they won’t ever accidentally overflow into the drain field, or from there into the groundwater supply. The pumping professional should also inspect the tank for any possible leaks.

Another crucial thing to watch out for is the condition of the drain field. It can’t become waterlogged, or it won’t be able to do its job in the final cleanup of wastewater. So septic tank system owners should make sure their home’s water runoff, such as from gutters, driveways, patios, etc. runs away from their drain field. And the drain field must be kept clear of shrubs and trees. Their roots can grow into the drainage lines and block them, causing septic tank troubles such as overflow, bad odors, and contamination. The only vegetation that should grow near a septic tank system, including the drain field, is grass. (Like in title of Ohioan humorist Erma Bombeck’s book, The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.) Furthermore, never drive on a drain field, and never build anything on top of one. If the soil becomes compacted from the pressure of having vehicles driven across it, or from construction, it can impair the function of the drain field and cause septic tank system failure.

For more information about drain cleaning, septic systems and plumbing needs in your home, contact the professionals at HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric.