Homeowners on a septic system have a few challenges that those with sewer systems don’t have. Septic system failure can affect their property, neighboring properties, and even their drinking water if they are on a well. However, it just takes a little effort to avoid the cost of major repairs or replacement. In this article, we explore eight tips to preventing the need for septic system replacement in Chappaqua, NY.
How Septic Systems Work
Septic systems collect, treat, and dispose of wastewater and waste solids—anything that goes into the drain or toilet—right on the property.
A septic tank is an underground reservoir into which household wastes flow. In the tank, solids settle to the bottom, and anaerobic bacteria begin breaking them down while liquid waste flows into a leach field where it is dispersed into the ground. At this point, the liquid waste still contains large numbers of harmful bacteria and organic matter. Purification occurs naturally as the liquid seeps into the ground on its way into the aquifer. Since the decomposition of solid wastes can take quite some time, it is important to periodically pump out the tank.
When Septic Systems Fail
Because solids break down slowly—and sometimes not at all, if certain materials enter the system. This includes inorganic material such as plastic or any toxins that kill the beneficial bacteria. This causes a buildup of solid waste.
Another problem is the sludge layer of scum that rises to the top. This scum mostly consists of fats and grease. It can accumulate quickly and clog the disposal pipes. Excessive use can also overwhelm the system.
Is Your System Failing?
A few tell-tale signs are cause for immediate concern:
Toilets backing up
The smell of sewage in the backyard
Overly green grass over the leach field
Prevention is the “secret” behind a healthy septic system. Avoid mishaps and problematic backups by taking care of it and having it inspected regularly.
Carefully monitor what goes into the system: no grease, oil, cigarettes, toxic household chemicals including chlorine and hydrogen peroxide bleach, solvents, and paint (whether oil- or water-based), plastics, paper towels, and slowly decomposing materials like coffee grounds or eggshells.
Remove the sink-mounted garbage disposal (this introduces a lot of grease and solids into the system).
Install low-flow toilets, faucets, showerheads, dishwashers, and clothes washers.
Stagger dishwashing and laundry days (instead of “laundry day” do smaller loads two to three times a week).
Fix leaks in toilets and faucets.
Do not connect sump pumps to the septic system.
Do not use biological additives such as enzymes or yeast—the bacteria in the system does not need help. It will be kept healthy when toxic substances are avoided.
Be sure to pump out the system every three to five years (depending on the system capacity and volume of household use). This ensures an easy and effective way to ensure that pipe-clogging sludge doesn’t ruin the septic system.
Septic System Replacement
A properly maintained septic system should be trouble-free and last for decades. It is always more cost efficient to take care of it throughout its lifetime rather than risky a potentially expensive, sudden need for a replacement.