When you’re a homeowner or business owner and you don’t have a central sewerage system available to connect to, you are not only responsible for installing your own septic system, but you’re also responsible for ensuring the safety of the groundwater and drinking water on your property. One way this is achieved is through proper maintenance of your septic system.
A quick run-down of how a septic system works should reveal the absolute necessity of staying on top of things from a system-health and environmental-health perspective. Keep reading as the experts at A.J. Foss, Inc. explain how to prevent contamination from your septic system.
Toilets, sinks, showers and washing machines produce wastewater that drains into an underground, water-tight, living filter septic tank. In the tank, solids settle to the bottom (sludge) and fats, oils, and grease float to the top (scum). Contaminants in the wastewater begin to be broken down and destroyed in the tank. Porous pipes buried in soil, gravel and sand carry the wastewater into a leach field (drainfield), which is a shallow, covered trench in your yard. From here, the partially treated wastewater filters through dirt and the surrounding sand, where microbes break down the waste and filter out bacteria and other harmful pathogens before it enters the groundwater. Flowing groundwater underneath a drain field should capture any remaining contaminants.
Where things can go terribly wrong….
There are multiple points in this process that have the potential for failure, which could lead to groundwater contamination and potentially affect your drinking water.
First off in the home, be wary of flushing chemicals and medication or putting them down the drain. They follow the same process as the wastewater and will end up in the groundwater, causing potential contamination of your drinking water.
Septic tanks can be constructed of concrete, plastic or fiberglass and each have the potential for break down, damage, leaking and failure to contain and properly breakdown the sludge and scum. Untreated wastewater could enter your drainfield and groundwater, leaching bacteria and other pathogens. The best way to ensure your tank is operating correctly, is to have regular maintenance, including pumping of the tank to remove any solids that haven’t been broken down. Accumulation of these solids can eventually cause overflow into the drain field, which would not only affect your water, but also could cause extensive damage and contamination to your yard. A septic tank technician can inspect your tank and drainfield for signs of it being too full or needing repair or some other professional attention.
The drainfield consists of porous pipes that the wastewater (effluent) trickles through into the surrounding soil, gravel and sand where it receives the final treatment and disposal before entering the groundwater. Maintenance and consistent inspection of the drainfield are critical for ensuring this portion of the septic system operates efficiently and effectively. As much as possible, keep vehicles and heavy machinery off the drainfield area. It’s recommended not to plant a garden, build a building, or place a pool or other play items on this area. The less traffic, the better to avoid damaging pipes and putting pressure on the soil around the pipes. In addition, preventing additional run-off from entering the drainfield (from roofs, driveways, and patios) is advised.
There are several basic preventive measures that can be adopted and implemented, ensuring your septic system will operate properly for decades, reducing the risk of groundwater and drinking water contamination. Some of these items you can complete yourself or you can always call a professional to help keep your septic system operating optimally.