Care of Septic Systems
To maximize the useful life of a septic system and prevent premature failure, all systems require proper care and periodic maintenance.
- Inspect your septic tank once every year and pump, as necessary. Solids will eventually fill the tank and pass them into the drain field, mound, or sand filter, which can lead to expensive repairs.
- Avoid flushing harmful material into the septic tank. Never put grease, any kind of paper (other than toilet paper), cigarettes, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, solvents, oils, paint, caustic chemicals, or pesticides into the tank.
- Avoid the use of any type of chemical or biological septic tank additive. Additives do not improve the performance in a septic tank. They are not a substitute for routine pumping, and some can be harmful to the system or the environment.
- Use water wisely. Keep the amount of wastewater entering the septic system well below the “daily designed flow,” which is the maximum number of gallons the system is designed to handle per day. For a three-bedroom house, the daily designed flow in litres per day (L/day) is 1600; for a four-bedroom house, it is 2000L/day. A septic system cannot be run at its peak capacity for long without problems developing. Using more water than the system is designed to manage is one of the leading causes of premature septic system failure. To reduce the risk of water overloads, use “low flow” fixtures on faucets, showerheads, and toilets (many newer homes come with low flow fixtures). Front loading washing machines use considerably less water than top load models. Do laundry throughout the week, rather than all on a single day. Promptly repair all leaky faucets and toilets.
- Limit garbage disposal use. A garbage disposal can lead to a significant increase in solid build-up and waste strength problems in a septic system. Therefore, they are not recommended for use with a septic system. If your house already has one, limit the amount that it is used.
- Do not construct patios, carports, decks or use landscaping plastic over the drain field or septic tank. The system should be kept accessible for proper maintenance and repair and the drain fields need oxygen in order to work properly. When soil is compacted, the drain field paved over or covered, oxygen cannot get into the soil.
- Keep all vehicles off the septic tank and drain field areas. Vehicular traffic is a major cause of damage to septic systems. Septic tanks are typically not designed for vehicular traffic and may crack or collapse as a result. Drain field pipes can be easily crushed by cars being driven over them. Vehicles also compact the surrounding soil, which prevents proper drainage.
- Direct water from roof drains and surface drainage away from the drain field and septic tank. Additional water from these sources may overload the drain field. Surface and ground water that enters the septic or pump tank can easily fail a system even though household water use is well within the design capacity of the system.
- Do not dispose of water from hot tubs into the septic tank. Large volumes of water and residual chlorine can be extremely harmful to your septic system. Check with local jurisdictions for proper disposal of water from hot tubs.
- Keep a detailed record of all maintenance activities.
- Be aware of the location of all septic system components. A septic system as built is the best source of this information. Know where the septic tank, pump tank, drain field and reserve areas are located. Protect these areas from impacts of any driveway, out building, patio, deck, swimming pool, sports court, or landscaping projects.
- Do not plant trees and shrubs over septic tanks or drain fields. The water-seeking roots of these plants can damage your home septic system. Grass or shallow-rooted plants tend to be the best cover for septic systems.