Out of sight and out of mind…until you smell them! Septic Systems Developed by: Susan Donaldson University of Nevada Cooperative Extension UNCE, Reno, Nev.
What we’ll cover • Sources of household wastewater • Components of a septic system • Maintaining your septic system • Causes of septic system failure • Additives, bleach, and more
Which of the following can lawfully be used to dispose of household wastes? • A cesspool • A pipe to the local ditch • A pond • A pipe to the storm drain system
Components of a septic system A. Miller
Baffles A. Miller
Avoid products with the following warnings on the labels: • “Harmful if swallowed” • “Avoid contact with the skin” • “Do not get in open cuts or sores” • “If product comes in contact with eyes, call a physician immediately” Always read the product label!
Where does the liquid effluent go? A. Miller
The soil helps filter the effluent A. Miller Mike Williams, Ever Green Septic Systems
Engineered leach fields • Used when the site does not allow an in-ground leach field due to: • Soils that drain too slowly or too quickly • Areas with a high water table • Areas with shallow soils over bedrock
UNCE, Reno, Nev. WSU Extension
Do you know??? • Where your tank is? • How big it is? • When it was last pumped? • The location of your leach field? DNRC, Montana
Maintaining your septic system • PUMP YOUR TANK! • Keep your bacteria healthy and happy UNCE, Reno, Nev.
Risers WSU Extension
Suggested pumping interval (years) Number of people in your household
Pumping costs about $350 for the average 1250-gallon tank, every three years or so A new leach field costs from $5,000+ for an in-ground system to as much as $25,000 for an engineered field To pump... or not to pump Which would you choose?
Spongy ground • Sewage at land surface • Sewage backing up into house A. Miller
Causes of system failure • Pipe between house and tank is blocked or broken • Inlet/outlet tees blocked or broken • Plugged line between tank and leach field • Pump failure (for those systems with pumps)
Causes of system failure • Tank is blocked with solids, or has collapsed, or leaks • Drainfield is flooded • Drainfield is clogged with solids or roots
Grasses Perennial and annual flowers Many perennial groundcovers All trees Large shrubs What can I plant on or near my leach field? OK to plant: Avoid planting:
Other causes of septic failure • Overloading. Use water sparingly. Do only full loads of wash at off-peak times, if possible, and try to limit the number of loads daily. • Placement in poorly draining area • Water leaks • Driving over the drainfield
Other causes of septic failure • Pouring kitchen grease into drains • Failure to install according to septic codes • Flushing cigarette butts, sanitary napkins or other inorganic materials down the toilet
Other causes of septic failure • Extensive use of garbage disposals • Tree roots clogging pipes - contact a septic contractor for repairs • Use of salts and chemicals from water softeners and washing machines
What about additives? • Enough bacteria are present in the tank from normal bodily wastes • Additives cost $$$ and may actually increase the solid material in the tank by producing inert ingredients • There is no substitute for pumping!
What about bleach? • Normal use of recommended amounts of bleach in washing machines occasionally should not harm your system • Avoid flushing large quantities of bleach (1 gallon+) into the tank
What about water softeners? • Will salt brine harm septic tank bacteria? • Does the regeneration cycle flow rate cause solids to be carried over into the leach field? • Will the sodium in the brine affect soil structure and water percolation?
Tips to keep your septic system working well • Don’t water the leach field • Don’t flood the system with excessive water use • Keep excess solids out of the system and avoid flushing toxic chemicals down the drain
Tips to keep your septic system working well • Avoid using your garbage disposal to process large quantities of wastes • Regularly pump out the septic tank and inspect the physical components of the system • Don’t park or drive over the leach field
Homework • Map the location of your septic system. • Assess your risk of problems or septic system failure. • Pump the system, if needed. • Inspect the leach field area. • Check for household water leaks. • Read labels on household hazardous products to determine if they are suitable for use with septic systems.