Is Your Septic System Ready for the Big Game?

By Maureen Tooke

I come from a large family and get-togethers can be stressful, even for our septic system. My family is just one of the nearly one-quarter of U.S. households that should follow a few simple steps to avoid problems with their systems during family gatherings and parties, like many that will happen for Sunday’s big football game.

While we’re all familiar with how the system works and are careful to maintain it, all that extra flushing and water use during parties can really stress the system, causing it to fail.
I remember several things in particular my mom would do around the house, in addition to having it inspected and pumped, which were good daily practices to ensure that our system worked. 

Kitchens back in the day didn’t have garbage disposals, so she would put food waste in a little bag and throw it in the trash.  She would also put the grease from the Sunday morning bacon in a tin can for it to harden and then throw it away.  Turns out that it was a good thing we didn’t have a disposal, as EPA recommends you not use one if you have a septic system.  All that extra food waste and cooking grease clogs the system. There’s nothing worse than your septic system backing up!

For the bathroom, she’d buy thin toilet paper and we’d never flush anything other than what we were supposed to, though I’m sure one of my brothers’ little green army guys might have slipped in when no one was looking.  My dad would stay on us about taking short showers and not running the faucet while we brushed.  These are good water conservation practices, regardless.

Like my mom, EPA’s SepticSmart program has easy to remember tips about keeping your system properly maintained during the big game and all year long:

  • Get your septic system inspected by a professional at least every three years and pumped every three to five years.
  • Don’t flush anything besides human waste and toilet paper.
  • Never pour cooking oil or grease down the drain.
  • Never park or drive on your septic drainfield.
  • Conserve water around the home as much as possible since all of the water a household sends down its pipes winds up in its septic system.

Proper system care and maintenance are vital to protecting public health, water resources and your property value.

About the author: Maureen Tooke is an Environmental Protection Specialist who works in the Office of Wastewater Management in EPA’s Region 10 Idaho Operations Office in Boise. She lives in the North End with her fiancé and dog.