Septic system maintenance is straight forward:
- About every 2 to 5 years have the solids pumped from your tank.
- Conserve water usage.
- Don’t dispose of anything that can easily be put into the trash.
- Avoid putting coffee grounds, grease and cooking oils down the drains.
- Use toilet paper that is biodegradable and approved for use in septic systems
- Don’t plant trees within 6 feet of the septic system. Don’t allow anyone to drive over or park on the septic system.
- Don’t allow livestock over the septic system.
- Don’t cover the drainage field with concrete or asphalt. Grass should be the only cover.
- Don’t pour harmful chemicals or cleansers into the system.
- Don’t repair the septic system without obtaining the required permits from authorities having jurisdiction in these matters.
- When making repairs, use a licensed septic contractor.
- If you must inspect the septic system use appropriate caution…toxic gases from the tanks can kill in minutes. Better yet, hire a licensed professional.
- Make an accurate diagram showing the location of your septic tank and drainage field.
- Keep accurate detailed records of pumping, inspection and other maintenance carried out.
- To simplify tank access for inspection and maintenance, install a watertight concrete riser over the septic tank.
- Do not plan any building additions, pools, driveways, or other construction work near the septic tank, drainage field.
- Do not flush items that are not biodegradable.
Should you use additives with your system or not? Chemical additives are strong acids or alkalis, or organic solvents. Biological additives are cultures of harmless bacteria, plus waste-digesting enzymes. These sometimes contain yeast cultures.
If a homeowner is not misusing the septic system then these products will likely be of no benefit. The quantity of material added with each dose of these products is very small compared to the biological material already present and working in the tank.
Sometimes, your system can be upset when the septic tank bacteria are harmed or destroyed. This can happen if the home is vacant for a long period and the tank receives no fresh wastewater, or if strong cleaning agents are flushed down the drain. After a few days of normal use, the biological system in the tank will re-establish itself. In this situation the biological additives may help speed the recovery of the septic tank.
Every septic tank needs to be pumped periodically, because all waste water contains inert matter that cannot be degraded in the tank. No additive can do away with this need.
Could an additive harm your system? — The biological additives are unlikely to be harmful. The chemical additives could definitely harm your system. These products have the potential to sterilize your system temporarily. The resulting passage of raw sewage into the drainage field will hasten its failure. The acid and alkali products can corrode the plumbing and the tank. The organic solvents pass through the system unchanged. They can then infiltrate into the groundwater, creating a chemical plume that endangers nearby wells.