Correct Maintenance of your on-site Septic is the key to keeping your system running smoothly. Although Septic Systems should last between 20-30 years, neglecting regular maintenance on your system could result in early deterioration of your septic and drainfield systems, and lead to expensive repair or replacement costs much earlier in your Septic System’s lifetime.
Think of your septic system as a vehicle. With regular maintenance, fluid changes and system checks on your car, it could have a lifetime of 20-30 years. The same can be said about your septic system. Regular Maintenance and Inspections will catch problems early in their stages, and allow you to fix those problems before they lead to a system failure, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in replacement cost. Here are ten maintenance tips to keep your OSS running smoothly for years to come.
1. Have your Septic System pumped regularly.
The average home will need to have the septic tank pumped out every three to five years. Without regular system pumping, solids could overload the Septic tank(s) and sludge could leach into the drainfield. Drainfield effluent should be clear of these solids to keep the system running cleanly.
2. Divert all access runoff away from your septic tank.
All gutters and drainpipes should be directed away from your Septic Tank(s) and Drain Fields. By diverting all access runoff away from your system, you are allowing the septic to treat the waste and greywater it was meant to treat effectively. If you allow this runoff to enter the system, your septic could become hydronically overloaded, allowing the drainfield to become oversaturated and not do it’s job properly.
3. Make sure all access lids and ports are sealed tight.
Quite often, water can penetrate poorly sealed lids and ports and cause problems in your septic system. When water gets into these cracks and crevaces it can hydrolically overload your septic system and cause the drainfield to become oversaturated. This is often more of a problem with pressure type systems. It causes pumps to run constantly, overworking the pump and wasting energy and money.
4. Have your Septic System inspected routinely.
The State of Washington currently requires all homeowners to have their Septic System tested every year for all types of systems, except for Gravity feed systems, which need to be inspected every three years. By having your system inspected regularly you will be able to diagnose and fix problems early before they become failures.
5. Have the proper drawings and sitemaps for your system.
When your septic system is installed, there should be a site map, or plot map drawing showing all of the components of your septic system. By having this handy you can eliminate having to guess where your septic tank, pump tanks, transport lines, or Drainfields are located in case of an emergency that needs immediate attention. If you don’t have a site map or there is not one on record with your health department, it would be wise to have Septic Designer/Architect create one for you.
6. Do not cover or obstruct the System in any way.
Do not cover or obstruct the Septic System components or Drainfield with any Asphalt, Concrete, Decks, Framing or Structures that would impede you from accessing these areas. Keep vehicles off your septic system. Their pressure can yield damage to the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil. If you need to replace any of these components in the future it will be difficult to access them with any of the before mentioned items obstructing them.
7. Don’t introduce Septic tank additives or “rejuvenators” in your septic tank.
Whether they claim to break up sludge or scum or to unclog drain fields, or biologically-based septic additives like septic tank yeast cultures, septic tank bacteria, starter bacteria, or septic tank enzymes. These can actually damage your system, causing frothing and excessive activity and thus preventing normal settling of solid wastes. Check with your local health department or authority if you are considering introducing additives.
8. Do not flush any items other than septage or toilet tissues.
By using your toilet as a trash receptacle you are introducing unacceptable items, some which will never decompose or chock inlets/outlets, and will require constant pumping of the septic tank. Limit the use of toilet bowl and drain cleaners because they are harmful to the friendly bacteria that aid in the decomposition of the solids in the septic tank. Do not use a sink disposal unit if you are on a septic system. While those units grind up waste foods, most septic systems are not designed or capable of dealing with such undigested solids.
9. Refrain from using heavy oils or cleaners.
Never dump cooking oil or grease or such oily substances in sinks or toilets. As these substances float on water, they pose a threat of clogging the inlet pipes by filling up upper part of septic tank. This oil can also transfer into the transport pipes, solidify, and cause excessive buildup that can cause blockage of the drainfield.
10. Do not plant large vegetation over your Drainfield.
Do not plant any trees or large shrubs over the septic area, drainpipes or drainfield/leachfields. The roots from these plants will eventually grow into the drain lines and obstruct or damage them. Grasses or small plants are OK, as long as the root system is shallow and will not impede or block drain lines.
By following these 10 tips and Maintenance techniques your Septic System should last for many years to come!