Septic systems are a private sewage treatment system common in rural areas for homes, farms and businesses that do not have municipal services.
Your septic system is constructed depending on where you live, features of your home (i.e. number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc.) and land characteristics.
How Does a Septic System Work?
Your household waste water flows through the pipes to an outdoor underground tank where solids settle and separate from the liquid.
Solids such as soap suds and fat float to the top and form a layer of scum. This layer remains on the top until it thickens. The heavier solids settle to the bottom of the tank where they decompose over time by bacteria. Non decomposed solids remain, forming a layer of sludge. To remove the top layer and sludge layer the septic should be pumped out every 3 to 5 years.
The liquid waste flows through a series of pipes where it is slowly released into the leaching bed. This bed is made up of porous materials, such a sand and gravel acting as a filter to clean the water before it seeps back into the ground.
A septic system requires careful attention to construction, operation and maintenance. Properly maintained systems prevent costly replacement or repairs.
Systems in good working order prevent pollution and help reduce the amount of nutrients that leach into nearby waterways, reduce the risk of contamination to drinking water both yours and your neighbours.
As a private sewage treatment owner you should know the location of your septic tank and what size, shape and material it is made of.
Properly Maintaining your Septic System
Depending on size of tank and usage, have your septic pumped and inspected every 3-5 years
Service and maintain the tanks and filters according to manufacturer’s instructions
Have the tank replaced if undersized or if turning your seasonal dwelling into a year round home and if adding members to your family
Install an effluent filter from your tank to your leaching bed to prevent solids from entering and clogging the leaching bed
If your system has alarms, make sure they are working properly
Know where all pumps chambers are
Keep any and all records of pumping, maintenance and repair
In your Septic
Paint, grease, pesticides, solvents, thinners, nail polish remover, kerosene, gas, oil, antifreeze, flushed or rinsed into sink can seep into groundwater and prevent your septic from working properly.
Bleach, toilet bowl and drain cleaners kill beneficial bacteria causing sewage to pass through the system without proper treatment. Liquid or concentrated detergents that don’t contain phosphates are better for the water quality.
Dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, food solids, hair and lint can all clog your leaching bed and pipes.
Commercial septic tank additives do not replace the need for pump outs and may cause more harm than good
On Your Septic
Only plant grass over and around your leaching bed to aid in evaporation and prevent erosion
Don’t plant or allow trees or shrubs to grow too close to the leaching bed or tank as their roots can clog or damage the system
Keep vehicles and livestock away from the bed and tank. Excessive weight can damage the pipes and tank.
Keep gutters and sump pumps from draining in or near your leaching bed
Avoid heavy lawn watering in the area of your septic
How to Conserve Water Flowing to the System
Use low flow showerheads, low flush toilets and fix plumbing leaks & fixtures
Keep the use of excessive water flow into the septic tank to a minimum (over use of toilets, laundry, dishwasher, showers and baths) as they can all cause the sludge to be disturbed allowing solids to pass through the tank clogging the leaching bed and pipes
If you notice the following, your septic may not be functioning properly:
Sinks, showers and toilets back up with sewage or drain slowly
The lawn over the leaching bed has abnormally healthy looking grass
Soggy areas, areas with grey water or areas surfacing sewage on or near the leaching bed
The lawn above the leaching bed is wet
There is a smell of sewage in your home or over the area of your leaching bed
If your well is nearby and testing indicates high levels of nitrates, bacteria or other contaminants
Septic Smart www.omafra.gov.on.ca