Tips for Septic Field Owners - FAQs

Programs/Topics
Septic Systems

Septic tanks should be pumped out every one to five years (depending on several factors) to remove the build up of sludge to prevent solids from clogging and/or overflowing the septic field.

Homeowners may become concerned with onsite sewage systems due to the cold weather and lack of snow cover. For the thousands of systems that we have in the district, the number that actually freeze is minimal. Solid toilet waste, classified as “black water”, contains the primary source of bacteria that provides for decomposition of organic waste. This process normally generates sufficient heat to keep the field from freezing in the winter.

However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Minimizing your “grey water” output can help. Grey water comes from laundry, showering, and dishwashing. Grey water lacks the bacteria required to allow the tank to operate normally.

Here are some tips that will minimize grey water:

  • Flush toilets with solid waste only. "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown flush it down."
  • Adjust the water level for laundry loads appropriate to the amount of clothes in the load.
  • Spread out laundry loads as much as possible – instead of a laundry day, do a (full) load once every few days instead.
  • A five-minute shower will use less water than a bath. However, a half-hour shower will not save you any grey water output.
  • If you use a dishwasher, ensure that you are running full loads.

 

Questions
Question
How often should the septic tank be pumped?
Answer

The tank should be pumped every 3-5 years OR when the sludge in the tank is approaching the 1/3 full mark. If more than this amount of sludge builds up, there is a chance that particles can get into the dispersal field and clog the system. To ensure regular service, keep a maintenance record of your system.

Question
How does the use of household water affect the system?
Answer

Conserve water. The more water that is used, the more that must be dispersed by the sewage treatment system.

Some general tips include:

  • Consider buying appliances with water conserving features.
  • Install water conserving showerheads and faucets.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes and full loads in the dishwasher.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
Question
What are some of the common household habits that create problems in a septic tank?
Answer

Problems can occur when homeowners use their septic tank as a garbage can.

Avoid any of the following entering the septic tank:

  • grease 
  • coffee grounds
  • bones
  • cooking fats
  • filter cigarette butts
  • disposable diapers
  • paper toweling
  • tissues
Question
Can a garbage disposal be used?
Answer

Garbage disposals are not recommended because the food particles fill up the septic tank faster and tend to clog the system. If a garbage disposal is used, plan to pump the septic system twice as often or increase the tank size by 1/3.

Question
What effect will rain water run-off have on the system?
Answer

It will have the potential to saturate the leaching bed. Do not direct any storm water, sump water and/or eaves water into the sewage treatment system.

Question
What about the use of household cleaning products?
Answer

Moderate use of bleaches, cleansers and other household products will not harm your septic tank.

Question
Is there any special type of toilet paper required?
Answer

White toilet paper designed for septic tank use is best, because there are no dyes that need to be broken down in white paper.

Question
What else can I do to protect the system?
Answer

A properly designed, installed and maintained system will give you years of trouble-free service. Protect the system with good daily habits and pump the septic tank as often as is required.

Question
What safety precautions should be taken?
Answer
  • NEVER go inside a septic tank. Lethal gases build up in the tank that are overpowering and deadly. Call professionals if you have a problem with your system.
  • Know where the manhole cover to the septic tank is located. It must be secure at all times.
  • Septic tanks that are no longer being used must be either removed OR crushed and filled with earth.