Septic System Maintenance
Periodic maintenance is the key to extending the life of your septic system and preventing costly repairs. When the combined depth of the sludge and scum layers equal one third of the septic tank capacity, the tank should be pumped. The accumulated sludge and scum from septic tanks should be pumped a minimum of every three years, or more frequently if your household consists of four people or more.
A general rule for locating your septic tank is to probe with a shale bar or steel rod 10-15 feet from where the main sewer line exists the foundation of the dwelling. Patience and determination will help you locate the outer edges of the tank. Once located, dig a hole toward the center to expose the main cover, usually 24” in diameter.
The drain field is the most important component of the septic system. Whgen properly installed and sized, it will accommodate treated wastewater (effluent) from your septic tank for many years. Your drain field requires no maintenance; however, you may want to consider locating and uncovering the distribution box and having it cleaned if your system is older than ten years. In addition, consider following these precautions to best care for your drainage field:
- Periodic septic tank pumping will prevent sludge and scum from contaminating the drain field.
- Keep the following items off of the drain field:
– Heavy vehicles
– Accumulated storm water
– Stockpiles of snow and soil
- Mark the boundaries of the drain field as a permanent reminder.
- Avoid planting trees and deep rooted shrubs in the vicinity of your drain field.
What makes up a septic system?
While property and lot sizes differ, most septic systems include a septic or treatment tank, a distribution box and a lateral or drainage field. Some systems have a seepage pit or cesspool instead of a lateral field. Septic tanks, distribution boxes and seepage pits are commonly made of precast concrete. The perforated pipes in the drainage field are often made of P.V.C. pipe which lay buried in several feet of crushed stone.
Town regulations, health codes and soil conditions often govern the system design in your area. You may want to contact municipal offices to obtain specific codes or a copy of the property survey.