Do I need to do anything to my septic system?
The short answer to this is: yes.
Septic tanks are undoubtedly one of the most amazing things ever invented. Think about it – this simple device takes really bad stuff and converts it to really good stuff, all underground and out of sight and smell. With the help of billions of microscopic bacteria, wastewater is transformed into clean water and a few leftovers, all for free. Those leftovers (sludge and scum) can be a problem, though, if left to accumulate. They can plug up your leachfield, resulting in untreated sewage surfacing in your yard (there ain’t nothing worse) leaving you with a really big smelly mess and an even bigger repair bill. Also, failed septic tanks are a leading cause of stream pollution in rural communities and can contaminate drinking water wells.
If you have no idea when your septic tank was last pumped, now is a good time to pump it. The NH Department of Environmental Services recommends pumping your tank about once every three years. Some septic tanks have a plastic filter on the downstream side to protect the leach field from receiving solid particles. My filter has clogged a couple of times so I generally check it once in the spring and once in the fall and hose off any accumulated material. Be sure to make a note of when you pump it so you know when you next should pump it.
A few other tips: According to the NH Department of Environmental Services, there is no scientific documentation that chemical additives will improve a septic system operation and in no way eliminates the need for routine maintenance of the septic system and periodic pumping of the tank. Be careful of what you pour down the drain and avoid using toxic materials such as bleach or paint thinner as these can kill the beneficial bacteria in the system. Don’t drive on or park vehicles on you leach field. The less water you use the better for your septic system (and the environment). Also, it’s a good idea to check your filter or pump your tank before you have to dig through 3 feet of snow and ice to find it.
Here is a link to NHDES’ list of permitted septage haulers. Note that the town does not endorse any companies or products:
Richard Masters, P.E.
Mont Vernon Health Officer