Many San Antonio area homes, particularly in rural areas, are not tied into a public sewer system. Instead, these homes are generally equipped with an individual septic system for handling waste. As far as daily use goes, most people don’t notice a huge difference in the systems, but if you own, or are looking at property that is set up with a septic system on site, there are a few maintenance and minor use issues of which to be aware.
When it comes to septic systems, the most common type has been an in-ground tank. Waste material flows from the house out to the storage tank through underground pipes. As with any volumetric system, close observation of both the tank and plumbing connections are important.
Know Your Septic System
First, know your system and its layout. Pipes run underground from the house to the tank, which is usually a short distance away from the house’s foundation. This will also help you make sure you get a good bidet for your toilet pipelines. It’s important to make note of the boundaries of the tank so that you don’t accidentally dig into the tank, or drive over the area. Any improvements, such as a pool or deck, should be kept away from these areas to prevent leaks.
Second, keep shrubs and roots away from the system (and all plumbing). Roots from large shrubs and trees can work their way into the pipes and cause clogs or leaks. Rectifying the damage can be costly. Grass growing over a septic tank is actually beneficial, however. The short roots do not pose a threat to the pipes, yet the grass itself provides valuable ground cover that prevents erosion.
Also, you want to make sure to lookout for signs of trouble. Exposed parts can often be seen with just a quick glance every few months. Lush, bright green grass growing over the tank area can indicate a crack or leak in the tank. And a foul stench emanating from the area of the tank can also be a warning sign of possible trouble.
Pump the system regularly. The septic tanks have a limited capacity, and inevitably will fill up. How quickly this happens depends a lot on the number of users and the size of the system. If you have one or two people using the system, it will likely fill much more slowly than if you have eight people dependent upon it. On average, systems should be pumped every three to five years. The cost for this service ranges from $200-$500. When a licensed septic company comes out to do the pumping, you should have them check for cracks and leaks each time.
Tip for Septic System Maintenance
Control what goes in. Septic systems are designed to create a unique balance of good bacteria and water to dilute and combat the unmentionables stored in the tank. Too much water can actually harm the system. Try using energy efficient toilets, and diverting gutters away from the parts to minimize risk of oversaturation. At the same time, too many solids can be harmful as well. Scraping dishes into the trash before rinsing can help tremendously. Always avoid putting fat down drains, as it can clog pipes and overload the storage tank. Some people suggest specialized toilet paper that dissolves more quickly in septic systems.
Avoid Certain Products and Chemicals. Cleaning products, while great for inside our homes, can wreak havoc on a septic system. Most notably are bleach and drain cleaners. Bleach is designed to kill bacteria. All bacteria. And an important component of a septic tank is the good bacteria in the system that breaks down waste product. A cupful of bleach on occasion will probably not cause a noticeable amount of disruption to the system. Drain cleaner, while killing bacteria, can also eat away at system parts and should be avoided completely.
There are also a wide variety of products, such as Rid-X, which, when introduced to the tank regularly, help to restore the good bacteria and chemicals into the system. Always check with a reputable septic company before introducing new products into the system.
In addition to the standard tank systems, aerobic systems are an increasingly popular option. These systems utilize a unique network of spray heads to dissipate waste material. Care should be taken to ensure proper spray pattern, and avoidance of any breaks in the plumbing structures or spray heads. These systems should be evaluated annually by a professional septic company.
Note: This information is intended as an overview of septic care and maintenance and should not be the sole source of information on the subject. Any questions about a specific system, should be directed to a licensed septic company. Kimberly Howell Properties is not liable for any damages or injury as a result of following this information.
image courtesy of ErikBerndt