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3 Tips to Keep Your Septic System in Top Shape

septic tank

Experts say a new septic system can cost the homeowner anywhere between $8,000 and $30,000 to install properly. With those stinging sums in mind, you’d be wise to maintain and care for your septic system today to avoid costly repairs or replacement tomorrow. Listed below are three ways to keep your septic system working smoothly throughout the year.

Respect the Drainage Location

It's important that your septic area is kept free of anything that might interfere with drainage. Heavy foot and vehicle traffic can compress soil above your drainage field, causing slower drainage and easier freezing of drainage lines. Some trees and shrubs develop roots that slink around drainage lines and into septic tank openings.

Keep playground equipment, sheds and other structures away from the septic-tank site. Be cautious when digging ditches or holes for fence posts near the septic tank’s area. It's easy to damage a line or the tank with the wrong jab of a sharp shovel or post-hole digger.

Watch What You Flush

Chemicals can actually alter the ability of your septic system to decompose waste matter. If you pour too much bleach or other chemical material into the toilet, the resulting reaction can eventually kill off the bacteria that are vital to the septic system's operation.

Other items you should never flush down the toilet include:

  • Dental floss and picks
  • Ear swabs 
  • Cotton balls and cosmetic wipes
  • Hair from humans or animals
  • Living or dead pets or pests
  • Cigarette and cigar butts
  • Cat litter or dried cat feces

Leftover used grease and food are also inappropriate for the toilet. Both can create nasty clogs that make your whole house smell like a landfill or worse. This warning against food includes chewing gum and medications.

Chewing gum can stick to the waste pipes and help make blockages happen. Medications affect the entire ecosystem, as the substances eventually leach into surrounding waterways. Unused birth control pills interfere with the reproductive capabilities of local fish, so make sure to dispose of all medications as recommended by your physician, pharmacy or local sheriff's office.

High-phosphate soaps and other strong, foaming cleaners are also not helpful to the septic system's operation. Choose environmentally sound shampoos, soaps and bodywashes whether you have a public sewer, private gray-water or private septic system. Switch your household cleaners so you use less caustic versions. Vinegar, baking soda and citrus-based cleaners will not significantly alter the pH in your septic system.

Know the Signs of Septic Tank Trouble

Knowing the signs of impending septic tank trouble can help you head off disasters before they happen. If your septic system is clogged or needs to be pumped, you may notice water pooling above your outside septic tank area. You may smell strong sewage or gas odors in the home or close to the toilet.

Wastewater may begin to back up into showers or bathtubs. You may need to plunge your toilet so it will flush properly, and then some of the wastewater can flow back into the toilet or into adjacent drains.

Algae blooms and overly green lawn areas can indicate overflowing sewage from the septic tank. If well water on the property tests high for levels of septic-originating micro-organisms or nitrates, the septic tank probably needs to be serviced. Experts recommend having your septic tank pumped clear every three to five years to stay on top of yard overflows and sewage backup risks.

Another sign of septic issues is a weird noise that occurs when you flush the toilet or drain other plumbing fixtures. There may be a blockage in a drain line or in the vent stack that funnels gas and air pressure out of your home's roof. If you regularly find pests in your toilet, there is likely a hole somewhere in your drain lines allowing access to the nuisances.

O'Fallon Sewer Service offers professional, skilled septic tank servicing, repair and installation. Call us today to schedule excavation, cleaning or pumping of your system. We also offer portable toilet rentals for your construction site or for use while your rural septic tank is being repaired or replaced.