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How well do you understand septic systems?

To see if you know enough about yours, answer the following questions.  If you can't answer all of them, your septic system could become a huge aggravation, public nuisance, health hazard, and financial burden.

Do you know how a septic system works?

Do you know what causes septic systems to fail?

Do you know what it costs to replace a faulty septic system?

Do you know that a faulty septic system creates health hazards and pollutes the groundwater?

If you are like most people, you know very little about your septic system.  This is understandable.  You know the old sayings, "Out of sight, out of mind", and "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".  In most rural areas, septic systems function as both sewers and sewage treatment plants.  All household waste, good or bad, is disposed of through the septic system.  Proper operation of septic systems is essential to health, property value, and ecology.

 

Ten Helpful Hints for Maintaining Your Septic System

1.    Have the septic tank pumped every 3-5 years.  This will remove accumulated sludge and scum which would otherwise reach the lateral field, resulting in a malfunctioning system and costly repairs.  This is the single most effective means of ensuring a long-lasting septic system.  There are two companies in Harrison County that provide this service:

  • Longbottom and Hardsaw - 812-732-4358

  • Scott Rennirt's Septic Service - 812-596-0063

 

2.    It is always wise to practice water conservation.  Don't run the washer in water-usage prime times, such as when the toilets, showers, and bathtubs are in demand.  Don't do several loads of laundry in one day.  Spread it out and do one load a day for several days. 

 

A typical washing machine uses 30 to 40 gallons of water per load.  If you do 5 loads of laundry in one day, that pumps at least 150-200 gallons of water into your lateral lines.  Most septic systems 10 years old or older have a 600-900 square-foot absorption area.  Average soil in the county absorbs 1/3 of a gallon of water per square foot per day.  Five loads of laundry a day would be the maximum a 600 square-foot system could handle, and this is not including other water usage during the day.      

 

3.  Use soaps and detergents which are low in phosphates.  Phosphates damage the "good" bacteria in the septic tank.  Phosphorous is used in fertilizers and can also cause algae to grow when it gets to our surface waters.
4.    Do not flush hazardous chemicals such as paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oil, pesticides, etc.  They destroy "good" bacteria in your septic tank, pollute the groundwater, and can kill aquatic life such as microscopic plants and animals, fish, frogs, etc.
   5.    Do not flush anything that will not dissolve in water.  Don't flush coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers, kitty litter, sanitary napkins, tampons, cigarette butts, condoms, grease or oil, paper towels, facial tissues, etc.  
6.    Commercial septic tank additives are not necessary and not recommended.  They can partially liquefy solids in the tank, allowing them to flow out and clog up your lateral lines.
7.    Do not allow vehicles larger than a riding mower to park on or drive over your lateral field.
8.    Divert surface water, roof drains, sump pumps, hoses, and house footing drains away from the sewage system.
9.    Sewage systems should have a good cover of grass, good ventilation, and abundant sunlight.  Don't pour concrete patios or basketball courts on top of your lateral field.  Trees and shrubs should not be planted over sewage systems.  Their roots are drawn to the water in the lateral lines and may grow into and clog them.  Trees and shrubs planted between the septic system and a sinkhole, creek, pond, or lake, however, would be beneficial.

Grease-clogged pipe from www.ceasethegreasetx.com

10.    Be alert to these warning signs!

  • Sewage surfacing over the lateral field.

  • Sewage backing up in the house.

  • Mushy ground of greener grass in the area of the lateral field.

  • Slowly draining toilets or drains.

  • Sewage odors.

Following these tips and observing these warning signs will help to ensure a long-lasting sewage system, avoid expensive repairs, and protect everyone's water supply.

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