Septic Tank Systems

Guidelines for the successful use of your septic system:

Inside the House

Don't flush dangerous and damaging substances into the septic tank. (Please refer to "Substitutes for Household Hazardous Waste," below) Specifically, do not flush . . .

  • Flammable or toxic products
  • Household cleaners, especially floor wax and rug cleaners
  • Chlorine, chlorides, and pool or spa products

Don't flush substances that cause maintenance problems and/or increase the need for septage pumping. Dispose of the following with your trash:

  • Kitty litter, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, cigarette butts
  • Paper towels, newspapers, sanitary napkins, diapers
  • Cooking grease, bath or body oils
  • Rags, large amounts of hair, dental floss
  • Water treatment or softener backwash

Don't use garbage disposals excessively. They increase the amount of solids entering your tank. Compost scraps or dispose with your trash. Collect grease in a container and dispose with your trash. (These food byproducts or cooking products accelerate the need for septage pumping and increase maintenance.)

Don't use special additives that are touted to enhance the performance of your tank or system. Additives can cause major damage to your drainfield and other areas in the collection system. The natural microorganisms that grow in your system generate their own enzymes that are sufficient for breaking down and digesting nutrients in the wastewater.

Don't use excessive amounts of water (60 gallons per person per day is typical) Look at your permit to determine the maximum allowable daily flow for your system.

Don't leave interior faucets on to protect water lines during cold spells. A running faucet can easily increase your wastewater flow by 1,000 to 3,000 gallons per day and hydraulically overload your drainfield. Instead, properly insulate or heat your faucets and plumbing.

Do repair leaky plumbing fixtures. (A leaky toilet can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water in a single day - that's 5 -10 times more water than a household's typical daily usage)

Do conserve water:

  • Take shorter showers or baths with a partially filled tub.
  • Don't let water run unnecessarily while washing hands, food, teeth, dishes, etc.
  • Wash dishes and clothes only when you have a full load.
  • When possible, avoid doing several loads in one day.
  • Use water saving devices on faucets and showerheads.
  • When replacing old toilets, buy a low-flush model.

Do keep lint out of your septic system by cleaning the lint filters on your washing machine and dryer before every load. Installing a supplemental lint filter on your washing machine would be a good precautionary measure. (This normally takes just a few minutes. Lint and other such materials can make an extreme difference in the frequency and cost of pumping out your septic tank.)

Laundry Detergents: Choose one with a zero phosphate content or use soap flakes with 1/3 cup of washing soda. (Before switching, wash clothes in pure washing soda to remove residues.)
Outside the House

Do familiarize yourself with the location of your septic system and electrical control panel.

Do keep the tank access lid secure to the riser at all times. If bolts are lost or damaged, call your Service Provider immediately for replacements.

Do make arrangements with a reliable Service Provider to provide regular monitoring and maintenance.
Do keep accurate records of maintenance and service calls. Make sure whoever services your tank keeps a complete record, and ask for a copy for your records.

Do locate your electrical control panel where it will be protected from potential vandalism.

Do keep an "as built" system diagram in a safe place for reference.

Do keep a copy of all permits from the Agency for your system.

Don't dig without knowing the location of your septic system. As much as possible, plan landscaping and permanent outdoor structures before installation. But easily removable items, such as bird baths and picnic tables, are OK to place on top of your system.

Don't drive over your tank or any buried components in your system, unless it's been equipped with a special traffic lid. If the system is subject to possible traffic, put up a barricade or a row of shrubs.

Don't dump RV waste into your septic tank. It will increase the frequency of required septage pumping. When dumped directly into the pumping vault, RV waste clogs or fouls equipment causing undue maintenance and repair costs. (Some RV waste may contain chemicals that are toxic or that may retard the biological digestion occurring within the tank.)

Don't enter your tank. Any work to the tank should be done from the outside. Gases that can be generated in the tank and/or oxygen depletion can be fatal.

Don't ever connect rain gutters or storm drains to the sewer or allow surface water to drain into it. The additional water will increase costs, reduce the capacity of the collection and treatment systems, and flood the drainfield.

Don't hook up to a pressure mainline without the proper tools and supervision, if your septic system is connected to a pressure sewer. The sewer mainlines may be under high pressure.

At the Control Panel Important! Caution!
Before doing any work on either the wiring to the level control floats and pumps in the vault or on the control panel, switch the isolation fuse/breaker and the circuit breakers in the panel to their "OFF" positions; then switch "off" the power to the system at the main breaker!

Don't turn "off" the main circuit breaker to the wastewater pumps when going on vacation. If there is any filtration or inflow into the system, the pumps will need to handle it.

Do familiarize yourself with the location of your septic system and electrical control panel and note the number on the panel. Refer to this number when reporting a malfunction in the system.

Do take immediate action to correct the problem in the event of an alarm condition. Call your Service Provider whenever the alarm comes on. (It's wise to make the call immediately to avoid the tendency to forget.)

Do remember that the audible alarm can be silenced or muted at the system control panel. With normal use, the tank has a reserve storage capacity good for 24-48 hours.

Additional Benefits: Besides improving the performance and longevity of your system, following these best practice suggestions will conserve energy and water usage. Assuming the system was sized to accommodate your lifestyle, your system should function for decades.

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