For Septic System Owners
Out of sight, but not out of mind
What happens when you run the dishwasher, flush the toilet or do a load of laundry?
Wastewater disposal is something we don't think too much about. So where does it all go?
A septic system is an integral part of your home and like your vehicle, it must be maintained. That means having your system regularly inspected by a professional and pumping your septic tank as needed.
Maintaining your septic system protects your
property investment and ensures clean drinking water
for you and your neighbors!
The Septic Tank
The septic tank is a watertight container usually made of concrete with an inlet and outlet pipe. The septic tank acts as a settling device where bacteria in the wastewater break down solids.
Solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank and form sludge. Solids lighter than water (fats, oils and grease) float to the top forming a layer of scum. The middle layer is clear effluent that is carried out to the drainfield.
The sludge and scum is retained in the tank until it is pumped out by a licensed professional.
Can't remember the last time you had your septic tank pumped? Protect your property investment. Have your septic tank regularly inspected by a professional and pumped as needed.
The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. The partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the drainfield for further treatment every time new wastewater enters the tank.
If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in plumbing fixtures and prevent treatment of all wastewater.
A replacement drainfield is an area on your property suitable for a new drainfield system if your current drainfield fails. Treat this area with the same care as your septic system.
Extend the Life of Your Septic System
Having regular maintenance inspections and pumping your septic system will keep it working efficiently and can prevent costly repairs. But there are also daily precautions you can take to help your septic system function well.
Flush only waste and toilet paper. Aside from wastewater, toilet paper is the only other thing you should flush. Using the toilet to dispose of items like sanitary products, paper towels, disposable diapers, cigarette butts, and even tissues will harm your septic tank and lead to more frequent pumping.
Don’t put food down your sink. Septic systems are not intended to dispose of food waste, coffee grounds, grease, or fat. In fact, these will harm the septic tank. Try using a compost pile for non-meat food waste; it will help you avoid paying for unnecessary septic system repairs!
Don’t use a kitchen garbage disposal. Having a garbage disposal doesn’t make food waste, grease, or fat any easier for your system to handle. If you do use a garbage disposal, it’s especially important that you have a larger than normal tank, that it has an effluent screen, and that you pump more frequently.
Don’t rinse toxic materials down your sink. Pouring disinfectants, large amounts of bleach, drain-clearing products, oils, and other chemicals down your sink, bathtub, or toilet will damage your septic system. Even rinsing paintbrushes in the sink or toilet allows enough paint to travel to your tank that the tank’s function can be impaired.
Reduce your water usage. Water conservation protects your septic system because it reduces the load of wastewater your system has to handle. It also will save you money on water bills, and with a little practice, it’s easy to do:
- Repair leaky faucets and toilets.
- Install low-flow water fixtures.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.
Balance your water use during the week. When your septic system receives large volumes of water within a short period of time, it can cause solids to move into the drainfield, resulting in a clog. Don’t do all your laundry at one time; spread the chore out over the week.
316 North Park, Room 404
Helena, MT 59623
For a list of licensed septic system pumpers who serve Lewis and Clark County contact:
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Search for an operation and maintenance report (Online RME)