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  • Septic Systems Information

    If you are new to septic systems or just want to get more information, we keep things pretty simple. For consistency, we follow most, if not all, EPA regulations as they are generally implimented by state and local agencies shortly after they are implimented by the EPA. This makes things a whole lot simpler for everybody and also provides the most consistent resource for information.

    Floating on the Top

    An excellent starting point for those not familiar with how septic systems work is an interactive animation provided online by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority in Texas. This animation is available at http://www.gbra.org/septic.swf. This animation gives a basic visual explanation of how septic systems work. Most people do not have aerobic septic systems installed in this area. While this is definitely the ideal system to have, if you have absolutely no idea what an aerobic septic system is and you weren't told one is installed at your house, you probably don't have one. Just check out the Conventional system unless you know you have an aerobic one.

    If you want us to check to see if your septic needs pumped, just let us know. There is no charge for us to check it and if it doesn't need done, we will tell you that and, if possible, give an estimate of when we think it might need pumped. So you know what we are looking at to determine if it needs pumped, here are a few things that are simple to check. First thing, we check the "scum" (oils, greases and fats) on top. If it is thick enough to go down to within 6" of the bottom of the outlet pipe, it needs pumped. Second, we check the "sludge" (actual solid waste) on the bottom. If it is thick enough to come up to within 12" below the bottom of the outlet pipe, it needs pumped.

    Sinking a Little Deeper

    Regular maintenance of a septic system is fairly simple. Pump it out every few years and keep an eye on it to make sure nothing is going wrong. If you think about the cost of pumping your septic every few years at $180 (which works out to $5 per month for the average family of four), to the cost of being connected to sewer in the Midwest at an average of $40 per month for the same average family of four, the difference is staggering. Obviously, the frequency of pumping depends on a number of factors, including household size, amount and quality of wastewater and the size of the septic tank.

    For the average family of four, in an average house, under average circumstances, the EPA recommends having a septic tank pumped every three years. If there are more people, a higher wastewater volume, an older system or a smaller tank, it will need pumped more often. The opposite is also true, but it is recommended that pumping not be less often than at least every five years. The longer you wait to have it pumped out, the greater the chance of having solids flow out in to the drain field. This can cause permenant, expensive damage to the system and also backups in to the house.

    There are many things you can do to help extend the life of your septic system. Some simple ways include using water efficiently, not using any "additives", not flushing innappropriate materials, regulated use of garbage disposals and limited dumping of chemicals including bleach, etc. Basically, if it seems like it shouldn't be flushed, then it shouldn't be flushed. Your septic system functions by organisms living in the waste. If products are flushed or dumped down the drain that can upset the balance of the septic system environment, these bacterial organisms are killed off so the system no longer functions properly.

    Things you don't want to send to your septic include, but are not limited to, cooking oils, feminine products, condoms, cigarette butts, paper towels, cat litter, prescriptions and chemicals. If it doesn't break down in a reasonable amount of time, don't flush it. If it isn't organic, don't flush it. If it kills bacteria, don't flush it.

    Your septic system's drainfield is where the treated water re-enters the environment for final treatment. This is one of the biggest failure points in a septic system mainly because the tank itself was not maintained properly, including flushing innappropriate items and not having it pumped as often as it should be. Other things that damage your drainfield are driving and/or parking on top of it, planting trees too close and water runoff saturating the soil around it.

    Settling to the Bottom

    Simply put, if you maintain your septic system properly, it will last you for many years. If you don't maintain it properly, you are looking at replacing it for $3,000 - $7,000. The monthly savings of being on a septic system compared to connected to sewer can quite literally go right down the drain if you don't maintain your septic properly.

    Getting Help

    We are here to help. If you want us to see if your septic tank needs pumped, or just want some questions answered, don't hesitate to contact us.

    You can also check out the EPA website at EPA SepticSmart. We also have quite a few documents available that are created by the EPA via the SepticSmart program. All of the files can be obtained from that website. Some of them are listed here. The only modification to the below files is that our contact information has been added. We will try our best to keep these files updated as the EPA changed theirs.

    EPA SepticSmart Homeowner's Guide (9 pages)
    EPA Homeowner's Guide (19 pages)
    EPA SepticSmart Do Your Part (1 page)
    EPA SepticSmart Landscaping (1 page)