Septic Tank Maintenance
Septic tanks work quietly, underground, out of sight. Day after day, flush after flush they operate, separating solid from liquid waste and filtering the wastewater away through the soil to render it safe. It is easy to forget the system is there. Out of sight, out of mind as the saying goes. But a septic system needs proper care and maintenance to continue to operate well.
The first thing to understand about a septic system is that the tank is for separating wastes. Sure there is some breakdown of solids and greases into liquid that goes out into the drainfield but there will always be some waste that doesn’t break down and remains in the tank. This waste will build up over time and will need to be removed and properly disposed of at sewage treatment plant. For a typical residence it is recommended that the tank be pumped every 3-5 years. If the system goes too long without being pumped the tank could completely fill up and plug off or solids could get into the drainfield and ruin its ability function.
To help locate your septic tank the Health Department keeps records of all new septic installations. Our records go back to the early 1980s. If your house was built after 1980 and you need to know the location of your tank then call the Environmental Health Scientist at your local Health Department for a copy of the septic diagram.
If your house was build prior to 1980 or if there isn’t a record then it may be more challenging to find the tank. A good piece of advice is if you can find the location and direction where the sewer main leaves the house the tank is usually 10-20 feet out from there, but not always. If you are really having a difficult time locating an old septic tank the Health Department has a tank locater that can be flushed into the tank and located using a scanner device. This service is provided for a fee.
It’s also important to think about what you put into a septic system. Paper towels, facial tissue, disinfectant wipes, newspaper, wrapping paper, diapers, coffee grounds, rags and other materials that do not readily decompose should never be flushed into a septic system. Plumbing fixtures should be checked regularly for leaks as they add to the wastewater flow and could stress the system. We don’t recommend any septic tank additives such as yeast, bacteria or other septic products as there is little evidence that they improve the function of the septic system.
For more information on septic systems you can read Appendix E of the Utah Onsite Waste Water Rule or call your local health department.