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Tue, Oct. 15

Ask the contractor: Septic system do's and don'ts

Q: We are contemplating the purchase of a home in Chino Valley and the house is on septic. We are first-time homeowners and not at all familiar with a septic system. Can you give us some do's and don'ts?-Ed and Kylee, Chino Valley

A: If you are like most homeowners, you probably never give much thought to what happens to what goes down your drain. If you have a septic system to treat and dispose of your household wastewater, what you don't know can hurt you. Proper operation and maintenance of your septic system can have a significant impact on how well it works and how long it lasts.

Septic systems owners should be alert to the following warning signs of a failing system:

• Slowly draining sinks and toilets

• Gurgling sounds in the plumbing

• Plumbing backups

• Sewage odors in the house or yard

• Ground wet or mushy underfoot in the area of the septic tank

• Grass growing faster and greener in area of the septic tank

• Tests showing the presence of bacteria in the water

None of these warning signs can be considered a sure indication that a system has failed, but the appearance of one or more should prompt homeowners to have their systems inspected. Septic system failures also can occur without any of these warning signs and for that reason, yearly inspection of a septic system is recommended.

While many products on the market claim to help septic systems work better, there is no magic potion to cure an ailing system. There are two types of septic system additives: biological (like bacteria, enzymes and yeast) and chemical. Most biological additives are harmless but some chemical additives can potentially harm the soil in the drain field and contaminate the groundwater. It is important to talk with professionals and experts in septic tank business since concerning additives.

You also must know what not to flush into your septic system because you can greatly affect its ability to do its job. As a general rule of thumb, do not dispose of anything in your septic system that can just as easily be put in the trash. Remember that your septic system is not designed to be a garbage disposal and that solids build up in the septic tank and eventually need to be pumped out. In the kitchen, avoid washing food scraps, coffee grinds and other food items down the drain. Grease and cooking oils contribute to the layer of scum in the tank and also should not be put down the drain. Garbage disposals can increase the amount of solids in the tank up to 50 percent and are not recommended for use with septic systems. This same common-sense approach used in the kitchen should be used in the bathroom. Don't use the toilet to dispose of plastics, paper towels, tampons, disposal diapers, kitty litter, flushable wipes, etc. The only things that should be flushed down the toilet are wastewater and toilet paper.

• Do learn the location on your septic tank and drain field.

• Do have your septic system inspected annually.

• Do have your septic tank pumped out regularly by a licensed contractor.

• Do keep your septic tank cover accessible for inspections and pumping.

• Do call a professional whenever you experience problems with your system.

• Do conserve water to avoid overloading the system.

• Do divert other sources of water like roof drains, house footing drains and sump pumps away from the septic system.

• Don't allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system.

• Don't plant anything over or near the drain field except grass. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs may clog the drain lines.

• Don't make or allow repairs to your system without obtaining the required health permit.

• Don't use septic tank additives.

• Don't use your toilet as a trash can.

• Don't pour harmful chemicals and cleaners down the household drain.

• Don't use the garbage disposal if you are on a septic system.

• Don't allow backwash from the home water softeners to enter the septic system.

Remember to tune in to YCCA's Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 am/99.9 fm or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.

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