Septic System Dos and Don'ts

Understanding Septic Systems

Definition and Function of Septic Systems

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry. A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drainfield, or soil absorption field. The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.

Importance of Proper Septic System Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your septic system is essential to ensure its efficient operation. A well-maintained septic system protects the environment by removing pollutants from household wastewater, which can then be returned to the water cycle with minimal impact on the environment. It also safeguards the health of your family and community by preventing the spread of disease and infection from pathogens in the wastewater. Moreover, regular maintenance can save you significant money in the long run by preventing costly repairs or replacement.

Common Types of Septic Systems

Septic systems come in various types, each designed to suit specific conditions. The most common type is the conventional system, which includes a septic tank and a trench or bed subsurface wastewater infiltration system. Other types include the chamber system, which uses an open-bottomed concrete or plastic chamber instead of perforated pipes, and the drip distribution system, which delivers wastewater more slowly to the soil. There are also advanced treatment systems that remove more pollutants from the wastewater, suitable for areas with high water tables or near drinking water sources.

Essential Dos for Septic System Maintenance

Regular Inspection and Pumping

Regular inspection and pumping are crucial to the longevity of your septic system. An inspection by a professional every three years is a proactive way to avoid system failure and costly repairs. During the inspection, the service provider should check all the components of the system and assess the level of solids in your septic tank.

Ideal Frequency for Septic Tank Pumping

The frequency of septic tank pumping depends on several factors, including the size of the tank, the number of people in the household, and the amount and type of solids in the wastewater. However, the general rule of thumb is to have your septic tank pumped every three to five years. Regular pumping ensures that solids will not flow into the drainfield and clog the soil pores. While pumping the tank does not eliminate all the solids, it increases the tank's capacity to store solids and prolongs its life.

Efficient Water Use

Efficient water use can significantly improve the operation of your septic system and reduce the risk of failure. Every drop of water that goes down your drain ends up in your septic system, so more water means more work for the system. Conserving water not only reduces the amount of wastewater that must be treated and dispersed, but it also allows your septic tank to have enough time to properly treat waste and reduce solids.

Tips for Reducing Water Use

There are several ways to reduce water use in your home. These include installing high-efficiency toilets and showerheads, using the dishwasher and washing machine only for full loads, and fixing any leaks promptly. It's also a good practice to spread out water use throughout the week rather than overload the septic system with a large amount of water in a short time.

Proper Waste Disposal

What goes down your drain can have a significant impact on your septic system. Many materials do not decompose and consequently, build up in your tank, leading to a need for more frequent pumping.

Suitable and Unsuitable Materials for Septic Systems

Remember that your septic system is not a trash can. Avoid flushing anything besides human waste and toilet paper. Never flush items like diapers, wipes, feminine hygiene products, or cigarette butts, as they do not decompose and can clog the system. Also, avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down your drain. These substances can solidify and cause blockages in your septic tank and drainfield.

Effects of Improper Waste Disposal on Septic Systems

Improper waste disposal can cause several problems for your septic system. It can lead to blockages in the pipes and even cause the septic system to fail. It can also increase the need for more frequent pumping and maintenance, leading to higher costs over time. Furthermore, if harmful chemicals are disposed of improperly, they can kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank that help break down waste.

Crucial Don'ts for Septic System Care

Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

While your septic system can handle most household wastes, certain chemicals can be harmful. These include hazardous household chemicals like paint thinners, motor oils, gasoline, and pesticides. These substances can kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank, disrupting the treatment process.

Types of Chemicals to Avoid

Avoid using heavy-duty cleaners, especially those containing bleach and ammonia. These chemicals can kill the bacteria that break down waste in your septic tank. Also, avoid pouring cooking oil or grease down the drain as these can solidify and clog the septic tank and drainfield.

Impact of Harmful Chemicals on Septic Systems

Harmful chemicals can disrupt the biological digestion within the septic system, leading to system failure or contamination of nearby water sources. They can also corrode the septic tank and pipes, leading to leaks and other damage.

Preventing Physical Damage

Protecting your septic system from physical damage is crucial to its longevity. This includes avoiding driving over the drainfield, planting trees near the system, or building structures on top of the system.

Activities to Avoid Around Septic System Area

Avoid driving or parking vehicles on any part of your septic system. The weight can damage the tank and pipes, compact the soil, and disrupt the treatment process. Also, avoid planting trees or large shrubs near your septic system, as their roots can grow into the tank and pipes and cause damage.

Signs of Physical Damage to Septic Systems

Signs of physical damage to your septic system may include visible cracks or leaks in the tank, slow draining sinks and toilets, gurgling sounds in the plumbing system, or wet areas around the septic tank or drainfield. If you notice any of these signs, it's essential to contact a professional immediately to avoid further damage and costly repairs.

Ignoring Warning Signs

Ignoring warning signs of a failing septic system can lead to more serious problems down the line. It's important to pay attention to signs like foul odors, lush green grass over the drainfield, slow drains, or sewage backup.

Common Septic System Warning Signs

Common warning signs of a failing septic system include foul odors around the house or yard, lush green grass over the drainfield even during dry weather, slow drains, gurgling sounds in the plumbing system, and sewage backup in toilets or drains.

Importance of Prompt Response to Warning Signs

Responding promptly to these warning signs can save you from more serious problems like complete system failure or contamination of nearby water sources. It's always better to address issues early on when they are more manageable and less costly to fix.

Dealing with Septic System Problems

Common Septic System Issues and Solutions

Common septic system issues include clogs, leaks, and backups. Clogs can be caused by flushing inappropriate items down the toilet or pouring fats, oils, or grease down the drain. Leaks can be caused by physical damage to the tank or pipes, or by corrosion from harmful chemicals. Backups can occur when the septic tank is not pumped regularly and becomes too full.

Causes and Solutions for Septic System Backups

Septic system backups can be caused by a variety of issues, including a full septic tank, clogged drainfield, or blocked vent pipe. If you experience a backup, it's important to call a professional immediately. They can diagnose the problem and suggest the best solution, whether it's pumping the tank, repairing or replacing parts of the system, or even replacing the entire system.

Dealing with Septic System Odors

Septic system odors can be a sign of a problem with your system. If you notice a foul smell around your house or yard, it could be due to a full septic tank, a clog in the vent pipe, or a leak in the system. A professional can help determine the cause of the odor and recommend the best course of action.

When to Call a Professional

While there are some steps you can take to maintain your septic system, there are times when it's best to call a professional. These include when you notice any warning signs of a failing system, when it's time for regular inspection or pumping, or when you're planning to buy or sell a home with a septic system.

Situations Requiring Professional Help

Certain situations require the help of a professional septic system service provider. These include when you notice warning signs like foul odors, slow drains, or lush green grass over the drainfield, when it's time for regular inspection or pumping, or when you're planning to buy or sell a home with a septic system. A professional can provide a thorough inspection, diagnose any problems, and recommend the best course of action.

Choosing a Reliable Septic System Service Provider

When choosing a septic system service provider, consider factors like experience, reputation, and customer service. Look for a provider who has been in business for several years, has good reviews, and offers prompt and professional service.

Long-Term Care for Septic Systems

Importance of Regular Septic System Care

Regular care for your septic system is crucial to its longevity and efficiency. Regular inspections and pumping, efficient water use, proper waste disposal, and avoiding harmful chemicals and physical damage can all contribute to the long-term health of your system.

Benefits of Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your septic system has several benefits. It can prolong the life of your system, prevent system failure and costly repairs, protect the environment and public health, and maintain the value of your property.

Potential Consequences of Neglecting Septic System Care

Neglecting septic system care can lead to several problems. These include system failure, costly repairs or replacement, contamination of nearby water sources, and a decrease in property value. It's much more cost-effective to maintain your system regularly than to deal with these issues.

Planning for Septic System Replacement

Even with regular care, septic systems don't last forever. It's important to plan for the eventual replacement of your system to avoid a sudden, costly expense.

Lifespan of Septic Systems

The lifespan of a septic system depends on several factors, including the type of system, the quality of installation, the soil conditions, and how well it's been maintained. On average, a conventional septic system should last between 20 to 30 years.

Preparing for Septic System Replacement Costs

The cost of replacing a septic system can be significant, so it's a good idea to start saving for this expense well in advance. You can also explore financing options or insurance coverage to help with the cost. Remember, it's always cheaper to maintain your system regularly than to replace it prematurely.

At Chastain's Septic Tank Services and Portable Toilets, LLC in Anderson, SC, we understand the importance of maintaining your septic system. We offer a range of services, including regular inspections, pumping, repairs, and even system replacement. Contact us today to schedule a service or to learn more about how we can help you keep your septic system in top shape.