Archive for the 'Septic Tanks' Category

Septic Tank Maintenance

Aug. 26th 2012

Homes which are not served by Municipal water and sewage utilities most often are equipped with a septic system, a means for collecting, treating and disposing of household waste water.

The primary factor in reliable functioning of a septic system is its location. Site selection is paramount, with care and attention given to the topography of the area and the soil characteristics. Proper placement of the system components is also key. Let us take for granted, for the purposes of this article, that the system has been properly installed and the soil is well suited for use with your septic system. If, on the other hand, you have inherited a poorly constructed system, the cure lies outside the scope of this article.

A septic system consists of a collection tank (the septic tank), which receives all the waste water from the home or business, and a drain field (or lateral field), through which liquid portions of the waste are delivered to the surrounding soil, to be filtered by the soil and returned to the groundwater. Inside the tank, bacteria goes to work on the waste to break it down and liquefy the solids. The size of the septic tank is dependent on the expected amount of waste, so a very old system may be too small for a modern home, because of the addition of a washing machine and the growth of family size, both of which dramatically increase waste water.

The typical septic system is designed to treat approximately 50 gallons of waste water per family member, per day. Although a typical washer load of clothes alone can exceed this amount, with careful attention, laundry can be done. If more than one load of clothes is needed per day, they should be spaced out throughout the day, and not done one after the other. Another solution to laundry waste is to install a separate tank to collect laundry waste. Though this involves some cost, it will save maintenance costs over time.

There are other precautions that may be taken that will minimize maintenance costs. A lint trap may be installed in the washer drain pipe, which serves to keep hard-to-treat solid wastes to a minimum. Keeping paper products out of the system will reduce the workload as well. Just as in homes connected to municipal systems, avoid allowing oil and grease to enter the septic tank at all costs. These will build up and cause clogs and system backups. Likewise, the use of garbage disposals can double the amount of solid waste and overwhelm the system.

The most important maintenance that can be performed on the septic system is a periodic pumping of the solids from the collection tank. This should be performed by a licensed professional, as there are strict regulations concerning methods and proper disposal of the tank solids. Although the recommendation is that tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years, because of your personal habits and situation, it is a good idea to consult a professional to determine the ideal timetable for getting your tank pumped.

The most effective actions for saving maintenance costs are those which lengthen the time period between pumping. Low-flow toilets and shower heads can dramatically reduce water consumption, fixing any leaky plumbing fixtures right away is important, as is minimizing the number of toilet flushes.

Other considerations need to be borne in mind when you use a septic system, and they focus on minimizing damage to the system. You should be aware of where the components of the system are, in order to avoid damaging the underground pipes accidentally. Avoid driving heavy vehicles over the tank and the pipes that make up the lateral field. Also, watch the drain field area to make sure there is no pooling of water on the ground. If there is, some landscaping will be necessary to keep surface water away from the drain field. Make sure gutters are directed away from the drain field, as well. If the area is too wet, filtering of waste water will not be effective, and bacteria and pollutants will enter the groundwater, possibly contaminating the water supply and any nearby waterways.

With proper care, a septic system can be expected to last for many years. Keeping a close eye on what goes down the drain and pumping the septic tank when needed can keep the system operating at peak efficiency.

Posted by plumber | in DIY, Septic Tanks | No Comments »

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