Since today is Earth Day, it’s gotten us thinking about things that we can do to help protect the environment on a daily basis. With so many homes using septic systems in the Pacific Northwest, it is important to keep the environment in mind. That means taking good care of your septic system.
If you do not routinely maintain your septic tank, it may lead to a system failure. Such failures could result in expensive repairs. If your septic tank overflows or otherwise does not function properly, you could be putting your health and quality of water in harm’s way. Some major issues include:
- Threat of contaminating local shellfish beds and beaches
- Exposing your family or pets to sewage
- Excessive nitrogen and phosphorous levels, which leads to algae growth and lower oxygen levels in lakes, rivers and streams
- Contamination of surface water and ground water with nitrates and disease-causing pathogens
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for on Earth Day and every day:
Soggy spots on lawn
If the drainfield is clogged, it will flood and cause sewage backups. The blockage creates an unclean environment for the grass. Areas of more lush grass growth over the septic tank may be signs that the tank is leaking or backing up and spilling effluent – a sign of potential trouble.
A Foul “Rotten Egg” Odor
Sewer gas is a complex mixture of toxic and non-toxic gasses that can be present at varying levels depending upon the source. It is formed during the decay of household waste, typically the anaerobic decomposition of sewage and sludge. A common source of sewer gas odors in the home is a “dry trap”. This occurs when a sink, shower, floor drain, or toilet is not used for a long time, and the water in the trap eventually evaporates out, allowing the sewer gas to enter.
Excessive Water Usage
One way to cut down your water usage is to collect and reuse the greywater in your home. Although greywater looks dirty, it does not need to be immediately flushed into the sewer or septic tank. This type of water is still considered safe to use and it can be repurposed. For example, you could use your dishwater to water your lawn or plants. Using greywater can reduce the amount of water going directly into your septic tank at any given time.
Avoid Chemical-based Drain Cleaners
Chemicals that are strong enough to clear a clog in your drain will also cause damage to your skin and eyes, not to mention the environment. Chemical drain cleaners get washed into the sewer system and eventually the local waterways and can damage plant and animal habitats. Environmentally aware homeowners opt for greener solutions for drain cleaning. These harmful cleaners also kill the good bacteria living inside the septic tank that work to break down and clean the wastewater.
Protect Your Drainfield
Even though your drainfield is buried, and might not be the first thing on your mind, it is important to know where your pipes are so you don’t drive or park on them. Your pipes are sensitive to pressure and the weight of a vehicle may cause the pipes to crack. Cracked pipes allow roots to begin growing inside the pipes and will eventually create large blockages that will require extensive plumbing work to remove and restore.
Along with keeping your septic system in working order, hopefully these tips will get you thinking about other things you might be able to do the make the environment a little cleaner on Earth Day.
For more information on Earth Day, and to learn what you can do, visit https://www.earthday.org/