As the waste water from your home Wisconsin Administrative Rules require Keep non-degradable
flows into the septic tank, most of the a system owner to perform proper materials out
dense, heavy solids settle to the bottom. maintenance (inspection and pumping
Bacterial action then partially
decomposes these solids into digested
when needed) and file a report with the
county or state of said maintenance.
N ever flush into a septic tank
materials that do not break
down easily. Such materials include
sludge and gases. Materials lighter than Never go into the septic tank yourself. coffee grounds, bones, disposable
water, such as fats and grease, rise to Sewer gases are extremely hazardous diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons,
the top and form a scum layer. The and can quickly kill. condoms, paper napkins, paper towels
outlet baffle or filter holds the scum and cigarette butts. Pharmaceutical
layer, and prevents it from leaving the Reduce sludge and packaging such as adhesive bandage
tank and clogging the drainfield system. scum build-up wrappers, dental floss, pill capsules,
The drainfield system may consist of inimizing the amount of solids
trenches, a bed (in-ground, at-grade, or
a mound), or a seepage pit. Gas baffles
M entering your septic system will
reduce sludge and scum build-up. This
tampon applicators and other
packaging material can quickly
accumulate and clog a septic tank and
and effluent filters (plate or screen) will extend the time between necessary drainfield. Put a waste basket in the
further reduce the carryover of pumpings and avoid the crisis of bathroom and use it.
suspended solids to the drainfield. The dealing with a failed system.
waste water then goes out through the Avoid dumping hazardous
Do not put fats and oils down household chemicals down the
drainfield, seeps through the soil
the drain. Fats and oils can collect drain. Some components such as
filtering out bacteria, and returns to the
inside plumbing pipes and cause hair or organic solvents, acids and degreasers
other debris to accumulate, decreasing may be left untreated by the bacteria.
Bacterial action needs time to break water flow. Fats, oils, and grease are They can pollute drinking water if they
down sewage. As sludge builds up in lighter than water and will rapidly seep from the drainfield area, through
your tank and the scum layer thickens, increase the scum layer in the septic the soil, and into the groundwater.
waste water is forced into the drainfield tank, requiring more frequent pumping.
faster. Since waste water remains in the To determine whether you might be
Keep food waste out of your contaminating drinking water, consult
tank less time, bacterial treatment and
system. Compost kitchen waste or Farm-A-Syst Worksheet #6 Assessing the
settling is less effective. Unless
put it in the trash rather than using a Risk of Groundwater Contamination from
removed, the sludge and scum layers
garbage disposal. Fruit and vegetable Household Wastewater Treatment (G3536-
will eventually clog the outlet pipes or
peelings ground up in a disposal tend to 6W).
the drainfield, and cause your system to
remain suspended rather than
becoming part of the sludge or scum Reduce waste water
Schedule regular layers. As a result, they move out volume
through the system and clog drainfields y reducing the volume of water
more easily. B entering the system, you can avoid
overloading the septic tank and
egular maintenance and pumping If you use a garbage disposal, your
R are good ways to prolong a septic
system’s proper functioning. Like
septic tank should be twice as large as
otherwise recommended. Some septic
Use less water. A household with
changing the oil in your car, consider tank installers recommend two tanks four members will typically use more
regular maintenance “insurance” since working in series rather than one larger than 225 gallons of water a day. A
the cost is likely to be a fraction of the tank. The extra time the material is in washing machine can use as much as 60
cost of replacing a neglected system. the septic tanks allows more solid gallons of water on each cycle. Flushing
material to settle out. a toilet can use 2 to 7 gallons of water.
A rule of thumb is to have your septic
Showers use 2 to 5 gallons per minute.
system inspected is every other year.
Consider water-saving appliances and
Many counties require an inspection
fixtures when you must replace them.
every 3 years. A liquid waste
pumper/hauler will check sludge and
scum accumulations and remove them
if necessary. Baffles, filters, covers, and
the soil absorption field should also be
checked and cleaned.
Fix plumbing leaks. Repair leaky Keep bacteria working The drainfield is a delicate structure.
faucets and plumbing fixtures to avoid our septic tank and drainfield are
inadvertently overloading the septic
system. A single faucet that leaks one
Y full of living organisms that make
the system work. Some common
I Take care not to plant deep-rooted
trees or bushes near the system.
I Do not drive over the system. The
drop per second wastes more than 3 household products can kill bacteria in
vehicle’s weight can compact the
gallons a day, or 1,000 gallons a year! the system. Excessive amounts of
soil, crush pipes, and even break
Keep water softeners adjusted. chlorine bleach, disinfectants, strong
the septic tank, resulting in system
For households with water softeners, acids, lye, medicines, pesticides, oil-
breakdown and requiring costly
recharging that system uses a significant based paint, or petroleum-based paint
repairs or replacement.
amount of water. Some water softeners thinners can all harm your septic system
and pollute the environment. I Install an effluent filter as
recharge on a timed cycle. However, a
permitted by the county or state.
system that recycles only after a Read labels on household cleaning
specified volume of water has been products carefully. I Divert surface water runoff away
used will save water. A properly from the septic system drainfield.
adjusted water softener can prevent Avoid unnecessary
wasting water. additives Heed early warning
esearch indicates no apparent value signs
During water softener regeneration, a
salt solution displaces calcium and R in adding enzymes or other
“miracle” products to residential septic S eptic systems beginning to fail
typically have early warning signs
magnesium ions that make water
systems. While additives that claim to that signal you to take action.
“hard.” The water softener is flushed
out, and waste water is often disposed clean your tank, improve its efficiency, Warning signs of problems:
of through a floor drain. Research or “restart” the system will probably not I When you take a shower, do you
indicates that salts from softener harm your system, with regular end up with water up to your
regeneration waters should not harm maintenance they are an unnecessary ankles? Water draining too slowly
the septic system. However, it is bother and expense. indicates septic system problems or
permissible to divert waste water to a blocked drain.
surface drainage rather than allowing it
Protect the septic
system drainfield I Drain pipes gurgle or make noise
to go into the septic tank.
he septic system drainfield consists when air bubbles are forced back
Keep storm water out of the
septic system. Make certain that
T of a network of perforated pipes laid
in gravel-filled trenches or beds or
through the system — another
early warning sign.
roof drains, basement sump pumps, or
gravel-less chambers. Waste water I Smelling sewage signals a serious
foundation curtain drains do not empty
trickles out of the pipes into the soil. problem.
into the septic system.
I If water backs up in your sink or
basement it may be too late — your
system may already be failing.
I Watch for an increasing level of
To test your toilet valve for leaks, water standing in the drainfield
vent or observation pipe.
add two or three drops of food I Check for soggy soil above the
coloring to the toilet tank. Leave for
I Settling of the soil over the septic
a few hours or overnight, and then tank indicates a break in the tank.
Remember—Nothing can take the
check the water in the toilet bowl. If place of careful use, regular inspection,
the water is colored, your toilet is Don’t hesitate to contact your local
sanitarian with questions.
leaking and wasting water.