CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Did you know that one in five of all American households depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater? If you’re one of those households, you should know how to care for and maintain that system in order to not only avoid costly repairs but also to prevent pollution to local waterways and risks to public health and the environment.
Failure to maintain a septic system can lead to back-ups and overflows. Faulty septic systems release bacteria, viruses and chemicals that are toxic to local waterways. These pollutants can eventually enter streams, rivers and lakes, which can harm ecosystems by killing native fish and plants.
This week, Sept. 21-27, is the third annual SepticSmart Week – and it’s the ideal time to learn about how to care for your septic system. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is helping promote the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program by sharing septic maintenance tips such as these:
• Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should generally have their systems inspected every three years by licensed contractors, and have their tanks pumped when necessary. Many septic system failures occur during the winter holiday season. Therefore, DEP and EPA encourage homeowners to get their septic systems inspected and serviced now, before licensed inspectors’ schedules fill up around the holidays.
• Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
• Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things down the drain or toilet that belong there. Items such as coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
• Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day — too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
• Shield Your Field: Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow. Having the right landscaping on and around your system is also important. Tree and shrubbery roots can grow into the drain lines, clogging and breaking them, so grass and native vegetation are the best covers for your drainfield.
EPA’s SepticSmart program educates homeowners about proper septic system care and maintenance all year long. In addition, it serves as an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments and community organizations, providing access to tools to educate clients and residents.
For more information, visit the EPA's SepticSmart page: http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/Septic-Smart-Week.cfm.
For more DEP news and information, go to www.dep.wv.gov. Also, be sure to connect with the agency on all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter and find us on YouTube by searching “Environment Matters.” For specific information about our REAP (Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan), West Virginia Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), West Virginia Watershed Improvement Branch, Youth Environmental Program and Human Resources initiatives, connect on Facebook.