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The EPA Septic Care Guide – Ten Simple Steps to Septic System Maintenance
Septic drain field failures or sewage backups may be more common than some people realize. As the EPS said in the original and brief article on septic system care, “if your septic tank failed, or you know someone whose did, you are not alone. As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Proper septic system maintenance will help keep your system from failing and will help maintain your investment in your home. Failing septic systems can contaminate the ground water that you or your neighbors drink and can pollute nearby rivers, lakes and coastal waters.” – [Original text, U.S. EPA, editing/additions by author]


People normally seem to forget about their septic tank and drain field until there are odors, slow drains, sewage backups, or sewage coming up in the yard – signs of a septic system problem. You can greatly extend the life of a septic system by taking care of it. The most basic step in septic system care is to have the tank pumped on schedule. That’s far more important than any magic additives, septic helper, or septic chemicals which usually are of little use and sometimes are downright harmful.

Helpful hints:

Here are ten simple steps that the US EPA suggested in order to keep your septic system working, with additional comments added by an experienced septic system inspector.

  1. Locate your septic tank and drain field. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
  2. Have your septic system inspected at least every three years.
  3. Pump your septic tanks needed (generally every three to five years).
  4. Don’t dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets. Learn what to keep out of your septic tank to prolong its life.
  5. Keep other household items, such as dental floss in the trash
  6. Use water efficiently. [Reducing water usage reduces the load on your drainfield.
  7. Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the system. Also, do not apply manure or fertilizers over the drain field.
  8. Keep vehicles and livestock off your septic system. The weight can damage the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil.
  9. Keep roof gutters and basement sump pumps from draining into or near your septic system. [And very important, keep surface runoff and subsurface runoff away from the septic tank and drain field.
  10. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping, and, they can be harmful to your system. [Actually most septic tank additives don’t help, some septic tank additives are highly caustic or toxic and contaminate the environment, some hurt (like yeast), and some or perhaps all (depending on where you live) are illegal to

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