Septic System Tips
Helpful Hints from Gullett Sanitation Services
To extend the life of your on-site sewage system, save on maintenance costs, and protect water quality:
- Inspect Your Septic Systems Tank Annually Generally, septic system tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. Inspection, by you or a professional, may show that you need to pump more or less often. Regular pumping ensures that solids will not flow from the septic system tank into the drainfield. Solids can destroy the drainfield, and pumping will not bring a failed drainfield back to life.
- Use Less Water Reducing the amount of wastewater entering your on-site sewage system may increase its life span. Excessive water use is a main cause of system failure. To reduce household water use:
- Use water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures (faucets, showers, toilets).
- Run and drain appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, one at a time.
- Fix all faucet and toilet leaks promptly.
- Spread laundry over the entire week and avoid partial loads.
- Direct Water from Downspouts & Roofs away from the Drainfield Additional water from these sources may prevent your drainfield from working properly.
- Keep Cars & Trucks off the Septic Systems Tank & Drainfield Areas This prevents pipes from breaking and soil from becoming compacted. Compacted soils can’t absorb water
- Use Phosphate-Free Detergent Phosphate-free detergents help prevent algae problems in nearby lakes and streams.
To keep your on-site sewage system in proper working order, keep these things in mind:
- Limit Garbage Disposal Use A garbage disposal adds solids and grease to your system, which could lead to drainfield failure.
- Don’t Use Septic Systems Tank Additives or “Miracle” System Cleaners Some of these chemicals can actually harm your on-site sewage system by allowing solids to flow into and clog the drainfield. The chemicals can also contaminate ground and surface water. Septic Systems Tank – Septic Systems Tank Services in Bethel, OH
- Don’t Dispose of Water from Hot Tubs into the On-Site Sewage System Large volumes of water are harmful to the system, and the chlorine can destroy important bacteria in the system. Drain hot tubs onto the ground, away from the drainfield and not into a storm drain.
- Don’t Flush Solid Wastes into the On-Site Sewage System These include diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, tampons, condoms, and grease.
- Don’t Put Strong Chemicals, Such As Cleaning Products, down the Drain Household chemicals—such as drain cleaners, paint thinners, and floor cleaners—can destroy important bacteria in your septic systems tank and contaminate ground and surface water.
- Don’t Construct Patios, Carports, or Use Landscaping Plastic over the Drainfield Grass is the best cover for your septic systems tank and drainfield. Soil compaction and paving prevents oxygen from getting into the soil. This oxygen is needed by bacteria to break down and treat sewage.
Landscaping Your Drainfield: Questions & Answers
Your drainfield represents a substantial investment. Treating it right, and protecting it from damage, can save considerable time, work, and money. Our septic systems tank service is here to help you prolong your system’s life.
- What can I plant over my drainfield? Grass is the ideal cover for drainfields. Grasses can be ornamental, mowed in a traditional lawn, or in an unmowed meadow. Or, you can try groundcovers and ferns (see questions 11 and 12 for more details). The key to planting over the drainfield is to select shallow rooted, low-maintenance, low-water-use plants. For those whose tank-covers are buried, keep in mind that plantings over the tank – from inlet to outlet – will have to be removed every 3 to 4 years for inspection and pumping.
- How close can trees and shrubs be to the drainfield? Trees or large shrubs should be kept at least 30 feet away from your drainfield. If you do plan to plant trees near a drainfield, consult an expert to discuss your ideas and needs. Trees and shrubs generally have extensive root systems that seek out and grow into wet areas, such as drainfields.
- Can I plant a vegetable garden over my drainfield? No. Growing vegetables over a drainfield is not recommended. Vegetables need watering, and excess water in the soil reduces its ability to treat wastewater. The deep roots of some vegetables may damage drainfield pipes. Bed preparation, such as rototilling or deep digging, can also damage pipes.
- What about landscape plastic or fabric under mulch? No. Plastic reduces the necessary air exchange in the drainfield soil. Even mulch or bark over the drainfield is not recommended, because it reduces air exchange and retains water.
- Can I build a carport or camper pad over the drainfield? How about a tennis court or a nice hot tub? No, for 2 reasons. First, you should avoid driving over the drainfield; the pressure of vehicles and heavy equipment compact the soil and can damage pipes. Second, impermeable materials such as concrete and asphalt reduce evaporation and the supply of oxygen to the soil. Oxygen is critical to the proper breakdown of sewage by soil microorganisms.
- How about putting my carport over the replacement area? No. The designated drainfield replacement area (reserve area) should be left undeveloped and protected from compaction.
- Can cattle graze over the drainfield? Just one horse? Livestock should be kept off of drainfields. In the winter, livestock trample and muddy the soil; in the summer, they compact it. Again, this is not good for the soil’s ability to exchange oxygen. So, sorry, even one horse is not recommended.
- Rain water is directed onto my drainfield. Is this a problem? Yes. Downspouts and stormwater from surfaces such as driveways and patios should be diverted off the septic systems tank and drainfield. A small trench uphill from a drainfield can help direct water away.
- How close to the drainfield can I install a sprinkler system? Water lines should be at least 10 feet from all components of the septic system. Be sure all sprinkler lines are fitted with approved backflow prevention devices.
- … and can I put a retaining wall and drains back there? If you are planning to put drains (interceptor, French, curtain) or retaining walls within 30 feet of ANY PART of the septic system, never cut through drainfields for drains, walls, or irrigation lines. French drains are notorious for carrying pollution from septic systems into water bodies or streets.
- Okay, you’ve told me everything I can’t do. What can I do to improve the appearance of my drainfield? Planting your drainfield will be much different from other experiences you may have had landscaping. First, it is unwise to work the soil, which means no rototilling. Parts of the system may be only 6 inches under the surface. Adding 2 to 3 inches of topsoil should be fine, but more could be a problem. Second, the plants need to be relatively low-maintenance and low water use. You will be best off if you select plants for your drainfield that once established will not require routine watering.
- How can I make the drainfield area look natural? A meadow with a mix of native grasses and shallow-rooting flowers can be very attractive, and good for wildlife, too. The use of wildflowers with bulbs is an easy way to landscape the drainfield and have 2 to 3 seasons of color. Daffodil and crocus bulbs are easy to naturalize and both are reasonably drought tolerant and will return year after year.
When selecting wildflower seed, there are several important considerations:
Be sure the seed is viable and not leftover from the previous year. Many mixes currently available may not be well suited for our Northwest climate. As with the plant lists above, seed selection must be based on the amount of sun. Most landscape or plant suppliers have a variety of native seed mixes for all types of sun-shade situations.
The seed mix needs to be a blend of annual and perennial seeds. Avoid wildflower seeds that contain knapweed, hawkweed, or other noxious weeds. Packets of wildflowers from out-of-state may contain weeds considered a nuisance here in Ohio. Look for Ohio State labeled packages that say “no noxious weeds” or “no detectable weeds.”
If your drainfield currently has grass, you cannot just spread the seed over the grass and expect it to grow. Remove the grass in small areas, 6 inches or so in diameter, and sow the seed in those areas. The grass needs to be kept out of the area until the seed has germinated and is large enough to compete with the grass.
May is generally the best month to sow wildflower seeds, when we still get enough rain to keep the seeds moist during germination. If we have a dry month, sprinkle the seeds with water twice a week.
Hear more tips on taking care of your system by contacting Gullett Sanitation Services today at (513) 734-2227 in Bethel, Ohio, for superb wastewater services.