Your septic system can be well maintained, abused or neglected - your choice

Septic system

Written by: Muskoka TradeSource

Thousands of homes and cottages treat household waste water using private sewage systems. Many people unfamiliar with a septic system do not realize the importance of an ongoing maintenance schedule. The system will operate reliably for years, if you know the maintenance requirements.

A good working system treats tons of organic waste each season. Here's how - the waste or sludge flows from the house to a septic tank, the tank treats sewage by letting heavy solid materials settle and this allows time for lighter “scum” to float to the top.

The partly treated liquid then flows in the perforated pipes, called the leaching bed, where it filters into the ground and is further treated. Now helpful bacteria and other soil organisms complete the process.

How does the septic system function?

Over time, the septic tank accumulates more solid material than the system can handle. Sludge may reach the outlet level and begin directly flowing into the leaching bed. If that happens, the leaching bed will quickly plug the pipes or the bed.

Solution: Pump the tank & inspect the system every two years.

Systems are often designed years earlier and were often built for smaller cottages or homes and were not enlarged when additions were built. Remember, every flush, shower, wash or dish water flows down the drain and directly impacts your system. A clogged system can be hazardous to the environment, or the lake, expensive for your pocketbook and it can reduce your property value.

Solution: Ensure your system is upgraded and if you build an addition, apply for a building permit and have a professional upgrade or redo your system.

What are the warning sign of a troubled system?

  • Grass over the system is unusually green & spongy to walk on.
  • Drains in the house are slower to drain them normal.
  • Odours may be noticeable
  • Grey or black liquids surface in their yards or in the house.

Solution: Call a contractor fast, it pays to fix it quickly, extensive damage can result with neglect.

f in doubt - don't pour it out!

  • Paints, solvents, thinners, nail polish remover
  • Laundry bleaches, toilet bowl cleaners & caustic drain openers can slow the treatment process.
  • Septic systems can not digest oils, grease & fat - the congeal in pipes & often plug them ( even if you use hot water)

Remember septic systems

  • Are not garbage disposals, including “garburators” disposable diapers, tampons, their holders, condoms, wrappers and many other kinds of refuse plug & impair septic systems.

Solution: Often guests are not familiar with septic systems, post a sign in the cottage bathroom, “if it doesn't break down, don't flush if down.

Water conservation- does it matter?

You bet, it does! Based on the nature of the system, it takes time for the micro-organisms to work. Therefore, less water in the system allows more time for the system to work. Too much too quickly may cause untreated solid materials to flow into the drainage field, clogging it.


  • Wash too many loads of washing in a day.
  • Have a large party, flushing causes an overflow
  • Do not drive cars, machinery or snowmobiles over the septic bed - this compresses & compacts the bed; subjecting it to damage.
  • Do not water the grass excessively or plant shrubs and trees (especially willow & poplars) This interferes with the soils ability to absorb liquids and break down waste.

Summer, and early fall are the best times to pump out your septic systems the ground will not be frozen and the spring water table has receded. Remember a septic system pump-out is less than a hundredth the price of an overhaul. So the choice is yours, pay a little now….or a lot, later! So remember, a well maintained septic system can run for decades. An abused or neglected one can fail tomorrow and cost you $$$$$$$.

For more detailed information visit the website at the top of the page.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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