Be septic smart

I was once told by a person who ran a “roto-rooter” type business that a septic tank at a private home would never clog up or wear out if the homeowner treated it right. Of course, he was in the business either because he was wrong or because homeowners were being abusive to their private sewage systems.

Millions of homes across Michigan have toilets and drains that lead to their private, backyard sewage treatment plant, and most of them work perfectly. Thankfully.

However, a good portion of the E. coli contamination sometimes found in Michigan’s lakes and rivers can be traced to septic systems that are not working perfectly.

Whether your system is streamside or miles away, it behooves you to treat it “right.” Failing to do so can be costly and inconvenient anywhere. If your system can feed into a public waterway, it can be extra costly in the form of environmental fines.

So what’s “right?”

  • Protect and inspect. Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor, and have their tank pumped when necessary, typically every three to five years.
  • Make sure to maintain. Proper care and maintenance is critical to septic-system function and long-term performance.
  • Think at the sink. Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drain field.
  • Flush sensibly. Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can clog and damage septic systems.
  • Don’t strain the drain. Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
  • Shield your field. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drain field, which could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Pay attention now or simply pay later.

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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