When septic systems are properly designed, constructed, and maintained, they effectively reduce or eliminate most human health or environmental threats posed by pollutants in household wastewater. However, they require regular maintenance or they can fail. Septic systems need to be monitored to ensure that they work properly throughout their service lives.
A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected regularly is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property value and could pose a legal liability.
You should have a typical septic system inspected at least every 3 years by the professionals at Action Services, Inc. and your tank pumped as recommended by the inspector (generally every 3 to 5 years). Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components need to be inspected more often, generally once a year. Your service provider should inspect for leaks and look at the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank. If the bottom of the scum layer is within 6 inches of the bottom of the outlet tee, or the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet tee, your tank needs to be pumped. Remember to note the sludge and scum levels determined by your service provider in your operation and maintenance records. This information will help you decide how often pumping is necessary. Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system. Efficient water use can improve the operation of the septic system and reduce the risk of failure.
Septic System DO’s and DON'Ts
- Your septic system is not a trash can. Don’t put dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, baby/hygiene wipes, latex paint, pesticides, or other hazardous chemicals into your system.
- Don’t use caustic drain openers for a clogged drain. Instead, use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs. Call a drain professional at: Action Services, Inc. 824-2564.
- Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drain field or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components.
- Check with your local professionals at Action Services, Inc. before using additives. Supplemental additives can help offset the bacteria killed by other products, i.e. soaps, chemicals, etc. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to the system if not used properly. Action Services, Inc. sells a quality bio-supplement that can help your system process waste effectively.
- Use water efficiently to avoid overloading the septic system. Be sure to repair leaky faucets or toilets. Use high-efficiency fixtures.
- Use commercial bathroom cleaners and laundry detergents in moderation. Many people prefer to clean their toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs with a mild detergent or baking soda.
- Check with your local regulatory agency or inspector/pumper before allowing water softener backwash to enter your septic tank.
- Keep records of repairs, pumpings, inspections, permits issued, and other system maintenance activities.
- Learn the location of your septic system. Keep a sketch of it with your maintenance record for service visits. Have Action Services, Inc. install tamper proof access risers on your tank so it can be inspected and maintained. We can even locate and excavate if that is needed.
- Have your septic system inspected and pumped as necessary by a licensed, certified inspector/contractor. Action Services, Inc. (http://www.nawt.org) has nationally certified inspectors and all of our technicians and vehicle are properly licensed in accordance with Federal, State and Local laws. Action Services, Inc. disposes all waste in EPA approved treatment facilities, not in the neighbors’ field.
- Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drain field.
Remember: Your septic system is the sewage treat plant for your home. It is your responsibility to maintain it properly to protect your family, your investment and your environment. Action Services Inc. is your local professional, dedicated to helping you learn, understand, maintain and protect.
We get more calls to open clogged drains than for any other service. Many such calls could be prevented by greater care in the use of drains. The most-used drain is the one in the kitchen sink, and that is the drain most often clogged.
Preventing this situation can be done by carefully watching what is emptied into the sink drain and by the regular use of a safe biodegradable waste digester. Action Services, Inc. can give you more information on these products.
Sink stoppages are usually caused by liquid fats emulsified by warm dishwater and carried through the pipes. The water cools as it proceeds to the main sewer and leaves the fatty deposits along the way. A film of grease forms on the pipe wall, then another and another. Coffee grounds and bits of food add to this accumulation layer until the pipe becomes impassible.
Pour excess grease into a tin can and throw it out with the garbage, not down the sink drain. When using a food disposer, always let sufficient cold water run to carry the particles down and into the main line to prevent buildup in the smaller waste lines.
In the event of a stoppage, you should have a plunger. Cup it tightly over the drain and plunge it vigorously several times. If it is a double drain sink, make sure you seal the other drain, so water will not splash out into the other bowl or on you. Drain piping can also be cleaned by “snaking” the drain with a cable or hydro-jetting using special equipment. Use caution when operating this equipment, it can be difficult and dangerous for an untrained person. Action Services, Inc. has a full staff of trained professionals using up to date, well maintained tools.
The well-designed and correctly installed drain system is odorless. Odors are most likely to arise from leaks in the waste or vent piping or from traps which have lost their water seal. In an incorrectly installed system there are, of course, many opportunities for odors to result from defects in the system. Particularly if it is not properly vented.
Unusual odors should never be ignored. Such odors are often an indication that sewer gas is present. Sewer gas, while not always deadly, is noxious and capable of causing headaches and other minor illnesses. Sewer gas is foul smelling air and should be prevented from entering the house.
If it is suspected that sewer gas is entering through a leak in the piping, a plumber will subject the system to a test either by means of smoke, water or oil of peppermint. The test will indicate the location of the leak.
In order to explain how the sewer gas may enter a house through a plumbing fixture, it is necessary to clarify the function of traps and vents. Every plumbing fixture is the end of the fresh water supply system and the beginning of the wastewater system. The faucets control the water supply. The traps and vents control the sewer air. They do so by a very simple method. Sewer air will not penetrate a water barrier. Therefore, a device is employed which keeps several inches of water between the house air and the sewer air. This is the trap, which is plainly visible under such plumbing fixtures as sinks and lavatories. It is built into water closets (toilets). In the case of bathtubs and shower cabinets, it is usually concealed in the floor or basement.
A trap, however, would lose its water seal by siphonic action every time a fixture is used unless the air on the sewer side is balanced with the air on the house side. This is the function of the vents. Occasionally, due to changes in atmospheric conditions, a compactly vented trap will lose its seal.
Usually, however, when a trap loses its seal it is due either to incorrect design of the vents, absence of vents or to evaporation of the water in the trap. Traps under fixtures that are used infrequently should be filled with water from time to time to insure an adequate trap seal.
The intrusion of roots into discharge waste pipes is a major maintenance challenge for the homeowner as well as for contractors and the owners of industrial and municipal sites. The growth of root mass inside sewer lines will block the discharge of wastewater resulting in backup into homes or buildings. The damage caused by the backup can be costly to repair and certainly troublesome. Unchecked root growth can also cause deterioration of pipe and pipe joints, underground pipe structures and pipe connections to the main sewer line. Therefore, an effective root control program is essential.
Subterranean roots serve several functions for trees including anchorage in the soil, the absorption and transfer of water and nutrients into the main core of the tree and, to a lesser extent, the storage of nutrients. The direction of root growth is determined first by gravity and, second, by water. Root hairs are fine hair-like projections found on the surface of roots, which find their way into drain lines and sewer pipes. They enter through either small cracks or openings in the pipe or pipe joint. Once inside the pipe the roots hairs continue to grow and mature eventually forming a root mass. Of the vast subterranean network of roots and root hairs, only small percentages actually protrude into and effect underground pipes. Thus, the mechanical removal of the root mass and root hair within the pipe can be done without damage to the total tree structure. Action Services, Inc. can remove roots from your drain and design a Preventative Maintenance Program to help keep you worry-free. Or we can video, locate and excavate your drain line (or problem section) and repair or replace your drain with sealed PVC pipe, eliminating your root problems for good.