A new resident recently expressed concern about buying a house with a septic system. People on a central sewer system may never give a thought to what happens after we flush or take a shower. Thankfully, it takes minimal effort to avoid costly repairs or replacement of a septic system.
The majority of local homes have a septic system. The resident’s system treats household waste from the toilet, sink, shower, dishwasher, etc. in an underground receptacle called a septic tank. Wastewater is broken down by bacteria, solids settle out and grease rises to the surface, forming a floating scum layer. The liquid portion of the waste then flows out of the tank and is delivered to the drainfield to soil through perforated pipes. Through soil percolation, many pollutants are removed. Given care with what goes down and assuming there is periodic maintenance, systems work relatively well.
Here are four easy ways to extend the life and functionality of a septic system:
n Conserve water. Efficient water use improves the operation of a system.
In other words, try not to do all of your laundry, take long showers, and run the dishwasher all on the same day.
n Be frugal with the disposal and minimize grease down the drain. Wipe grease with a used napkin instead of rinsing greasy material down the drain. Also, even waste vegetable matter contains organic matter, so better to compost if possible.
n Nothing toxic down the drain. No oils, pesticides, fertilizers or pharmaceuticals. Regular cleaning materials are just fine. Unwanted pharmaceuticals should be collected for an annual amnesty day conducted by the sheriff’s office, or consult your pharmacist for proper disposal. Did you know that water samples in King’s Bay regularly contain artificial sweeteners? Now that can’t be blamed on the manatees!
n Don’t make the toilet a garbage can. Many household items, including “flushable” wipes, do not decompose in your system.
Finally, have your septic system pumped and inspected by a professional about every three to five years. But that depends on how faithfully you follow the points above. More frequent attention is needed if you regularly use a garbage disposal, wash partial loads often and/or commonly have overnight guests.
Maintain a healthy system to reduce some of the excess nutrients going into the environment (although to do a really good job of nutrient pollution, you will need a higher-end system). Since a new system can be very expensive, avoid a costly and frustrating home improvement project by following these simple steps to extend the life of your septic system.
Note: The Citrus County Extension Service is providing assistance by phone at 352-527-5700 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.