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Septic System

Runoff from failing on-site septic systems can contaminate beaches, making shellfish from these sites inedible. It can also cause nearby waters to be unhealthy for wading or swimming.

Septic System Checkup  

Because so much of the septic action takes place underground, how can you tell if your system is doing its job - and not polluting Puget Sound? Here are some things to look for...

What To Look For:

  • Water pooling in your yard or accumulating elsewhere
  • Foul odors
  • Dark grey or black stains in soil of the drainfield or surroundings
  • Poorly flushing or backed-up toilets
  • Excessive algae growth on drainage pipe outlet on bulkhead or as visible seeps on the beach.

If you notice any of these signs, you may need to pump your system or have other maintenance work performed. Call your local health department or a septic professional for advice. Most importantly, remember that septic systems require routine maintenance, inspection and pumping to operate properly. When properly sited and maintained, an on-site septic system can provide adequate long-term treatment of sewage.

Inspect Your System
Every Three Years

Inspect your system at least every 3 years to inspect sludge build-up, and have the tank pumped as needed by a certified professional. If you use a garbage disposal frequently or have a large family, you may need to pump more frequently. Alternative systems such as mound or sand filter may need more frequent maintenance.

To keep your septic system operating:
  • Don't use septic tank cleaning compounds or additives. They can impair the tank's efficiency and may damage the drainfield. Additives don't take the place of pumping.
  • Conserve water to reduce the volume of water that flows through your drainfield. Also, space the timing of washing machines and dishwashers so the system doesn't get sudden large surges of water.
  • Only put waste and toilet paper into the tank-anything else will eventually clog the system. Food scraps should be composted or disposed of in trash cans.
 
Related Links

Septic Systems, Thurston County Environmental Health. Do's and don'ts of taking care of your system.

Septic Sense, Washington Sea Grant. Quick tips for taking care of your septic system and the Sound.  

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Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham