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Septic FAQ

Got a septic question? Check here for the answers! New homeowner? We answer a lot of common questions right here.

  • 1. When should I get my septic tank pumped?

    It is generally recommended that you pump your septic tank every 3 to 5 years. It is a good idea to have your tank inspected at the same time. This ensures that it is working properly and saves costly repairs.

  • 2. How does a septic system work?

    Your household wastewater flows out through pipes to an underground septic tank near your house. Here, solids settle and separate from the liquid. Light solids (e.g. fats, soap suds, etc) float to the top and form a scum, and heavy solids sink to the bottom, decompose and form a sludge – until it can be pumped out.

    Eventually, the liquid waste flows through a series of baffles to where it is slowly released into the tile (or leaching) bed. A leaching bed is made up of porous materials, such as sand and gravel and acts as a filter. From here the water seeps back into the ground, being purified by the natural soil before returning to ground water levels.

    Septic System illustration
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    Septic Tank Cross-section illustration
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  • 3. What can I not put down the drain?

    Be careful about what goes down the drain into your septic system. Take all household hazardous wastes to your municipal hazardous waste facility. Do not pour paint, grease, pesticides, solvents, nail polish remover, antifreeze or similar substances into your toilets or drains. They can prevent your septic system from working properly and could also cause contamination of your drinking water supply.

    Avoid using bleach and caustic cleaners which kill beneficial bacteria in your tank.

    Look for liquid detergents that don’t contain phosphates which can harm local water quality.

    Note: using septic tank additives does not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and some can be harmful to your system.

  • 4. What cannot go near a septic system?

    Keep vehicles and livestock off your leaching bed and septic tank. Excessive weight can damage the pipes.

    Keep gutters and sump pumps from draining into your leaching bed.

  • 5. What do I need to know when planting trees?

    Keep trees away from the leaching bed, as their roots can clog or damage your system.

  • 6. How do I prolong the life of my septic system?

    Excessive water flowing into the septic tank can cause the sludge to be disturbed and can cause the sludge to clog your leaching bed pipes. The use of garburators may mean you will need to pump your tank more frequently. Keep household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, food solids, hair and washing machine lint, and cat litter out of your system. These can clog your leaching bed and pipes.