Proper septic system care, and maintenance, is vital to protecting public health and preserving valuable water resources. During the very first SepticSmart Week, Sept. 23-27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging homeowners to take action to ensure their septic systems are functioning properly. Nearly one quarter of all American households - more than 26 million homes - depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater.
Failure to maintain and service a home’s septic system can lead to system backups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways, and risks to public health and the environment. Many septic system failures occur during the winter holiday season, so EPA is encouraging homeowners to get their septic systems inspected and serviced now before licensed inspectors’ schedules fill up around the holidays.
“By taking a few small, simple steps to care for their home’s septic system, homeowners can help protect the health of their community and their local waterways, while preventing potentially costly repairs to their septic system that can occur if the system is not properly maintained,” said EPA acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner.
Homeowners can do their part by following these SepticSmart tips:
Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
Avoid putting fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn’t been pumped recently. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.
EPA’s SepticSmart program encourages proper septic system care and maintenance all year long, helping educate homeowners about the need for periodic septic system maintenance and proper daily system use. SepticSmart also serves as an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments, and community organizations, providing access to tools to help educate their clients and residents.
More information on EPA’s SepticSmart Awareness Week is at water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/septic-smart-week-2013.cfm.
More information on how to find WaterSense-labeled products locally is at www.epa.gov/watersense/products/index.html.