Your Septic System Health: Dos, Don'ts & Maintenance Tips

What you put into your septic system greatly affects its ability to function and perform its job as intended. A septic tank and system contains living organisms that breakdown, digest and treat sewage waste. These systems are not designed to treat any garbage or waste other than sewage waste and any solids that shouldn’t enter the tank will simply build up and eventually need to be pumped or removed. The more solids that go in will increase the frequency that the tank needs to be pumped and, can cause damage to the tile field. Tile field failure will cause the complete system to stop functioning.

Educating all members of the household in the operation and care of the system and what should and shouldn’t be put into the system can save a lot of problems and money while prolonging the life of your system. This also protects the health of your property and the surrounding environment.

Septic Installation

If you are planning an addition to your dwelling that involves 15% or more floor area, an increase in the number of bedrooms or, an increase in the number of plumbing fixtures you may need to enlarge or even replace your existing system;

Do

  • Contact your local Municipal Building Department regarding any planned expansion or build,
  • Use a professional licensed contractor or designer.

Don't

  • Expand the size of your residence, add a suite or apartment, or a business such as a Bed & Breakfast or daycare without having your existing system checked,
  • Attempt to repair or install your system without the assistance of a qualified contractor,
  • Make or allow repairs to your system without the proper permits in place.

Septic Waste

Do

  • Dispose of solids appropriately. Only flush sewage wastewater and toilet paper,
  • Dispose of chemicals etc. at approved waste sites,
  • Dispose of grease with regular garbage or compost if applicable,
  • Try to avoid use of household bleach and disinfectants,
  • Return leftover medications to your pharmacy.

Don't 

  • Put cigarette butts, paper towels, tissues, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers etc. into a septic tank,
  • Put food scraps, coffee grounds, and other food items down the drain.
  • Put solvents, oils, or any other chemical into the system. These will poison the system and cause the breakdown of solids to stop, damage the tank and tile field,
  • Put cooking grease down the drain. This can solidify and plug pipes and tile field,
  • Allow water softener backwash drains to be connected to the system.

Tile Bed or Drainfield

Do

  • Watch for settlement on or around the tile field that would allow water to drain on to or pond,
  • Keep the area grassed to avoid erosion and promote evaporation in the bed area,
  • Keep the area protected to prevent vehicles or any kind from travelling over the bed,
  • Keep shrubs and trees a minimum of 3 meters away from the edge of the bed.

Don't

  • Allow vehicles (cars, trailers, snowmobiles etc.) to go over the tile bed,
  • Plant any shrubs, trees or vegetation on the bed whose roots will plug the tile,
  • Alter drainage that will permit water to flow onto the bed area,
  • Build any structures on the bed area. Any building is to be minimum 5 meters away from edge of bed,
  • Install automatic lawn sprinklers in the area.

System Maintenance

Do

  • Learn the location of your septic tank and tile field,
  • If equipped, inspect and clean the effluent filter located at the outlet of the tank annually as a minimum,
  • Keep the tank access lids accessible for pumping, inspection, maintenance etc.,
  • Have your septic tank pumped every 3 to 5 years or as required by an approved contractor,
  • Have your system inspected annually,
  • If equipped, have the sewage ejector pump or effluent pump inspected and maintenance performed annually or as necessary,
  • Call a licensed contractor or professional if you experience problems or require repairs,
  • Keep a record of your system permit, repairs, pumping, inspections and other maintenance activities.

Don't

  • Ignore the system (out of sight, out of mind) and assume that it is working properly. For example, a cracked or leaking tank may not show up in the operation of the plumbing system of your home but, can cause environmental damage and contamination of surface or ground waters.