Septic FAQ

Q: How often should I pump my septic system?

A: The frequency in which you get your septic system pumped depends on a number of variables: the types of appliances used, whether or not there is an iron filter, the number of people in the home, and the age and maintenance level of the system. These factors determine how much solid waste has accumulated. We typically suggest every 1 to 3 years. One of our septic professionals can clean the tank and give you a recommendation on how often it should be pumped or even set up a maintenance contract to monitor and maintain your system.

Q: The alarm is going off on my septic system, what does this mean?

A: The alarm is to let the homeowner know there is a problem. The most common problems are: loss of power by a breaker or a pump inadvertently becoming unplugged from the power source, a stuck pump float, a failed pump, or a plugged filter that needs to be cleaned.

Q: How do I clean my filter?

A: The filter is located inside the outgoing side of your septic tank. Either lift up the manhole cover, or look inside the 6" PVC inspection pipe. There should be a 1/2" PVC pipe coming up from the filter. Pull up to remove the filter. Once removed, you can rinse the filter off using a garden hose. When done, replace to original position.

Q: We just had our septic tank pumped and it is already full, did it not get emptied completely?

A: Yes, it did get emptied completely. All of the waste water fills the tank back up before entering the dispersal area. The average person uses between 50 to 75 gallons per day. Two people living in a home can fill a 1000 gallon tank in 6 to 10 days.

Q: Why do some septic systems freeze in the winter and what can I do to prevent this from happening?

A: There are several different reasons for freeze ups, the most common are: a sag in the line to pressure distribution area, dripping faucets, leaking toilets, and condensation build-up from an unattended high efficient furnace (in the instance of the homeowner being absent for several days). You can minimize the possibility of your septic system (or more specifically, the soil treatment area around it), freezing by spreading your water usage throughout the day, covering your drainfield in the fall with straw or a concrete blanket, and by using certain products designed to help prevent freezing. Feel free to contact us and we will be happy to go over your system and determine what would be best for you.

Q: Why do some septic systems fail?

A: Systems typically fail for two main reasons: maintenance issues, and unfamiliarity with the product. It is very important to have the tank cleaned every 1 to 3 years. Also, be mindful of what is going into your drainfield. If you can’t digest it, it should probably not go into your septic system. Toilets are not garbage cans, they are not meant for paint, personal hygiene items, or potato peelings and orange rinds. Even medications and cleaning products can have a harmful effect on your septic system. When antibacterial products are put in to your septic, it kills off the much needed bacteria for your system to operate efficiently. Acceptable cleaning agents are hydrogen chloride based products. Additionally, be vigilant in not allowing roots to grow into your system. Keep all trees, shrubs, and brush off the drainfield, and trimmed back from the tank. Lastly, know how the system works. What is the design flow? How old is it? How much water per day can the drainfield handle?

Q: I saw this product on TV for maintaining my septic system, does it work?

A: The only thing needed to keep your septic system healthy, is the bacteria from your body. Most of the products can cause more problems than good. If you have any questions on a particular item, you can consult your local unit of government.

Q: I have a garbage disposal, what does this mean for my septic system?

A: Garbage disposals add a lot of organic mass to your tank. Most systems are not designed to handle this load, causing your tank to fill up. The bacteria in the tank cannot break this down fast enough. If you want a garbage disposal, you need to design your tank 50% bigger, add a filter, and have your filter and tank monitored and cleaned twice as often.

Q: What kind of toilet paper should we use, and what kind of cleaning products should we be using?

A: Most brands of toilet paper are fine, but there are products out there like baby wipes, paper towels, feminine products, condoms, and makeup should never be flushed into your system. Cleaning products you want to look for are Hydrogen Chloride based products.

Q: How do I keep roots out of my septic system?

A: Keep all trees, shrubs and brush off drain field, and trimmed back from the tank.

Q: What can I do to help my system last?

A: Here is a top 10 list to help you keep your system in prime condition:

  1. Have your system cleaned every 1 to 3 years
  2. Toilet paper should be the only thing flushed down your toilet
  3. Install lint traps on washing machines, and hair catchers in bathtubs and showers
  4. Spread out water usage throughout the week
  5. Fix all leaky toilets, faucets and water softeners
  6. Never drive or park on drainfield
  7. In winter, stay off drainfield completely
  8. Keep drainfield clear of brush, trees and plants
  9. Keep all manholes at or above grade
  10. Do not add any extra additives to your tank