Follow these simple steps to shorten the life of your septic system:
Believe the people who tell you a septic system never needs pumped.
Many people claim, “If a septic system is working properly you should never need to pump the tank.” If followed carefully, this approach will ensure that your system doesn’t last nearly as long as it could. As solids accumulate in the tank, the holding capacity of the tank is reduced. This results in solids being transferred to the drainfield, where they plug up the pipes and soil. Bacteria can’t process the waste quickly enough. After awhile, the drainfield will slow down, resulting in a backup.
Don’t worry about leaking plumbing fixtures.
Even seemingly tiny leaks from toilets and faucets can easily add enough water down the drains to flood the septic system, causing it to fail. We have measured the flow from a leaking toilet at almost 400 gallons per day, in a home with a septic system designed to handle 250 gallons per day.
Use more water than a system is designed to accept.
Every septic system has a “design flow,” which is the amount of water it is designed to accept every day. For example, a system for a 3 bedroom home is designed for 250 gallons per day, a 4 bedroom home has a system designed for 300 gallons per day, and so on. Depending on which study you read, the average wastewater flow per person in residences is somewhere between 60 and 80 gallons per day. That means that 5 people living in a 3 bedroom home could easily produce 300 gallons per day of wastewater. This can eventually saturate the drainfield.
Pour toxic substances down the drain.
Septic systems need healthy bacteria to work well. If your goal is to ruin your septic system, there are many things you can pour down the drain to speed the process along. Basically, anything that has a warning label will work, such as bleach, disinfectants, or liquid drain cleaner. If you are doing home improvements, paint thinners and lacquers can also do the trick. In summer months, mix your pesticides and wash your sprayer in the sink. Pesticides are reliable bacteria killers.
Allow vehicles to drive on the drainfield area.
Vehicles can shorten the life of a drainfield in two ways. First of all, they can crush components and break pipes. They also compact the soil, so that it cannot absorb water as well. Heavy animals, such as horses and cattle, can have the same effect as vehicles.
Realistically, we all know that nobody is looking for ways to shorten the life of their system. Follow these simple steps to get the most life out of your septic system:
- Pump the septic tank periodically to remove accumulated solids. The health department, DEQ, and EPA recommend pumping your tank every 3-5 years.
- Be aware of leaky plumbing and get any problems fixed immediately.
- Don’t overload your system. As a rule of thumb, your system should handle two people in the master bedroom, and one person per additional bedroom. If you have more than that, be very careful with water usage. If you are building a new home, make sure the installer sizes the system for your needs, and not just the minimum size required by the permit.
- Be very careful that you don’t allow toxic substances to be flushed down the drains.
- Protect the system from vehicles and heavy animal traffic.
As always, if you have any questions regarding septic maintenance, feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.