A Septic Tank Emergency
If you've ever had a septic tank emergency, the following scenario will make sense to you. Just when you thought you were done preparing your house to sell, you realize there's a problem with the septic tank. There's a strong sewerage odor indoors and there's standing water near where the tank is in your backyard. Holding down a sinking feeling, you call the local septic tank service, and they dig up your tank. The excavation process reveals a six-inch wide tree root that has grown through the top of the tank. Three days and $6,000 later, you're in the clear with a new septic tank and a wish that you had been more vigilant about maintenance. The following list contains tips to keep in mind so you never actually end up with this catastrophe on your hands.
- The first thing you need to do in maintaining your septic tank is to keep the actual physical site clear and free of brush or trees. Be careful which plants you install near your tank. You should seek to prevent erosion by planting grass like fescue or Bermuda. Don't, however, plant shrubs or trees with far-reaching root systems. Plants to avoid include Japanese willow, ash trees, and maple trees.
- Maintenance of the septic field is also important. Parking or driving large machinery across the drain field can damage the perforated piping that disperses water from the tank. Likewise, water draining onto this area should be mitigated so as not to interfere with the piping. Do not direct rainwater onto this area.
- You should also focus on what you're putting into the septic system. You can't flush just anything down your toilet, so avoid things like cooking grease, coffee grounds, or feminine hygiene products. The best rule of thumb is to limit waste going into the toilet to toilet paper and human waste.
- Keep in mind that in most households, all water going down drains ends up in the septic tank. Septic systems function better with less water entering them, so you should seek to eliminate extra water usage in your home. You can do this by fixing constantly-running toilets and adjusting your washing machine's settings so the amount of water matches the load size.
- Make pumping part of your regular home maintenance routine. You should plan to have a local professional inspect your tank every few years, and you should have it pumped at least every five years. You can do yourself a favor by keeping records on when maintenance has been performed so an emergency doesn't sneak up on you at an inopportune time.
Maintenance and Prevention
Now that you know a little bit about septic tank maintenance, you are more likely to be able to avoid a disaster. There is really no good time to handle a septic mishap, so it's essential that you begin making maintenance part of your routine and take measure to prevent any type of malfunction or backup.