Consumer GuidesPlumbing

Install a Septic System

Septic systems are “holding tanks” placed underground outside your home, where your waste sewage is broken down by bacteria.

It pays to take care of your septic tank. When maintained improperly, the necessary bacteria in the system can be destroyed, causing the biological machine to shut down. Then, sludge builds up and is pushed into the drainfield, where it clogs up the system. Before you know it, you have a sewage backup and a major headache.

The tank can be pumped out, but the drainfield cannot. After several pumpings on a too-frequent basis, you may discover that a new septic system is needed at the cost of several thousand dollars. With proper care, a system should last more than 20 years.

It’s important to know where your tank is located, both so it may be inspected and pumped and so that you can avoid driving over the tank with heavy equipment or otherwise damaging the system. If you don’t know where it is, you can hire a professional septic contractor, who may find it with an electronic detector or by probing the soil with a long metal rod.

Have your tank inspected by a septic tank professional every three to five years-more frequently if your family uses a lot of water and/or a garbage disposal.

Be careful about what you flush or wash down the drain. Don’t flush dyed or heavy toilet tissue or paper towels, feminine hygiene products, condoms or disposable diapers. Minimize use of a garbage disposal and don’t dispose of fat, grease, or coffee grounds in the system.

Many commercial septic treatments are ineffective or actually damage the system. Check with your health department to see whether the product has received state approval. Periodically inspecting and pumping your septic system is the best way to make sure it operates reliably for many years.

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