SSNW BLOG & NEWS

Monday March 15, 2018

Out of sight, out of mind?! Ignoring your septic tank can cost you money.

Many septic system additives claim to help the homeowner reduce the worry and time required for maintenance. Overwhelmed or confused by the 1200 products out there? Read on to learn how to sort through all the hype.

How Your Septic Tank Functions

It is important to know to understand how your septic system works before considering using any additives.

Your septic tank is designed to keep solids, grease and oils from entering and clogging your drainfield.

Bacteria in the tank break down organic solids into gas and liquid. Some solids in the tank, such as sand,

gravel, dirt and bits of plastic cannot be broken down by any enzyme or bacteria. These settle out and

accumulate, creating a layer of sludge at the bottom of the tank and requires periodic pumping to remove.

Grease and oils rise to the surface as scum (Figure 1), while the relatively clear liquid between these layers

flows out into the drainfield and infiltrates into the soil.

Types of Additives

When looking at costs, septic system additives may seem like a bargain compared to pumping a septic tank. However, some products can damage septic systems, interfere with treatment of wastewater, and contaminate groundwater. Septic tank additives fall into three categories: inorganic compounds, organic solvents, and biological additives. Companies market inorganic additives, generally strong acids or alkalis, for their ability to open clogged drains. These contain similar ingredients to popular drain cleaners. These products can destroy the biological function of your septic tank, sterilizing it for days, allowing raw sewage to flow directly into your drainfield, potentially clogging pipes and soil pores. These types of products can also corrode concrete tanks and distribution boxes, causing them to leak and potentially break apart. Research found hydrogen peroxide degrades soil structure in a

drainfield, reducing its ability to treat and absorb wastewater effluent. Organic solvent additives contain concentrated amounts of chemicals used for degreasing machine parts due to their effectiveness at breaking down oils and grease.

Unfortunately, these products also kill bacteria and other beneficial microbes in your tank and may contaminate groundwater. Some states ban these products and their use may trigger liability issues if groundwater becomes contaminated. Biological additives combine enzymes and bacteria to supposedly enhance the existing

biota in septic tanks to provide a start for new systems or to augment stressed systems. For new systems, many people believe you must add bacteria. While septic systems require bacteria to work, no special bacteria need to be added

Whatcom County ponders tougher septic system rules, new fees

BELLINGHAM - The estimated 28,000 Whatcom County homeowners with septic systems would face a new fee and mandatory inspections if the County Council accepts recommendations from the Health Department.

Whatcom County Environmental Health Manager John Wolpers stressed that the proposed $25 fee on all residential septic systems, recommended by County Health Director Regina Delahunt, would replace two existing fees, if council approves: the $35 fee that homeowners have had to pay when they submit inspection reports on their septic systems to the county, and the three-cent-per-gallon county tax on waste pumped from septic tanks. That tax has been tacked onto the bills from the septic tank pump operators, adding about $30 to the cost of pumping the typical tank.

The trouble is that too many county homeowners are failing to heed the county's reminders of their legal obligation to get their systems inspected.

In the Lake Whatcom and Drayton Harbor watersheds, where the potential damage from sewage runoff is of special concern, homeowners got letters that gave them deadlines for submitting inspection reports to the county. Those who ignore that deadline and two follow-up letters can expect to receive a notice of violation that imposes a $500 civil penalty.

The result of that tough approach: 95 percent of the 665 septic systems around the lake have been inspected. In the Drayton Harbor area, 82 percent of the 3,087 septic systems have been inspected, according to county statistics.

The lake is the drinking-water source for more than half the county's population, and Drayton Harbor is listed as an "impaired water body" by the state. Its shellfish have shown contamination attributed to septic tank problems.

But elsewhere, homeowners have been getting a simple postcard to inform them of the law. No deadlines have been imposed, and if the homeowner ignores the postcard, nothing happens. That was the system that the County Council approved in 2010, after a majority of council members agreed they did not want to rile county residents with more drastic measures to assure compliance with tougher state mandates.

The result of the lenient approach: Only 22 percent of homeowners who got a postcard with no deadlines have submitted inspection reports on their septic systems.

Now, Delahunt is proposing to send deadline letters to all county homeowners with septic systems.

Tuesday, February 15, 2018

10 Tips for Maintaining your Septic System

Maintaining your system today could save you thousands tomorrow

Correct Maintenance of your on-site Septic is the key to keeping your system running smoothly. Although Septic Systems should last between 20-30 years, neglecting regular maintenance on your system could result in early deterioration of your septic and drainfield systems and lead to expensive repair or replacement costs much earlier in your Septic Systems lifetime. Think of your septic system as a vehicle. With regular maintenance, fluid changes and system checks on your car, it could have a lifetime of 20-30 years. The same can be said about your septic system. Regular Maintenance and Inspections will catch problems early in their stages, and allow you to fix those problems before they lead to a system failure, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in replacement cost. Here are ten maintenance tips to keep your OSS running smoothly for years to come.

1. Have your Septic System pumped regularly.

The average home will need to have the septic tank pumped out every three to five years. Without regular system pumping, solids could overload the Septic tank(s) and sludge could leach into the drainfield. Drainfield effluent should be clear of these solids to keep the system running cleanly.

2. Divert all access runoff away from your septic tank.

All gutters and drainpipes should be directed away from your Septic Tank(s) and Drain Fields. By diverting all access runoff away from your system, you are allowing the septic to treat the waste and greywater it was meant to treat effectively. If you allow this runoff to enter the system, your septic could become hydronically overloaded, allowing the drainfield to become oversaturated and not do it's job properly.

3. Make sure all access lids and ports are sealed tight.

Quite often, water can penetrate poorly sealed lids and ports and cause problems in your septic system. When water gets into these cracks and crevaces it can hydrolically overload your septic system and cause the drainfield to become oversaturated. This is often more of a problem with pressure type systems. It causes pumps to run constantly, overworking the pump and wasting energy and money.

4. Have your Septic System inspected routinely.

The State of Washington currently requires all homeowners to have their Septic System tested every year for all types of systems, except for Gravity feed systems, which need to be inspected every three years. By having your system inspected regularly you will be able to diagnose and fix problems early before they become failures. If you live in Whatcom County, Washington you can have your septic inspected by calling Shane @ 360-201-4348.

5. Have the proper drawings and sitemaps for your system.

When your septic system is installed, there should be a site map, or plot map drawing showing all of the components of your septic system. By having this handy you can eliminate having to guess where your septic tank, pump tanks, transport lines, or Drainfields are located in case of an emergency that needs emmediate attention. If you don't have a site map or there is not one on record with your health department, it would be wise to have Septic Designer/Architect create one for you.

6. Do not cover or obstruct the System in any way.

Do not cover or obstruct the Septic System components or Drainfield with any Ashpalt, Concrete, Decks, Framing or Structures that would impead you from accessing these areas. Keep vehicles off your septic system. Their pressure can yield damage to the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil. If you need to replace any of these components in the future it will be difficult to access them with any of the before mentioned items obstructing them.

7. Don't introduce Septic tank additives or "rejuvenators" in your septic tank.

Whether they claim to break up sludge or scum or to unclog drain fields, or biologically-based septic additives like septic tank yeast cultures, septic tank bacteria, starter bacteria, or septic tank enzymes. These can actually damage your system, causing frothing and excessive activity and thus preventing normal settling of solid wastes. Check with your local health department or authority if you are considering introducting additives.

8. Do not flush any items other than septage or toilet tissues.

By using your toilet as a trash recepticle you are introducing unacceptable items, some which will never decompose or chock inlets/outlets, and will require constant pumping of the septic tank. Limit the use of toilet bowl and drain cleaners because they are harmful to the friendly bacteria that aid in the decomposition of the solids in the septic tank. Do not use a sink disposal unit if you are on a septic system. While those units grind up waste foods, most septic systems are not designed or capable of dealing with such undigested solids.

9. Refrain from using heavy oils or cleaners.

Never dump cooking oil or grease or such oily substances in sinks or toilets. As these substances float on water, they pose a threat of clogging the inlet pipes by filling up upper part of septic tank. This oil can also transfer into the transport pipes, solidify, and cause excessive buildup that can cause blockage of the drainfield.

10. Do not plant large vegitation over your Drainfield.

Do not plant any trees or large shrubs over the septic area, drainpipes or drainfield/leachfields. The roots from these plants will eventually grow into the drain lines and obstruct or damage them. Grasses or small plants are ok, as long as the root system is shallow and will not impead or block drain lines.

By following these 10 tips and Maintenance techniques your Septic System should last for many years to come!