How to care for your septic system – June 2023

Septic systems are wastewater treatment systems that are commonly used in areas that are not connected to a city’s sewer system. When installed and maintained properly, septic systems are an environmentally friendly and economical way to treat wastewater. Fortunately, a septic system requires limited maintenance, and should not cause any problems as long as a few simple rules are followed.

Regulate water usage

Discharging large amounts of water into the septic system at once can prevent it from functioning properly and can cause water contamination. There are several ways to reduce water usage to extend the life of your septic system and prevent overloading.

Firstly, check your faucets and toilets for any leaks and ensure they are fixed as necessary. When doing laundry, spread out loads throughout the week and try to limit long showers as much as possible. Be mindful of other activities that can quickly use up water, such as running the faucet while brushing your teeth. Limiting your water use is a great way to maintain a healthy septic system while also helping the environment.

Properly dispose of waste

When waste is not properly disposed of, it can end up in your septic system, hindering its function. To prevent this, avoid pouring items such as coffee grounds, oils, and fats down the drain, and try not to use excessive amounts of dish soap. Similarly, wipes, personal hygiene products, and other items should not be flushed down the toilet to keep your septic system functioning properly.

General maintenance

For the septic system to function, it must be well-ventilated. For this reason, it is important to always keep the vents clear and unobstructed. Additionally, do not drive or park over the septic system, and ensure that the area is grass-covered. This allows for the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Septic tanks should be emptied regularly to prevent suspended solids and fats from leaving the septic tank and entering the treatment system.  There is a ‘rule of thumb’ practice that says the septic tank should be cleaned between three and five years.  However, Section  of the Ontario Building Code says that the septic tank should be cleaned whenever the sludge and scum occupy one-third of the working capacity of the tank.  This can be checked by using a professional with the proper equipment.  It can be dangerous to open a septic tank.