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Proper care and feeding of your septic system to extend the life of your on-site sewage system, save on maintenance costs and protect water quality.
To extend the life of your on-site sewage system, save on maintenance costs and protect water quality.
The average home with two baths and three occupants will produce over 85,000 gallons of wastewater annually. This is 250 to 300 gallons per day! A septic tank is a living filter that separates scum, solids and pretreats wastewater before it flows out into the drain-field for final purification. It takes 24 to 48 hours for this process. Even a good system not cared for may become a neighborhood health hazard and an expensive problem. Failed systems may cause ground and surface water pollution and costly property damage. It is important to maintain your septic system.
Where bacteria does its job.
The septic tank is a large, underground, watertight container. All of the wastewater from your toilet, bath, kitchen and laundry flows into the tank. Heavy solids settle to the bottom of the where bacteria reduce them to sludge and gasses. Lighter solids such as grease rise to the top and form a scum layer. Solids that do not decompose remain in the tank. If the solids are not removed by periodic pumping (every 3-5 years), they will accumulate and eventually overflow into the drain field, which can cause extensive damage.
The wastewater that leaves the septic tank is a liquid called effluent. The soil in the drain field provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent. The drain field has a network of perforated pipes laid in gravel filled trenches in the soil. The effluent trickles out of the pipes, through the gravel and into the soil.
Alternative systems such as grinder pump systems, step systems and many other septic systems have different tank configurations than shown here.
Operations and Maintenance recommends pumping a tank when solids reach 25% to 33% in the first compartment or main tank.
Once a year, inspect the tank yourself or have a septic tank technician check the levels. Also, periodically inspect the drain field areas for odors, wet spots or surfacing sewage. State and County regulations may require inspections more frequently on some systems.
If you notice any of these warning signs contact a professional septic company immediately for assistance.
Once solids have flowed into the drain field and caused damage, pumping the septic tank will not bring a failed drain field back to life.
To extend the life of your on-site sewage system, save on maintenance costs and protect water quality:
The pump chamber is a concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene container that collects the septic tank effluent. The chamber contains a pump, pump control floats, and a high water alarm float. The control floats are adjustable and are set for pumping a specific volume of effluent. When the effluent rises to the level of the "ON" float the pump starts delivering the effluent to the disposal area. The pump lowers the effluent level to the "off" float and stops. The high water alarm float in the pump chamber starts an alarm to warn you of any pump or system malfunction. The float is set to start when the effluent in the chamber rises above the "ON" float. The alarm should consist of a buzzer and easily visible light. It should be on an electrical circuit separate from the pump.
The pump discharge pipe should have a union or other quick disconnect coupling for easy removal of the pump. A piece of nylon rope or other non-corrodible material should be attached to the pump for taking the pump in and out of the chamber.Proper Care Includes:
Checking the pump chamber, pump and floats every year and replacing or repairing worn or broken parts. Pump maintenance should follow the manufacturers’ recommendations. Check electrical parts and conduits for corrosion. If the alarm panel has a "push-to-test" button, it should be checked regularly.
Installing a septic tank effluent filter or pump screen, if your system does not have one. Screening or filtering the septic tank effluent provides an effective way of preventing solids from clogging the pump and pipes. Inspecting a screen or filter and cleaning when necessary is quick and easy and prevents costly damage from solids entering the disposal system.
Taking action to protect the disposal area after a prolonged power outage or pump failure. Effluent will continue to collect in the chamber until the pump resumes operation. With additional effluent in the pump chamber, the pump may deliver volume greater than the disposal system or drainfield can handle. If all of the reserve storage inside the chamber is used, the plumbing in your home may backup.
When the pump is off for more than 6 hours, the following measures can be taken to help protect the drainfield.
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