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Septic Maintenance

The septic system designer, installer, inspector as well as the system owner, all have responsibilities regarding a wastewater disposal system. Failure of any of these parties, including the owner, to recognize and carry out their responsibilities can result in disposal system failure. The following is a listing of the minimum responsibilities an owner has regarding subsurface wastewater disposal systems.

Click on any of the topics below to learn more.

Septic System Care
The septic tank is an essential part of your subsurface wastewater disposal system. Proper care and maintenance of your septic tank protects the disposal area and will help prolong the life of the disposal system.

  • A "starter" is not necessary to stimulate bacterial action in a septic tank. The bacterium present in the domestic wastewater is adequate for bacterial action and will thrive under normal use.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maine Department of Human Services, Division of Health Engineering both discourage the addition of septic tank additives. Septic tank cleaners containing halogenated hydrocarbon compounds are prohibited in Main (38 MRSA 1602).
  • Whenever possible practice water conservation methods .
  • Normal amounts of household detergents, bleaches, and cleaners may be used without stopping the biological activity in the septic tank. Excessive amounts of any cleaners should not be used. Do not discharge solvents, paints, fuels, oils, hazardous or special wastes into the tank. Laws and regulations prohibited this.
  • Avoid disposing of greases, fats, coffee grounds, disposable diapers, feminine napkins, or other non-decomposable materials into the septic tank.
  • Use of a garbage disposal increases the organic loading rate into a septic tank. Additional capacity or a septic tank filter is required.
  • Avoid "shock loading" or doing excessive loads of laundry in rapid succession. Space the loads out over time to allow for a rest period between loads.
: Disposal Area Care
Proper maintenance of your septic tank system includes disposal area care.

  • Do not drive over your disposal area with automobiles, trucks, or heavy equipment unless your disposal area is specifically designed for these loads.
  • Maintain adequate vegetation or mulch over the disposal area unless the field has been designed under pavement.
  • Avoid sitting gardens over disposal areas, because annual rotary tilling tends to erode the surface cover. Rotary tiller tines can cut into the disposal pipes and units.
  • Avoid tying dogs, who are inclined to dig, over disposal areas. Avoid sitting horse or cattle corrals over fields due to foot impact and erosion potential.
  • Vegetation with aggressive shallow root systems should not be grown near systems (willow trees, for example).
: Filter Care
The Septic Tank Outlet Filter should only require cleaning whenever the septic tank is pumped.

The interval for servicing septic tanks is set by state and local code. Throughout the United States there is a wide difference of opinion on what this interval should be, but most regulatory agencies suggest two to five years. The filter, which does not increase the frequency of servicing for the tank, should be cleaned when the septic tank is normally inspected and pumped.

Pumping Of The Septic Tank
Under normal conditions your septic tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years, to remove accumulated solids for final disposal in approved facility. The inlet and outlet baffles should be inspected with each pumping and replaced if necessary.

For ease of maintenance the homeowner should keep a record in the home file of distances from the building corners to the access cleanout cover. This should be provided to septic tank pumper, however in many cases the pumper may require that the cleanout covers are dug out and exposed prior to their arrival. The pumper should access the septic tank from the cleanout cover in order to allow the pump hose to access the entire sludge bottom


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