Septic Information for Homeowners
Septic systems are being used in 25% of all U.S. homes. Poorly managed systems have been named as a concern by nearly every federal and state program that deals with water resource issues. According to various reports and studies, an estimated 10% to 20% of septic systems fail each year.
Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual or small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state, tribal, and local responsibility. EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality.
Some septic systems are regulated by EPA if they receive industrial or commercial wastes and/or they have the capacity to serve 20 or more people. More information about septic systems regulated by EPA. If your septic tank failed, or you know someone who 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.
Here are ten simple steps you can take to keep your septic system working properly.
- Locate your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
- Have your septic system inspected at least every three years.
- Pump your septic tank as needed (generally every three to five years).
- Don't dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets.
- Keep other household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, and cat litter out of your system.
- Use water efficiently.
- 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 drainfield.
- 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.
- Keep gutters and basement sump pumps from draining into or near your septic system.
- Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to your system.
Septic Systems Frequently Asked Questions
Alternative systems USE pumps OR gravity TO help septic tank effluent trickle through sand, organic matter (e.g., peat, sawdust), constructed wetlands, OR other media TO remove OR neutralize pollutants LIKE disease-causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, AND other contaminants. SOME alternative systems are designed TO evaporate wastewater OR disinfect it before it IS discharged TO the soil OR surface waters.
- Planning TO ensure that SYSTEM densities DO NOT exceed the ability OF regional soils AND water resources TO treat AND assimilate pollutants
- Site evaluations that characterize AND help TO protect soil, ground water, AND surface water resources
- SYSTEM designs that provide predictable performance levels OF treatment that are appropriate FOR protecting PUBLIC health AND the environment
- Operation AND maintenance procedures that ensure that systems are operated properly AND that maintenance tasks (e.g., septic tank pumping, inspection OF treatment units) are performed regularly
- MONITORING AND reporting TO provide usable AND easily accessible records ON SYSTEM inventories, capacity AND performance
- Follow-up AND corrective actions TO ensure that failing systems are repaired, upgraded OR replaced BEFORE PUBLIC health OR water resources are adversely affected
- SYSTEM Inventory AND Awareness OF Maintenance Needs
- MANAGEMENT Through Maintenance Contracts
- MANAGEMENT Through Operating PERMITS
- Responsible MANAGEMENT Entity (RME) Operation AND Maintenance
- Responsible MANAGEMENT Entity (RME) Ownership AND MANAGEMENT