Three ways to keep a septic system in good working order


A lot of properties in rural areas are not connected to public waste pipelines. Instead, the owners of these properties use home sewerage systems, consisting of a drainage field, a septic tank and some piping. Whilst these systems are generally quite robust, they can fail if they are not well-maintained. Here are three things that can help to keep a septic system in good condition.

Recognise the early warning signs of septic system failure

Septic systems rarely break down 'out of the blue'; rather, they develop seemingly minor faults which, if left unrepaired, eventually lead to a full-blown system failure. As such, it's important for property owners who use these type of facilities to learn how to detect the early warning signs of system issues. The earlier faults are spotted, the less damage they will do to the system and the easier they will be for a septic system contractor to repair.

There are several signs that a septic system may be malfunctioning. Slow draining sinks and slow flushing toilets could be a sign of a small blockage somewhere within the waste piping. Changes to the drain field, such as multiple puddles of liquid (when no rainfall has occurred recently) or unusually lush green grass, could also indicate that there is a problem with the septic system. Additionally, homeowners should pay attention to unpleasant odours around the system area or even within their houses, as strong, pungent smells could mean that there an overflow of wastewater or a blockage.

Pay attention to what is allowed into the property's drains

It's important for homeowners to avoid putting anything down their sinks or toilets which could potentially clog up their septic systems, as a blockage within a septic tank or pipeline can be very complex and costly to repair. Things like cigarette butts, coffee grounds and kitchen towels, as well as thick paper napkins, cotton wool and feminine hygiene products should never be allowed into the drainage system; this type of waste will not break apart on its way to the septic tank. Instead, it will clump together and create a major blockage which could lead to backflow seeping into the house.

Understand the importance septic tank pumping

A septic tank is filled with all of the wastewater from a property's washing machine, kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers and toilets. The heaviest solids within this wastewater sink to the bottom of the tank, where they are turned into gases and sludge by bacteria, whilst the lightest stay at the top. Non-decomposable solids can be found in between these two layers. Over time, the volume of these non-decomposable materials increases; if they are not removed, they may cause the tank's contents to overflow and seep into the drain field; the damage this causes can be very difficult to repair.

This is why anyone who uses this type of home sewerage system must have their tank periodically pumped in order to remove any non-decomposable materials. Most septic system specialists recommend that tanks be pumped about once every three to five years.


6 March 2017

Converting to composting toilets

We aren't on the main sewer line on our property and it's always been an issue getting the septic tank emptied in winter when the road gets muddy and trucks get bogged. As a result, we decided to switch to composting toilets in the home. It's been a great option to get our toileting waste minimised and to help the environment at the same time. It's a bit of an adjustment period when you move to a composting toilet so I thought I'd start a blog explaining the process. I hope it will be useful for other people who have septic tanks and are contemplating making the switch.