If you live in or own a facility in an area that is not served by sanitary sewers, your wastewater is likely discharged to a septic system on your property. Sewer systems carry sanitary wastewater away from your property to a municipal or private wastewater treatment plant, where the flow is treated before it is discharged to the environment.
Current regulations typically require septic systems to separate solids from the liquids in wastewater in a septic tank and allow the effluent to percolate through a drainage field or leaching pool so the liquid can seep into the soil. In the septic tank, bacteria function as part of the anaerobic metabolic process, or decomposition process in the absence of oxygen. The bacteria essentially digest complex organic matter to produce liquids and gases that readily decompose after leaving the septic tank into an environment with oxygen. In the past, septic systems did not effectively treat pathogens and other possible contaminants that might be present in wastewater. This resulted in an uncontrolled amount of nitrogen being discharged into the surroundings, impacting environmentally sensitive areas and coastal waters by lowering the dissolved oxygen levels. Rules and regulations have been established on how to properly dispose of sewage, and these may vary regionally. When not able to connect to a wastewater treatment facility, the best option is a septic system.
Many septic system owners incorrectly assume that as long as their wastewater leaves the building, the system must be working properly. However poorly designed, poorly installed, outdated or malfunctioning septic systems are a threat to water quality. September 14, 2020 kicked off the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) eighth annual SepticSmart week, when municipalities, businesses and homeowners are spurred on to save money and protect the environment and public health by building and properly maintaining septic systems. The EPA highlighted tips for maintaining septic systems along with the advantages of the systems throughout SepticSmart week.
How to maintain a septic system: What can drive your costs up
A well-maintained septic system is one that won’t drain your budget. Most common causes of septic system problems are tree root infiltration, items that are not supposed to be flushed, harsh chemicals and lack of maintenance.
The EPA promoted the following quick tips for ensuring a long life for your septic system:
- Don’t Strain Your Drain
- Shield Your Field
- Protect it and Inspect it
- Don’t Overload the Commode
- Keep It Clean
- Pump Your Tank!
- Think at the Sink
It is important to use water efficiently and stagger the use of water-based appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.1 Too much water use at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently. In addition, don’t use harsh cleaning products, or put toxic chemicals down the drain. Remember, not only is the surrounding environment affected by a failing septic system, but you and your neighbor’s water can be contaminated as well.
To learn more about how Walden Environmental Engineering can assist you in maintaining your septic system and ensuring its compliance with applicable State and local regulations, please give us a call at (516) 624-7200.