Flushed With Success – Maximizing the Lifespan of Your Septic System

Septic System

Many septic system owners assume that as long as their wastewater “goes away,” their systems must be working properly. However, the septic tank and drain field must be regularly evaluated and pumped to function properly.

Septic systems need to be treated with care and respect. Using these tips can help extend your system’s lifespan.

1. Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent septic system problems and prolong the life of your tank and drain field. In a conventional septic system, the wastewater flows into a septic tank where the solid waste is separated from the liquid waste. Microorganisms in the tank break down the organic materials, and the wastewater is discharged into a drain or leach field for further treatment.

When you think about the amount of water that exits a home in one day (from showers, faucets, washing machines, and toilets), it’s easy to see how leaks and other unnecessary water usage can put a strain on septic systems. Leaking toilets can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day, and even a small leak from a sink or tub can cause a similar amount of water wastage.

It’s also important to keep your septic system in good working condition by keeping it pumped regularly. You can use handy charts to determine when your septic tank is due for pumping, but it’s also important to talk with local septic service professionals about your specific septic system.

Non-Biodegradable Items: Plastics, cigarette butts, sanitary products and so-called “flushable” wipes don’t break down and can clog your septic system. Chemicals and Toxins: Pouring household chemicals, solvents, paint, or oil down your drains can disrupt the delicate bacterial balance in your septic tank and contaminate nearby drinking water wells or local waterways. Grease, Food Waste, and Coffee Grounds: Grease can solidify in the septic tank and clog pipes, while food scraps and coffee grounds increase the sludge layer in your tank.

Finally, keeping landscaping and trees away from the septic tank and leach field is important. Planting vegetation too close can promote root growth that can damage the tank or leach field. Avoid growing bushes or other plants with deep roots within ten feet of the tank, and limit grass to short, natural varieties.

2. Local Environmental Considerations

Septic systems are a time-honored way to treat household wastewater. They’re commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems.

However, septic system usage has an impact on the environment as well. If your home’s septic system isn’t used properly, it can lead to sewage overflow and groundwater contamination. These six environmental factors can help ensure your septic system’s success and protect local water supplies and wildlife.

Local Environmental Considerations

The soil on which a septic system drains or absorption field is built determines how quickly it can absorb and degrade septic tank effluent. In coastal areas with sandy, porous soil, septic tank runoff can reach nearby lakes or rivers and cause toxic algal blooms that choke out fish populations and undermine tourist economies. This type of septic pollution can also seep into groundwater and contaminate drinking water sources.

Several factors influence the local environmental considerations of a septic system, including the soil percolation rate and soil conditions that affect the drain field or absorption field. Maintaining proper septic system usage and avoiding flushing chemicals or items that won’t biodegrade reduces the solid buildup in a septic tank and increases the soil’s ability to absorb the septic system effluent.

Taking shorter showers and using a front-load washer instead of a top-load one conserves water and reduces the load on your septic system. Choosing cleaning and personal care products that are labeled as “septic safe” reduces the amount of non-biodegradable materials that enter the septic tank. Keeping the septic tank and drain field free of obstructions such as trees, shrubs, roots, stormwater runoff, or standing water reduces the system’s chance of overloading or polluting groundwater.

3. Water Usage

Taking care of your septic system helps you protect the health and sanitation of yourself, your family, and your pets. In communities without a municipal sewer system or city water, your septic system is crucial to treating the wastewater that leaves your home, including sewage and other household waste. Insufficiently treated sewage can cause illnesses like typhoid fever, hepatitis, and dysentery. And if you have young children, nitrates and phosphates from improperly treated sewage can lead to blue baby syndrome, a condition characterized by a newborn’s reduced ability to receive oxygen in the bloodstream.

The way you use your home affects the rate at which wastewater flows into your septic system. Inefficient or leaky toilets, faucets, washers, and showerheads all increase the volume of wastewater entering your septic system. Replacing old toilets with high-efficiency models that use 1.6 gallons or less per flush can significantly reduce household wastewater entering your septic tank and drain field. Faucet aerators and shower flow restrictors are also easy ways to limit how much water you use in your home.

Water usage also affects the level of solid build-up in your septic tank. The more water you use, the more solids are produced, and the more often your septic tank needs to be pumped.

If you’ve added an addition to your home since your septic tank was installed or if you have a large family, your septic system may be overcapacity. This can result in sludge and scum flowing from the tank into your soil absorption field. Avoid this by minimizing the amount of wastewater you use in your home, avoiding flushing chemicals or items that don’t decompose (such as plastics, cigarette butts, and sanitary products), and keeping the frequency of household water use to a minimum.

4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Septic systems provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to centralized city sewers. They collect wastewater from your home and drain it into a special tank that separates waste from water. Then, perforated pipes deliver the sewage to a specially designed drain field that naturally cleans the sewage before returning it to groundwater systems.

A septic system is a living, breathing ecosystem teeming with bacteria that break down waste and keep the tank working properly. If chemicals that are harmful to these bacteria enter the system, it can cause major problems. It is essential to use cleaning products labeled as septic-safe or organic, reducing the risk of harmful chemicals entering the waterways.

Adding cleaning products to your routine that are septic-safe can also extend the lifespan of your septic system. For example, you can use white vinegar as a natural laundry detergent and as a bathroom cleaner. For dishes and pots, try using baking soda and vinegar to break down fat and scour away residue.

Grease, oil, and other solids should never be flushed down the drain or into your garbage disposal. They can build up and clog pipes, preventing drainage of wastewater.

When it comes to grease and oil, using a product such as Rid-X can help. This product contains lipase, a natural enzyme that breaks down fats and oils, making them easier for your septic system to digest. You can also use an organic septic tank additive, like Unique Septic System Digester, to help eliminate fatty acids and solids in your septic system. This can prevent clogs, which is vital for your septic tank’s longevity.

5. Know Your System

The septic system in your home is a wastewater treatment and disposal system that helps manage waste from toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines, and dryers. Typically located in rural areas that don’t have access to public sewer systems, septic systems are underground wastewater treatment facilities composed of a septic tank, a soil absorption field, and other components.

As you use your home, wastewater enters the septic system through a sewer line that slopes down toward your tank. The septic system processes the waste through natural and technological methods, allowing solids to settle in the septic tank and wastewater to flow into the drain field or leach field, where it is treated and dispersed into the soil.

The amount of water your household uses is one-factor affecting septic system capacity, and many easy ways exist to reduce this load. For example, consider replacing older toilets with high-efficiency models that only require 1.6 gallons per flush. Installing faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads can also help reduce household water usage and the volume of wastewater entering your septic system.

Other factors that impact septic system performance include the size of your household, the number of people living there, the amount of solids in wastewater, and the type of food and products you put down your drains. Avoid flushing items like cigarette butts, coffee grounds, baby wipes, and grease down your drains, as they can clog the system.

Knowing the basics of your septic system and following these tips can give you peace of mind that your septic system will work well for years to come. If you are unsure how often your septic tank should be pumped or need assistance with any part of your septic system, contact a local professional.