It is estimated that there are nearly 20,000 home sewage treatment systems operating in Clermont County, and that failing systems are one of the largest contributors of pollutants to our rivers, streams and lakes. If we are to protect the quality of our local waterways, it is essential that home sewage treatment systems be properly maintained and upgraded when the need arises. Some maintenance and care tips are provided below. For more detailed information, check out the Septic System Maintenance Fact Sheet developed by OSU Extension, or contact the Clermont County General Health District at 732-7499.
Pump Septic Tank
Septic tanks allow solids to settle out of sewage and hold these solids in the tank. Over years of operating, accumulated solids begin taking up too much room, reducing the volume available for settling. When this happens, solids start escaping the tank and can clog the soil in the soil absorption field. Before this happens, the septic tank should be pumped to remove the solids.
- Do not wait for the system to back-up before you pump your septic tank! Once the sewage backs-up, the damage is already done.
- Do not use biological or chemical additive in place of septic tank pumping.
A family of four with a 500 gallon tank should have the tank pumped at least once a year. More or less frequent pumping may be necessary depending upon the number of people in the household and the size of the tank.
- For guidelines on pumping frequency, consult the table in the OSU publication Septic System Maintenance Fact Sheet
- More frequent pumping is necessary if garbage disposals are used.
- When the tank is pumped, have the baffles inspected. If they are missing or deteriorated, the tank will short circuit and not work properly. Have the baffles replaced with sanitary tees.
- To facilitate future cleaning, install risers to the surface of the ground before burying the tank.
- Never enter a septic tank. Any work or repairs should be made from the outside. The septic tank produces toxic gases that can kill a person in a matter of minutes.
- Repair water leaks, such as toilet valves that don’t seal and dripping faucets.
- Space out water use throughout the day and week. For example, avoid washing all of your laundry on one day.
- Install water conserving fixtures like low flow shower heads & low flow toilets.
- Purchase a water conserving washing machine & dishwasher.
- Divert downspouts and other rainwater drainage away from septic system
- Park cars, boats, other vehicles, or heavy equipment away from the soil absorption system area (leach bed or mound)
- Keep pavement, decks, above ground pools, and out buildings off of and away from soil absorption systems
- Do not add additional soil fill over soil absorption system area – increasing the depth of soil over the leach field limits the infiltration of air into the soil needed by the microorganisms to treat wastewater.
Just like the house roof, driveway, and furnace, septic systems require upgrades and possibly replacement. Expect to have to upgrade a properly installed and maintained septic system every 20 to 30 years. While some older systems may have met standards when they were installed, upgrades and replacements will take advantage of the tremendous advances scientists and engineers have developed to improve wastewater treatment. Be prepared for new or upgraded systems to be different from the system that may have been installed decades ago.