Keep Your Septic System in Super Shape

By Christina Catanese

With the recent onrush of holiday guests, your septic system probably got a pretty good workout .  And it might not get much recovery time, with football playoffs in full swing, hockey season about to finally start, and the cold days and long nights of winter that beg to be spent indoors with friends and family.

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If you’re among the nearly one in four households served by septic systems, EPA has some “SepticSmart” tips for you to help keep your system in shape:

  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full.  Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products.  Too much water use at once can overload your system, particularly if it hasn’t been pumped in the last couple of years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain, which can clog your system, or toxic material, which can kill the organisms that digest and treat waste.
  • Have your septic system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have the tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.  It can cost $3,000 to $7,000 to repair or replace a malfunctioning system compared to the average $250 to $300 cost to pump a septic system.
  • Don’t flush household products down the toilet.  Dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, coffee grounds and cat litter can clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Remind guests not to park or drive on your system’s drainfield because the vehicle weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow causing system backups and floods.

A malfunctioning system, in addition to being costly, can kill native plants and fish and shellfish, as well as reduce property values and potentially pose a legal liability.

A properly maintained system helps keep your family’s drinking water clean, reduces the risk of contaminating local waters, and keeps conversation with your guests focused on more pleasant subjects…like the funniest commercials during the big game.

So while you work on your new year’s resolution to be healthier yourself, resolve to keep your septic system in shape too.  For more information, visit www.epa.gov/septicsmart.