Most properties in rural areas rely on a septic tank to dispose of household wastewater. A septic tank works by separating liquids from solid waste and then pumping the liquid into the surrounding soil. Solid waste collects at the bottom of the tank and needs to be emptied every one to five years depending on the size of the household. With proper care and maintenance, your septic tank can last up to 30 years before it needs replacing. There are many things you can do to prolong the life of your tank and keep it in perfect working order.
A septic tank needs time to separate solid waste from water. Overloading your tank with too much water will upset the bacteria inside that are responsible for breaking down waste material. It could also lead to the system becoming backed up. Make sure none of the faucets in your home are leaking and that the toilet does not run between flushes. Only use your washing machine and dishwasher when they are completely full, and replace any old kitchen appliances with modern ones that conserve water.
Don’t Use a Garbage Disposal
A garbage disposal will increase the amount of solid waste in your septic tank by as much as 50%. Houses that rely on septic tanks should never use a garbage disposal or only use top-of-the-range varieties that grind food down into tiny pieces.
Protect Your Drainage Field
Protect the drainage field around your tank by ensuring that nothing heavy is ever placed on top of it. A car, hot tub or structure could begin to sink into the ground and damage your pipes. Remove any trees that are within 100 feet of the drainage field especially those with strong roots. The drainage field should be covered with soil only and never concrete, asphalt or plants.
Be Careful of What Goes into Your Tank
Non-biodegradable items such as tampons, diapers, wet wipes, kitchen towels and dental floss should never be flushed down the toilet as they will clog your septic tank in a short space of time. Pouring cooking grease down the drain is also dangerous as it can cause a blockage. Strong chemicals such as bleach, drain cleaner, and detergents should be used sparingly as they can disturb the bacteria in your tank.
Hire a professional company to empty your septic tank as soon as the solid waste fills one third of the tank. Ask the technician to perform a full inspection of your tank while emptying it to ensure that all the components are working correctly. Make sure the technician opens the manhole cover and inspection ports to measure the sludge and scum levels inside your tank. Never open the ports yourself as the bacteria inside produce a toxic gas that can be extremely dangerous. Be sure to perform regular inspections and maintenance of your septic tank to prevent bacteria from contaminating groundwater and nearby lakes and ponds.