- Conserve water. Fix leaks and drips. If you replace old fixtures, install new “low flow” types.
- Do not overload the system. Early morning and bedtime are peak water use times in the bathroom. Run dishwashers and washing machines at other times of the day. Don’t do all the family laundry in one day.
- Limit the use of the garbage disposal and do not dump coffee grounds in the sink. Increasing the load of solids into the tank decreases the capacity and shortens the interval between pumpings.
- Do not pour fats and oils down the drain. They can build up and clog the septic tank pipes.
- Put paper towels, tissue, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons and other material in a trash can, not the toilet.
- You do NOT need to add any commercial products or yeast to your system. Additives do not improve how well your system works. There are always plenty of natural bacteria available to do the job. (They come from YOUR digestive system.) In fact, additives can damage your system by breaking up the sludge and scum layers, causing them to flush out of the tank and clog the infiltration bed. Additives that say “Never worry about pumping your septic tank again” are the worst!
- Use normal amounts of detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners, household cleaners and other products. Avoid dumping solvents like dry cleaning fluid, pesticides, photographic chemicals, paint thinner, or auto products down the drain.
- Direct down spouts and runoff away from the septic field to avoid saturating the area with excess water.
- Dense grass cover and other shallow rooted plants are beneficial over a septic field. However, do not plant trees because large plant roots can clog or break the pipes.
- Avoid compacting the soil over the infiltration area. Do not drive or park vehicles over the area and don’t build a shed or driveway in this area. These activities can also crack pipes or cause the distribution box to settle unevenly, meaning that effluent will only flow into part of the drain field.
- Tanks need to be pumped regularly. The frequency of pumpings depends on the amount of usage and size of tank. Visit the “Pumping frequency calculator” on our website to determine the recommended pumping frequency for your septic tank. If the tank gets too full, particles of scum or sludge will flush out of the tank. This material will clog the drain tiles and cause the septic system to fail.
Possible Signs of Trouble
The septic tank has not been pumped out in the past five years.
- Even if the system appears to be working well, sludge may have built up to the point where waste water is released without sufficient time in the tank for treatment and settling of particles. This situation may result in pollution of groundwater or cause eventual clogging of the leachfield.
A wet area or standing water occurs above the leachfield.
- This situation can develop when sludge particles clog the leachfield, when tree roots or broken pipes keep the waste water from dispersing through the entire leachfield, or when water use in the house regularly exceeds the design capacity of the system. When these conditions occur, waste water does not move through the soil as it should, and instead rises to the surface creating a serious health risk and odor problems.
Toilets run slowly or backup.
- In the worst cases, the basement is flooded with sewage. This can be the result of plugged sewer lines to the tank, a plugged inlet or outlet pipe, a full septic tank, or a failed leachfield.
- Septic odors can occur in the house, above the tank or leachfield, or escape from the vent pipe. If the system is operating properly, there should be no odors. If there are odors, it can be an early warning sign that the system is failing.
Regular maintenance is vital for a properly functioning septic system! Call for an appointment at (707) 839-2270.
Steve’s Septic Service, LLC’s main goal, is educating Humboldt County septic system owners about the importance of regular maintenance on their systems. Regular maintenance is not only good for the environment, but owners can avoid failed leachlines saving them thousands of dollars in the long run. Failed leachlines can cost up to $10,000 plus to replace a septic system, where regular maintenance can cost on the average of only 41 cents per day.
Tank Maintenance and Care
Frequency of Pumping
In new home installations, the tank should be pumped either before occupying the home or after 6-12 months of use as a precautionary measure to insure good bacteria activity and proper functioning. In new homes, sewage containing paint, varnish, stain and other construction-related products can reduce the initial levels of bacterial activity causing damage to the soil treatment system. If construction work is yet to be completed, the tank should be pumped before it is used for sewage.
Once a system is known to be operating properly, the worksheet on the “Guidelines” page can be used as a guideline for pumping frequency. Take into consideration both the calculated guideline results (in months) and the condition of the tank (amount of scum and sludge) at the last pumping. Homeowners should be present when the pumping is done or be sure to get this information from the pumping contractor.
ALL septic tanks MUST be periodically pumped (cleaned) to remove floating scum and sludge that accumulates. If either floating scum or sludge is allowed to enter the soil treatment system it will cause expensive and often irreparable damage. The pumping frequency depends on tank size, use, and operating condition.
The pumping frequency worksheet calculation for a typical household will usually suggest a pumping frequency of 18-30 months. If your final result is very different from this, recheck your responses and the math. If the result suggests very frequent pumping (less than every 12 months), the system may need to be upgraded and/or use habits changed. If the result suggests more than 36 months, the tank should either be pumped or checked for scum and sludge every 36 months.
The categories on the worksheet where you either lost months or didn’t gain credits offer ideas for positive changes. If you need help to interpret the results of the worksheet or if they seem strange, contact Steve’s Septic Service LLC for additional advice.