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Septic System Reference Guide

The Septic System

A septic system is a small, on-site sewerage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground. It consists of a septic tank, a distribution box (D-Box), and a soil absorption system (SAS).

When you flush your toilet or do a load of laundry, the wastewater flows out to the septic tank. After entering the septic tank, the heavier solids in the wastewater (effluent) sink to the bottom creating sludge and the lighter substances, such as grease and floatable materials, create a scum that floats at the top of the tank.

The sludge and scum need to be removed periodically so they do not accumulate and flow out to your D-Box and SAS. Some tanks have outlet filters that prevent any suspended materials in the effluent from
flowing out to the D-Box and SAS. Effluent filters must be cleaned at least once a year. Solid material overflowing into the SAS should be avoided at all costs, as the SAS will clog, which will cause the septic system to fail.



No clear water flowing to leaching area

Septic System Maintenace

Your septic tank should be cleaned every 1 to 2 years, depending on its age and the daily flow it receives. The U.S. Government of Health, Education, and Welfare Public Health Services says, “A septic tank system will serve a home satisfactorily only if it is properly designed, installed, and adequately maintained. Even a good system which does not have proper care and attention may become a nuisance, and a burdensome expense.” The sludge and scum must be pumped out periodically. There is no additive that you can be put in the tank that will remove or reduce the sludge accumulation. IT MUST
BE PUMPED OUT to prevent sludge from overflowing and clogging your system. The fact is a neglected system will get blocked; it will overflow; it will have an obnoxious odor; it will contaminate and pollute. The first septic system “emergency” usually marks the beginning of the end.

Neglect of Your Septic Tank Is Expensive!

In 1970, a septic system for a three bedroom house would have cost approximately $700. If the same system was not properly maintained, it would fail and need to be upgraded to Title 5 standards, at a cost of between $15,000 and $40,000.

Which makes more sense to you? Would you drive your car 100,000 miles without an oil change?

Title 5 Inspections

A system has to pass a Title 5 Inspection in order to sell property in MA, or when adding additional bedrooms. The Inspection is valid for 2 years OR 3 years if the septic tank is pumped annually from the date of the original inspection.

Septic System Health Tips


What you put into your septic system will have a direct effect on whether or not you have a healthy, long-lasting and trouble-free system.

Conserve water to avoid overloading the septic system. Generally, the more people, the more water that flows through the system. However, the use of water conservation devices such as low-flow toilets or shower fixtures greatly reduces the amount of wastewater thus prolonging the life of your septic system. For example, up to 53 gallons of water are discharged into your system with each load of laundry. If several loads are done in one day, it can put considerable stress on your system. A better practice would be to space your laundry washing throughout the week. Also, be sure to repair any leaky faucets or toilets.

Your septic system is not a trash can. Do not put disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, paper towels, personal wipes, facial tissues, plastics, cat litter, or cigarettes into your septic system. These items quickly fill your septic tank with solids, decrease the efficiency, and will require that you pump out the septic tank more frequently. They may also clog the septic line to the septic system causing wastewater to back up into your home. Avoid dumping grease or fats down your kitchen drain. They solidify and the accumulation may contribute to blockages in your system.

Wipes of ALL kinds – personal, disinfecting, OR baby wipes. They DO NOT breakdown, which often clogs baffles & pipes, in turn causing your system to back up.

Avoid dumping grease or fats down your kitchen drain. They solidify and the accumulation may contribute to blockages in your system.

Do not use caustic drain openers for clogged drains. Instead, use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs.

Do not use septic tank additives, commercial septic tank cleansers, sugar, etc. These products are not necessary and some may be harmful to your system.

Use commercial bathroom cleaners and laundry detergents in moderation especially if they contain bleach. Liquid detergents are preferable for laundry and dishwashers.

Keep latex paint, varnishes, thinners, waste oil, photographic solutions, pesticides, or other hazardous
chemicals out of your system. Even in small amounts, these items can destroy the biological digestion taking place within your septic system.

Know the location of your septic system. The cover of the septic tank should be within 6” of grade. Don‛t allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system. The weight can compact the soil and break pipes.

Don‛t plant trees or shrubs near system. Roots can clog and damage drain lines.

Septic systems are a very simple way to treat household wastewater and are easy to operate and maintain.

Homeowners must take a more active role in maintaining septic systems. Once they learn how their systems work, it is easy for them to appreciate the importance of a few sound operation and maintenance practices.

In closing…
The essential element to a trouble-free septic system is proper maintenance. Please call us if you have additional questions or if you need assistance with any services.

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