Guide to maintaining your septic system & prevent backups | WWTI

(WWTI) – The St. Lawrence County Public Health Service has provided homeowners with guidance on how to maintain sewer systems to prevent sewer backlogs and contamination.

Sewage treatment plants remove wastewater from households in rural areas without a central sewage system. The systems separate liquids from solids in wastewater and it is important to maintain them properly. Failure to do so can cause sewage to back up in your home and contaminate drinking water and swimming areas. People who come into contact with contaminated water risk getting sick.

More than one in five homes in the United States rely on wastewater treatment plants to clean their wastewater, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

You can follow these guidelines to avoid costly and risky septic problems:

  • Pump out the septic tank every two to three years
  • Keep records of pumps, inspections, maintenance and repairs
  • Plan the septic tank and components
  • Do not drive or park heavy equipment over the septic tank
  • Do not build structures over the absorption field
  • Do not flush strong chemicals down drains
  • Avoid septic tank additives
  • Avoid garbage disposals or mills
  • Direct drainage away from septic tank
  • Plant grass or just shallow-rooted plants over the field

How do you know if your septic system is failing? Look out for the following signs:

  • Water and sewage accumulate in the house
  • Bathtubs, showers and sinks drain very slowly
  • You can hear gurgling noises in the plumbing system
  • There is water in the drain field
  • There are algal blooms in nearby ponds or lakes
  • There are high concentrations of nitrates and/or coliform bacteria in water wells

The health department warns that a septic tank is not designed to be used like a garbage disposal. They say you should avoid adding solids of any kind, including those that are considered “flushable.” Solids like coffee grounds and food waste can take a long time to break down, upsetting pH levels and causing congestion.

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