Country homes and cottages differ from cities in one major way – they all have a septic system to manage waste, and property owners are responsible for maintaining, fixing, or replacing the septic system if something goes wrong.
Septic systems generally fall into two categories – gravity-fed and those that use a sewage pump. The latter is used when the land topography dictates that waste has to travel uphill from house to septic tank, so waste will have to gravity-feed from house to an underground chamber holding a pump located beside the house. The pump sends the waste through a pipe to the septic tank, ideally underground unless that is prevented by bedrock or other impediment. If the system is used year-round and that pipe is not buried below frost then heat will be required on the pipe. The septic tank then ideally gravity drains the effluent out to the tile bed.
Accessed by a hatch, septic tanks should be pumped out on average every three to five years to remove effluent and sludge. Pumping frequency depends on the number of occupants and how often the system is used. Some septic tank operators provide an inspection report as a part of their service.
Maintaining the septic system can make a difference, good or bad, to the surrounding land and nearby water. The system is designed to keep the land and water safe from contaminants and if your water source is a well, proximity of septic system to the well needs to be taken into account.
Taking care of what is put into the system through the drains is very important. Human waste and toilet paper are the only things that should enter the system, with one-ply paper preferred over two and three-ply. Items such as wipes, sanitary products, paper towels, dental floss, cooking fat, coffee grounds, washing machine lint are guaranteed to cause problems.
Minimize food remnants from kitchen sinks and use a disposable grease jar to keep grease out.
Be aware of what you are purchasing – dish soaps, shampoo/conditioners, and cleaners should be phosphate-free. Products containing chemicals will kill the good bacteria necessary for breaking down solids. Keep the use of bleach to a minimum for the same reason. Common kitchen items such as baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean, disinfect and deodorize. They are safe for septic systems. Check out this great article on The Spruce for septic safe cleaning products.
If your pump-out occurs in late summer, beneficial bacteria should be replaced before winter. Products such as Septobac, can help re-establish the balance.
Protect the system from damage by tree roots and prevent vehicles from driving over the tile bed.
Watch for wet, soggy soil, increased weed/plant/grass growth as this may indicate a problem.
It’s not a bad idea for those with pump systems to begin the spring season, once the ground has thawed, to check the pump to make sure it’s ready for the season ahead. If you can hear the hum of the motor but there is no pumping action, the underground pipe may still be frozen. The thawing process will take longer if there is shade overhead. To avoid this it may be necessary to clear the line in the fall so it is ready to go once the water system is up and running.
Plumbtech can do a sewage pump assessment and, if necessary, replace it. Call 705-722-7209.