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Sewer/Septic Maintenance & Repair

The life of every septic system depends on the homeowner. The most common cause for premature failure of a system is neglect. Each system needs to be maintained annually to insure proper operation. Reduce water consumption by adding lo- flow toilets and faucets. If you are going to update an appliance such as a washing machine or dishwasher, look at ones that have a water saving feature. Avoid garbage disposal systems in the kitchen. All this does is add more solids to your system and means that the sludge will build up more rapidly in the septic tank. If you have recently purchased a home make sure that you know what size and type a septic system you now own. This can be done by visiting your local county zoning / sanitation office. If the system has been installed since about 1970 there is a good chance that they have a record of the size/ type and components that make up the system as well as a detailed map of where the system is located. The map of the system is nice to have if you ever plan on remodeling/ landscaping or even planting a tree. You should never plant deep- rooted plants over or within 20’ of the drainfield. The roots could possibly grow into the pipe openings and plug them or slow the flows enough that the system would be more prone to freeze-ups in the winter. Septic systems that have pumps also have alarms to warn you of a pump problem. These alarms should be tested regularly. If you have an alarm call a licensed plumber/pumper and get the pump tested. Don’t push the silence/reset and think you fixed it. Many homeowners have gone to the basement a few days later only to find 2-3” of raw sewage flooding the basement.

Many people have been overcome with gas or even drowned trying to fix or retrieve something that fell inside a tank.

NEVER throw non-degradable objects down the toilet. This would include coffee grounds, bones, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, paper napkins, paper towels, and cigarette butts. NEVER dump solvents, paints, acids, degreasers into the septic system because they will kill the good bacteria in the septic system and possibly pass into the soil and groundwater untreated.

Septic system freeze-ups do occasionally occur during winters with little snow cover and when we have long periods of sub-zero temperatures. Some common contributing factors are leaking water fixtures and hi-efficient gas furnaces/hot water heaters. What happens is that the small trickle of water flows outside and where it meets frozen soil the water will freeze in the pipe and starts to dam up. If no hot water is used for a few days the ice dam continues to grow until the entire pipe is full. Then the next time you use water you may hear a gurgling and no water will leave the building or toilets won’t flush, check your basement. If you have plumbing in the basement there is a good chance you now have a mess on the floor, in the shower stall, or coming up a floor drain. The best way to thaw a frozen line is to get a hot water jetter/steamer and thaw the line from the septic tank to the house. This will let the dirty water and ice flow into the septic tank and not make more of a mess in the house. Ways to avoid this problem are check fixtures for leaks and fix ASAP. You can also install a condensate pump on hi efficient furnaces/hot water heaters. They only hold about 2 quarts but they end the slow dripping and pump the contents when full. One other problem we find is poorly planned landscaping. Soil may have been removed from above the sewer line now making it vulnerable to freezing. Piping may be insulated with Styrofoam, providing there isn’t a concrete slab over the pipe. By knowing where your entire system is and not disturbing the snow in this area will help avoid freeze-ups.