In November 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a new program designed to help consumers maintain their own septic systems more effectively. Billed as SepticSmart, this new initiative offers advice and guidance on best practices in septic system maintenance for the estimated 26 million homes in the U.S. that use septic tanks and drain fields to manage their household wastewater remediation needs. Many of the recommendations outlined in the EPA report have been around for some time and will be familiar to many homeowners; however, this represents a step forward for the EPA in helping its constituency manage septic system maintenance with greater ease.
Among the recommendations included in the SepticSmart website and initiative materials were the following guidelines for homeowners:
- Do not dispose of oils and fats down toilets or drains. These substances can cause clogging and reduce the effectiveness of the bacterial decomposition processes within the tank.
- Reduce water use overall to minimize the stress on the septic tank and to avoid septic system problems due to overloading.
- Stagger water use throughout the day to avoid flooding the system with temporary overuse.
- Minimize chemical use to maintain the health of bacterial elements within the tank system.
The SepticSmart site also recommends inspection and service intervals for household septic tank system. These recommendations include the following:
- Inspections by a trained septic system professional at least once every three years; more technologically advanced systems may need more frequent inspections
- Pumping every three to five years, depending on the size of the household; tanks equipped with aeration systems typically require less frequent pumping
As early as 2000, the EPA had made recommendations regarding the installation of septic aerator systems to boost efficiency and improve the quality of wastewater returning to the community water table. These advanced systems can produce more efficient remediation of wastewater in household situations and ensure a cleaner, safer environment for everyone.
The SepticSmart program is designed to help homeowners manage their septic systems to increase the efficiency and longevity of these vital waste management tools. With over one quarter of all homes served by septic tank systems, finding ways to improve their functionality and to reduce pollution and runoff from these systems is essential in order to protect the environment. Homeowners can enjoy significant cost savings as well; maintaining the health and function of an existing tank system is much less expensive than replacing it after a failure. The benefits of proper maintenance are significant; following the guidelines as listed in the SepticSmart initiative can save money, time and stress for homeowners in dealing with their aging septic systems.