If properly designed, constructed, and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of residential wastewater. Failure to maintain your septic system may result in the need to repair or replace part, or all of the system. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater. (Groundwater in areas north of Route 1 may be a source of drinking water.) And if you sell your home, your septic system should be in good working order.
PROTECT YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM
1. Inspect your system (every three years) and pump your tank as necessary
(generally every three to five years). Of course, this is dependent on how
many people live in the house and the size of the system and in Old Saybrook
we have the five-year pump-out ordinance.
2. Use water efficiently. The average indoor water use in the typical single-
family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Dripping faucets can
waste about 2000 gallons of water each year. “Running” toilets can waste as
much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the
less water enters the septic system. Visit www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency
for more information on water conservation.
3. Don’t dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets.
4. Care for your leaching system. Avoid driving or parking vehicles on your
leaching system. Plant only grass over and near the leaching system to avoid
damage from roots.
THE SEPTIC SYSTEM
The typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a leaching system and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it intercepts the groundwater.
The septic tank is a buried watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of solid material. Two compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the leaching system. Effluent outlet filters are also recommended to keep solids from entering the leaching system. The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the leaching system for further treatment by the soil. Microorganisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.
Typical pollutants found in residential wastewater include nitrogen, ammonia, phosphorus (Nutrients) and disease-causing bacteria and viruses (Pathogens). According to the EPA, a properly installed and maintained septic system will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
More information may be found at www.epa.gov/owm/onsite.
More septic tank do’s and do not’s:
Do not wash or disinfect the septic tank after it has been pumped.
Do not use special additives. They will not increase the life of the system; they may even shorten it.
It is OK to use small amounts of drain cleaner in your indoor plumbing. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, it will not hurt your septic system.
Undigested food only adds to the sludge and scum layers in the septic tank. We need to scrape our plates into the garbage or composter, as appropriate, prior to washing. Our digestive tracts are the first level of waste treatment; our bodies provide the bacteria colonies responsible for primary septic treatment.
Do not allow large volumes of water (such as several large laundry loads) to enter the system on a single day.
Always wash full loads of laundry or dishes to reduce the amount of wastewater.
Do not dispose of plastics, diapers (even disposable ones), cloth or other non-biodegradable articles in the septic system. Those moist toilettes should not be flushed; they belong in the trash.
Never flush cigarette filters or cat litter down the drain.
Do not put grease or oil down the drain.
Paper towels, cellophane wrappers, adhesive-bandages and cotton balls should be discarded with the household trash.
Do not connect "clear water" wastes such as footing drains, roof drains, water softeners or dehumidifiers to the septic system.
Do not plant trees or shrubs in the vicinity of the leaching system or reserve area. The roots will seek water and nutrients, potentially clogging the system.
Do not drive automobiles or other heavy equipment across any part of the system.
Direct all surface drainage, roof drains and other such discharges away from the area in your yard where the leaching system is located.
Fix all leaking fixtures and toilets immediately. A constant small flow to the system will significantly shorten its life.
Consider installing water-conserving fixtures. Not only will less water go into your septic system, but also you will save on electricity.
To provide for proper operation of your leaching system, do not place fill material or construct out-buildings, room additions, garages, above-ground pools or driveways over the leaching system or the reserve area.
An area next to the original septic system (for future expansion or repairs) has been reserved in case a
replacement system is needed. You should not place any permanent structure in this area.
The most effective cover for a leaching system is a grassy lawn. Never plant a food garden over the leaching system.
PREPARE AND RETAIN A SITE PLAN OF YOUR PROPERTY SHOWING THE LOCATION OF THE SEPTIC