Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Maintain Your Septic System

If you don't have public sewers where you live, you have work to do.

By Dan Shapley

It's SepticSmart Week, and you know what that means! Chances are, actually, that you don't. It's the first ever SepticSmart Week, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the reason they've done it is because so many of us don't know what to do with our septics.
Some 26 million American homes--about a quarter overall--depend on septic systems to treat wastewater, where public sewers aren't available.
Failing to maintain septics can cause water pollution downstream, making streams, lakes and rivers unfit for swimming and unhealthy for wildlife; or backups upstream (that is, in your house). Both, we can all agree, are better avoided.
Septics often fail during the holiday season, when extra visitors increase the load on systems. That's why the EPA recommends having a professional inspection now, before the holiday season hits. Use these tips:
  • Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
  • Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn’t been pumped recently. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.