Septic System Maintenance
Septic System Maintenance
Septic system tanks are designed to hold sewage solids and require routine pumping every three to five years. Periodic maintenance and testing of your septic system will ensure the maximum life of the system, reduce replacement and repair costs, and protect the environment and your health. If septic tanks are not regularly pumped, sludge may build up to the point where wastewater is released without treating and settling of waste particles. This can result in pollution of groundwater (both in streams and drinking water) and eventually clogging the drainfields. Pollution of groundwater and waterways from septic waste is not only harmful to the watershed, it is a human health hazard.
- Proper system maintenance is the responsibility of the property owner. By performing a few simple maintenance procedures and having a proper tank pump-out, homeowners can save on costly repairs to their septic system.
- Regular inspection and periodic septic tank pump-outs by a licensed liquid waste hauler is essential for the long term care and maintenance of your septic system.
- Septic systems most commonly fail due to improper use and lack of periodic pumping of the septic tank.
- The frequency of septic tank pump outs will depend on the current use of the system and the number of people living in the household. Septic pump outs for residential use is usually recommended at least once every 3 to 5 years. For more information on frequency for your system, consult a licensed liquid waste hauler.
Proper use of a Septic System:
- Do no use garbage disposals or pour cooking grease, oils or dispose of other materials like paper towels, sanitary hygiene products, condoms, cigarettes or plastics into your septic system via the sink or toilet. These materials can overload your tank and end up clogging your drain fields.
- Be careful with using non-biodegradable chemicals like detergents, bleach, fabric softeners, paints, paint thinners, motor oil, degreasers and household hazardous wastes. These chemicals should not enter the septic system.
- Septic systems are a natural living environment that depends on natural bacteria to break down the sewage. The more water you pump through your system, the more stress you put on the receiving soils.
- It is important to know where your septic tank and drain fields are located. When landscaping, roots can damage pipes and clog the drain field. Grass is the best type of cover.
In preparation for a Pump-out:
- Septic tanks are constructed as a single or double compartment tank made of concrete, metal or plastic. Each compartment has a lid at the top to provide access for pump-outs. Each lid is typically covered by 6 inches to 3 feet of soil. The soil covering each access lid must be removed before a septic tank pump-out can occur. The access lid should only be removed by a licensed liquid waste hauler. A septic tank is a confined space and contains gases that can be deadly. You should never climb into or enter a septic tank.
- Consulting with a licensed liquid waste hauler is the best way to assist in identifying the location of the septic system on your property if the Health Department does not have the drawings on file from when the septic system was installed.
For more information please visit the UMD Extension webpage on septic systems: University of Maryland Extension: Septic Systems and Their Maintenance