Septic Tank Maintenance Service

Helping you keep your Septic System up to Snuff!

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Bacteria Matters

bacteria in your septic tankMany people think that bacteria is dirty, and they should do whatever they can to keep it limited or even eliminated from their homes and septic systems. The problem is, They are totally wrong. Your septic system Requires bacteria to work right. We are going to go over just how a septic system works, and why bacteria plays such an important role. The purpose of this advice article? To encourage readers not to flush bleach or put it down drains, along with anti bacterial soaps, shampoos, etc, that can all kill the VITAL bacteria in your septic system.

So the first thing to realize is how the septic system actually works. Once matter is sent down a drain or toilet, it goes into your septic tank. In the tank, there is solid material settled down on the bottom, and several feet of liquid on top of that, along with an inch or two of floating scum. A healthy septic tank has MOSTLY liquid in it, as the healthy supply of bacteria in the tank is breaking down the solid material and TURNING it into liquid. Without bacteria, the solid material will not be able to be turned into liquid. ¬†Also, things can be made worse, if you’re flushing no-no’s down your toilet.

Now, why is it important that the solid material is turned into liquid? It’s because of the next step. There is a connection between your septic tank and your drainage area. A tube that’s about 3/4 of the way up your septic tank allows the liquid in it, to flow out into your drainage area. The drainage area is a series of tubes in the soil with little holes in them, which allow the liquid to make its way out into your soil. As the liquid makes it out into this drain field, it is naturally digested by the soil, and the level of liquid in the septic tank is lowered so that it can remain steady as more stuff is flushed into it from your toilets and drains.

OK, so what happens when there is not enough bacteria in the tank? Good question. The solid material that is at the bottom of the tank is NOT digested into liquid. That means that it starts to accumulate and can eventually block the pipe that leads into the drain field. Or it can actually flow out into that pipe and clog the holes in your drain field pipes. In either case, you are going to end up with a very full septic tank, and usually flooding in your yard, or backing up into the house through drains.

When that starts to happen, people usually freak out. There’s no need though, once you realize the reason it’s happening. You can just add bacteria to your septic system by flushing special packets down your toilet which will restore the bacteria in the system, and drain field, allowing solids to once again break down and turn to liquid. How this happens is as follows. Once the bacterial additive is in your septic tank, it immediately goes to work on digesting the solids in the tank… they then turn to liquid. Also, the bacteria begins to seep out into the drain field, where it can start to liquify any solids that might be in those tubes blocking the natural filtration of the water into the soil. Typically, a septic tank that’s failing can expect to see some improvement with the addition of good bacteria within a couple of weeks.

One very smart thing you can do to keep your septic system flowing nicely is to add a monthly maintenance “dose” of bacteria. We know you can’t completely eliminate bacteria-killing things from going down drains or toilets. So, adding a dose of bacteria each month to the system can jump start it again, and make sure that your system never goes TOTALLY free of bacteria, and starts to have the issues we discussed earlier.

I hope that this advice article helps you understand the importance of bacteria in your septic system, and also pointed out that bacteria can be one of the fastest and easiest ways to restore a septic system that is failing. Many people make the mistake of running straight to pumping out their system when it fails, and totally ignore the bacterial aspect. Pumping will solve the problem short term, but as soon as the solids build up again (if not digested by bacteria) you will be right back in the same situation.

The No-Flush List

dont flush these down your toiletThis bit of advice is going to outline the most common things I see people flushing down their toilets that cause MAJOR problems. They might sound innocent, but they can lead to serious problems for many reasons. We’re going to go over the biggest 6 culprits, and discuss why they hurt your system. You might be surprised at some of them.

The first one is tampons. Look, I totally understand that you’re usually ON the toilet when you need to dispose of a tampon. However, they can really reek havoc on your septic tank and drainage area. The reason is that these things triple in size and can definitely restrict the flow of liquids in your drain field and tank. Also, cotton WILL break down and decompose, but many times there are plastic parts that will sit there forever in your septic system, eventually building up and causing you to have to pump them out. Don’t flush these, ladies!

Our second biggest culprit… can you guess? Yup, Cigarettes. These will never decompose and they build up fast. Most cig-flushers, as I call them don’t realize how many of these tiny culprits make it down their toilet. Dump an ashtray in the toilet, and you’re accelerating the process. What ends up happening is that since they FLOAT, they can make it out into your drainage field, and clog the tiny holes that allow the liquid to seep into the soil naturally. What then happens is that the liquid backs up to your house, and can even start to bubble up out of shower, sink, or bathtub drains. Yuck! Don’t commit this mortal sin.

The third one should be obvious, but you’d be shocked at how many times we see this. A condom is NOT supposed to be flushed people! They do not break down, and they will sit there in your system forever until you finally pump it out. We know you might want to “Get rid of the evidence” but please… wrap it in toilet paper and put it in the garbage. Your septic system simply can not handle these.

Dental floss always surprised me when I saw it in people’s systems. Don’t flush this, guys. Just throw it in the garbage. The light weight characteristic of dental floss causes it to float and make it out to your drain field. Once it’s there, we can’t pump it out… so your only choice would be to replace the drain field, which can cost around $10,000. Don’t make this expensive mistake.

Wipee’s or Diaper wipes are another big one. They are becoming more and more popular for adults to use, since they DO provide a really nice hygienic benefit. However, they are not really designed to be flushed. Maybe you an get away with one per flush, but flushing many will end up causing your system to start backing up. They do breakdown eventually if you have enough bacteria in your septic system, but they take a LONG time to do so. Usually, if your household flushes 10 wipes per day total, between all family members, the tank will need to be pumped within 6 months. Just avoid this, and either only flush one, or put the wipe in the trash can instead of flushing it.

Ok, this last one is a huge surprise to many people. Putting too much bleach or anti bacterial soap or residue down your drains will absolutely KILL your septic tank’s ability to digest the waste that is in it. A septic tank is SUPPOSED to have bacteria in it… this is what breaks down the solid waste into liquid. The liquid then flows out into your drainage area and gradually seeps into the soil through perforations in the tubing. When there is no bacteria (or it’s reduced from these materials being flushed) your system ends up with too much solid material and NO liquid that can pass into the soil. I know it seems “clean” to want to put anti bacterials into your drains and such, but it is definitely doing more harm than good. Use lemon or other non-anti bacterial cleansers to give you a fresh scent and are much better on your septic system.

If you know you have been committing one of these errors, get in touch with us, and we can help you fix the problem.

If you can avoid these “big six” culprits of things that should not go into your septic system, you will be much happier and have much fewer problems with your system over the years.

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