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How often should a septic system be cleaned?
It depends. A tank should be pumped and inspected every 2 years, but frequency of cleaning depends on the size of the tank and the use it is given. If the solids settle to the bottom of the tank and are not pumped out at proper intervals, they can be carried out into the leaching system and may clog the leaching pipes. This could cause system failure. A failure could require replacing the system at a cost of thousands of dollars.

What causes the thick crust in my septic tank?
The crusting is organic material that has congealed into a solid mass. This condition may indicate a bacterial deficiency. Your tank needs pumping.

My system recently backed up for the first time in years. Why should I start maintaining it now?
A backup is the first sign of septic system failure. If you don't start a maintenance program right away, you may be replacing your system soon.

What are the signs of system failure?
Typical signs of system failure are sluggish drains, plumbing backups, gurgling sounds in your pipes, outdoor odor and mushy ground in the area of the septic system.

Is there anything that I can't put down my system?
YES! Do not put items down drains that may clog septic tanks such as fats, grease, coffee grounds, paper towels, sanitary napkins, condoms, tampons, or disposable diapers. Do not put toxic substances such as solvents, degreasers, acids, oils, paints, disinfectants and pesticides in drains. Normal household cleaning chemicals, when used in moderation, should not affect the system.


Septic system tips

  • Don't route surface water drainage toward your absorption field. Snowmelt, rain, and other surface runoff can temporarily inundate your field.
  • Install a lint trap on your washing machine. Lint will clog the pipes in the absorption field.
  • Look for areas in your lawn that remain moist during dry times. If you live near a creek, river or lake, check for excessive plant and algae growth along the shoreline. If you see signs of failure, schedule an inspection and necessary repairs immediately.
  • Don't plant anything over the disposal field except grass, and be especially careful not to cover the tank or field with
    asphalt, concrete or other impermeable material.
  • Make sure your septic is located an appropriate distance from your well.
  • Don't hire just anyone to service your septic system. Incomplete treatment of wastewater can result in the spread of hepatitis, dysentery, and other diseases caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites in the wastewater.
  • Use low flush toilets and showerheads to conserve water.
  • Keep trees and shrubs at least 35 feet away from your field to prevent roots from plugging or breaking pipes.
  • Read product labels! Use low phosphorus detergents and cleaning products whenever possible. Phosphorus is the nutrient most likely to cause damage to a lake after leaving your septic system.
  • Use toilet paper that decomposes easily. Purchase brands labeled "safe" for septic systems.
  • Insert a water displacement bag inside the toilet tank of older, less efficient toilets to reduce the amount of water used per flush.


Water conservation tips

  • Collect the water you use for rinsing produce and reuse it to water houseplants.
  • Don't use running water to thaw food.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.
  • Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk,
    or street.
  • Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for cold drinks.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering during the early morning hours, when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
  • Start a compost pile. Using compost when you plant adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. This saves 150 gallons or more each time,
    and if you clean your property once a week, that's more than 600 gallons a month.
  • Don't water the lawn on windy days. There's too much evaporation, and can waste up to 300 gallons in one watering.

What Maintenance Is Needed?
Both the septic tank and the drainfield must be properly maintained. With conscientious maintenance, the system should work correctly for many years. Such maintenance begins with water use and waste disposal habits. Since your family will determine which materials enter the system, you should establish rules for proper use and maintenance.

What Should Not Be Put into the Septic System?
Make sure you are aware of the types and amounts of extra waste materials that are poured down the drain. Limiting the use of your garbage disposal will minimize the flow of excess solids to your tank. Garbage disposals usually double the amount of solids added to the tank.

Do not pour cooking greases, oils, and fats down the drain. Grease hardens in the septic tank and accumulates until it clogs the inlet or outlet. Grease poured down the drain with hot water may flow through the septic tank and clog soil pores completely.

Pesticides, paints, paint thinners, solvents, disinfectants, poisons, and other household chemicals should not be dumped down the drain into a septic system because they may kill soil microorganisms that help purify the sewage. Also, some organic chemicals will flow untreated through the septic tank and the soil, thus contaminating the underlying groundwater.

How often should my septic tank be pumped?
It is recommended to pump your tank at least every 36 months.

What are easy ways to conserve water usage?
A couple easy immediate fixes, are take shorter showers and turn the water off when brushing your teeth or washing your face. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of water the septic system must treat is to replace old water-using appliances. If a major remodeling is planned, regulations may require conversion to low water use appliances. Whether remodeling or not, consumers may choose low-flow showerheads, hand-held showers with pause control, and temperature control valves to reduce water use, save energy and save money. A typical person uses from 45 to 100 gallons of water per day. About 60 percent of that water is used in the bathroom. Reducing water use conserves water resources and helps the septic system. For more ideas to conserve water usage, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Service Website.

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