You’ve cleaned and disinfected your bathrooms completely, but you can’t rid the rooms of an offensive odor. To make matters worse, the sink is draining too slowly. On top of the indoor issues, you notice water is pooling in places on your lawn. You don’t have multiple problems; you have one big issue – your septic system is beginning to fail.

How does a septic system work?

A large pipe allows wastewater from your house to drain into a buried, watertight container called a septic tank. In the tank, waste matter sinks, and oils and grease rise, allowing the liquid wastewater to leave the tank and spread throughout a septic field.  Anaerobic bacteria inside the tank will slowly digest the sludge and grease but it can’t digest all of it. In the drain field, the liquid seeps into the ground; this process naturally extracts viruses, harmful bacteria, and some nutrients, leaving clean ground water.

There is a distinct advantage to maintaining your septic tank. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, “The average lifespan of a septic system is 15 to 40 years” or longer if properly maintained. Proper maintenance of a septic tank saves the high cost of replacing the system. In addition to saving money, maintaining your system also prevents ground water contamination, protecting both human health and the health of the environment.

How do you maintain a healthy septic system?

  1. Call a professional to inspect your tank every three years. This service provider will check for leaks and determine when it’s time to pump the sludge from your tank. You should consider pumping the tank every three to five years.
  2. Reduce the amount of water that flows from your house into your septic system. Install energy-efficient toilets, showerheads, and appliances such as dish and clothes washers. Do not leave faucets running unnecessarily, and fix any leaks in your plumbing system.
  3. Be careful what you put down your drains. Properly dispose of paper products, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, and other items that potentially clog or become trapped in septic system components. Reduce water waste by using the proper load size when laundering clothes; consider spreading the loads over a few days rather than running several loads consecutively. Also, limit use of bleach and any anti-bacterial cleaners as they will kill the anaerobic bacteria living in the septic tank that is necessary for the system to operate properly.
  4. Care for the drain field by planting only grass in the field. (Tree and shrub roots can damage septic components.) Don’t compact the soil by parking vehicles on the drain field and keep downspouts and sump pumps from draining onto the field.

Regular maintenance of your septic tank will save you from the need to replace your system, from the discomfort of sewage smells in your home, and from poorly functioning drains. Call a professional to inspect your system and, if needed, to pump the septic tank.