Department of Health & Human Services

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Make septic tank maintenance a priority

Just as the oil must be changed on a regular basis to protect a car's engine, septic tank systems also require regular maintenance to promote system longevity and to protect the environment.

“Failing septic systems can cause nutrient-rich liquid waste to surface or reach our sensitive watersheds,” said Melissa Martel, director of the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services, Division of Environmental Health (DEH). “This encourages algae growth in our watersheds and is harmful to public health, aquatic life and the environment.”

Staff at DEH suggests following these maintenance tips:

• Septic tanks should be pumped by a registered septic tank pumper on a regular schedule. Use dictates how fast a septic tank will fill with non-degradable solids, but a good rule is to have the tank pumped every 5 to 7 years.
• A riser and an effluent filter are recommended additions to a septic tank. A riser provides surface access to tanks for inspection and maintenance. An effluent filter is a simple device that is placed into the outlet pipe of the septic tank to enhance solids removal.
• Make sure all plumbing fixtures are in good working order. A leaking toilet or faucet could overload a septic system.
• Don't flush non or semi-degradable materials such as eggshells, coffee grounds, grease, plastics or diapers down the drain. Doing this can clog pipes, increase the solids level in the tank and lead to premature leach field failure.
• Don't install permanent structures or drive over a leach field. Concrete, asphalt, or compacted soil over a leach field prevents it from "breathing," a natural process that is required for proper functioning.

For questions and more information about septic tank maintenance, call Environmental Health at 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241

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