Like an underground science experiment, septic fields are full of microorganisms busily working to digest and break down organic waste. If this underground eco-system fails, there’s a risk of blockages and leaks that can threaten your family’s health, your community’s health, reduce property value, and cause costly repairs. Septic failures can also contaminate groundwater, and nearby lakes and streams with viruses, bacteria, and unhealthy levels of nitrates.
When it comes to the delicate balance of your septic ecosystem, nothing is more important than what you put down your drain! To prevent blockages and keep your septic ecosystem healthy, stay diligent and follow these guidelines:
To Go Green, don’t dump these items down the drain:
Cleaning products and other chemicals (always read the labels): the many chemicals and toxins within cleaning products can pose a grave threat to the microorganisms in your septic field. Use biodegradable cleaners instead of ammonia and pine-oil based products. The Agri-Life Extension program at Texas A&M University encourages homeowners with septic tanks to read and understand what the words on the labels actually mean:
Danger: chemicals will kill microorganisms in your septic; avoid at all costs.
Warning: will not affect the system drastically; limit use.
Caution: little to no effect on the septic system.
Fats, oils, or cooking grease: these products can coagulate in the pipes and cause backups that will damage your home and the environment. The nature of these substances can also prevent the bacteria in your septic tank from breaking down the waste – possibly resulting in a backup. Keep these substances in a separate container and throw them out with the garbage instead.
Unused medicine: no medicines of any kind should ever enter your septic field. They can kill the microorganisms working to keep your septic field environmentally friendly. Return unused medicine to a doctor or pharmacy.
Non-disposables: items like diapers, cigarettes butts, bandages, cat litter, wet-wipes, sanitary napkins, and paper towels can cause blockages and leaks that will contaminate the groundwater and negatively affect your health.
Explore these Green Practices: Be smarter with laundry and water usage: Sunday can no longer be laundry day! Spread your laundry loads throughout the week to give the bacteria in your septic system time to recover. Also, use biodegradable detergents (check the label) and dryer sheets instead of fabric softeners.
Invest in a garbage disposal: the microorganisms in your septic tank require a mixture of food and air to stay alive and continue digesting the waste. If too much food accumulates in the tank, the delicate ecosystem will be overloaded with solids. This accumulation means you have to pump and clean your tank more often. Some estimates say a garbage disposal can reduce pumping intervals by more than a year.
Clean your tank every 1 to 3 years: there is no easier way to prevent damage to the environment! Every septic system is different so contact your local professional to receive an estimate for best cleaning practices. Neglecting this responsibility can cause serious damage to your health and the environment.
Just like the environment, you septic system is an eco-system that requires proper care and attention. Thankfully, taking care of your septic system is a pretty manageable feat. Just remember, septic care is as simple as monitoring what you put down the drain! Avoid these items – maybe try a few of our green practices – and you’ll keep your little corner of the earth clean and healthy.