septic system care

Do you have a septic system?

How to Find and Care for Your Septic System

You may already know you have a septic system. If you don’t know, here are telltale indications that you probably do:

  • You use well water.
  • The waterline coming into your home does not have a meter.
  • You show a $0.00 sewer amount charged on your water bill or property tax bill.
  • You live in a rural area where houses are spaced far apart, and/or your neighbors have septic systems.

If you still are not sure, call your local code enforcement office or the local governmental office that deals with land, and ask whether they have a septic design or any record of a septic system on file for your property. Once you have determined that you have a septic system, you can find it by:

  • Looking on your home’s as-built drawing.
  • Checking your yard for lids and manhole covers.
  • Contacting a septic inspector or pumper to help you locate it.

Replenish bacteria, clean the filter, and pump your tank

Caring for your septic system involves just three things: replenishing the level of bacteria in your tank to help digest the solids, cleaning the filter once a year, and pumping the tank at least every three to five years to remove accumulated inorganic sludge (i.e., not biodegradable) that eventually could build up enough to clog your system.

Adding instant dried yeast to your system periodically helps maintain bacterial levels – about ½ cup the first time, and then ¼ cup every four months thereafter. Use of bacteria-killing household products will also kill the bacteria in your septic tank that are needed to digest accumulated solids. Most toilet bowl cleaners contain bleach, as do other household cleaning products, and bleach kills bacteria; yeast is a simple, inexpensive solution for replenishing the needed bacteria in your system.

How often you should pump your septic tank depends on the size of the tank and the number of people living in your house. As a general rule, you should have it inspected and pumped every three to five years to keep it in good working order. Contact us to learn more.

Your septic filter traps particles and prevents them from damaging your system’s “downstream” components (e.g., your pump and your leach field). Cleaning it annually ensures that it will keep doing its job. This is something you can do yourself with a screwdriver, a hose and a pair of rubber gloves (check YouTube for video tutorials), or you can contact us for assistance.

Other tips:

Use water efficiently. All the water your household sends down its pipes winds up in your septic system.

To lighten the load on your septic system, the EPA recommends using high-efficiency toilets, aerator faucets and water-saving shower heads, as well as adjusting washing machine water levels to the size of your loads and stretching out those loads over several days rather than all on one laundry day.

Also, don’t flush cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, dental floss, baby wipes, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, condoms or disposable diapers down the toilet. Don’t pour grease, cooking oil, paint or paint thinner, harsh chemicals, pesticides, gasoline, oil or antifreeze down your drain.

If you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly. Note that unless your original septic system was designed to include a garbage disposal, New Jersey law requires that the disposal must be removed in order for you to sell your house.

Maintain your drain field!

Your drain field is a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank. Your drain field is an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

  • Parking: Never park or drive on your drain field.
  • Planting: Plant trees the appropriate distance from your drain field to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
  • Placing: Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drain field area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.

Failure symptoms: Mind the signs!

A foul odor is not always the first sign of a malfunctioning septic system. Call a septic professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Wastewater backing up into household drains.
  • Bright green, spongy grass on the drain field, even during dry weather.
  • Pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system or in your basement.
  • A strong odor around the septic tank and drain field.

If you have any concerns about the health of your septic system, or wish to have it inspected or pumped, contact us.