SEPTIC SYSTEM CARE

Keep Your System Regular

Your septic system is designed to treat wastewater from your home before it filters into the soil and replenishes groundwater that then feeds local lakes, rivers, and, often drinking water supply wells.

Under proper working conditions, the septic tank separates the solid waste from your bathroom and the oil and grease from your kitchen. Microorganisms break down the solid waste, and the wastewater moves into the septic field where it filters through the soil, purifying as it drains down to the water table.

If your septic system is not in proper working order, or it is too small for the volume it handles, it can flood and cause sewage backup in your yard or home. While you can imagine how harmful raw sewage could be on your property, you may not be thinking about the harm a faulty septic system can cause to drinking water and local waterways.

Image adapted courtesy: Whatcom County Public Works & Health Department “Evaluate Before It’s Too Late” 2018/2019 campaign

DID YOU KNOW?

Faulty or unmaintained septic systems

Output harmful bacteria and nutrients

Cause "blooms" or rapid bacteria/algae population growth

Impacts drinking water and local waterways

Can be toxic to people and wildlife

Do the Right Thing

Regular maintenance of your septic system and proper care of the materials you put into your home's plumbing are critical to ensuring that all works well.  Good maintenance and care can also help in preventing the spread of disease.

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01. SEPTIC SYSTEM CARE

Keep your septic system in good working order.  Typically, residential systems should be pumped at least once every three years.  If you use a garbage disposal in your home, however, pumping should occur each year.  Pumping will keep solids from clogging or overloading the system, and remove any tough-to-break down substances that have accumulated.  Be sure to hire a locally licensed pumper and get a paid receipt that spells out the details of the transaction (how many gallons were pumped out of the tank, the date, the charges, and other pertinent results).

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02. GARBAGE DISPOSAL USE

Limit the use of your kitchen sink garbage disposal if you have one.  Also, use your toilet for what it was meant for—personal waste.  This will cut down on the amount of sludge that accumulates in your septic system and reduce the amount of nutrients in your wastewater.

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03. HAZARDOUS WASTE DISPOSAL

Avoid pouring or flushing any hazardous or toxic substances, such as medicines, paint, varnishes, photographic solutions, paint thinners, cleaning agents, waste oils, antifreeze, wood preservatives, and solvents.  These substances can move through your septic system without being treated and contaminate groundwater.  To learn how to correctly dispose of household hazardous waste materials, see MassDEP's list of household hazardous waste collection facilities at mass.gov's webpage on hazardous waste disposal.