If you are like most homeowners, you probably never give much thought to what happens when waste goes down your drain. However, if you rely on a septic system to treat and dispose of your household wastewater, more considerations should be taken.
When septic systems fail, inadequately treated household wastewater is released into the environment. Any contact with untreated human waste can pose a risk to public health. Bacteria and viruses from human waste can cause dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever. Untreated wastewater from failing septic systems can contaminate creeks, streams, lakes, nearby wells, groundwater, and drinking water sources.
Unfortunately, this has been known to occur throughout many local watersheds, causing a number of the creeks and streams to be polluted with unsafe levels of E. coli. Proper septic installation and maintenance can make a big difference in the watershed.
Care and Feeding of a Septic System
Many residents throughout these watershed depend on private septic systems. It is important for them to remember that a septic system can not handle certain types of waste. As a general rule, if it’s not biodegradable, it shouldn’t be dumped down the drain or flushed. A few examples of items that should not be flushed or drained:
- Cat litter
- Coffee grounds
Septic systems rely on bacteria to break down waste. Therefore, care should be taken to avoid dumping or flushing an excessive amount of chemicals or antibacterial agents. Some examples include:
- Nail polish remover
- Overuse of antibacterial soaps
System overload is another complication that can occur. It can be brought on by dumping large quantities of water at once, stirring tank solids and forcing them into the drain field, eventually causing it to fail. Here are some tips to help avoid this:
- Cool and drain hot tub water onto turf areas.
- Don’t do all of your laundry in a single day.
- Some water softeners can overload the system with excess gallons of water.
- Garbage disposals can increase the amount of solids in the tank by 50%!
Small changes at home can help lengthen the life of your septic system. Healthy septic systems can greatly contribute to the overall quality of our watersheds.