Your septic system could be making your family sick

Your septic system could be making your family sick

If you own a septic tank, it’s important to maintain it regularly.

A malfunctioning tank is not only costly for homeowners, but it also runs the risk of polluting your water, if you have a well, and the water the rest of the Brazos River basin depends upon.

The Environmental Protection Agency designates a week in September each year to remind septic tank owners to care and maintain their systems. 

For 2019, SepticSmart Week falls on Sept. 16-20. 

During SepticSmart Week, the EPA informs homeowners of proper septic system care, maintenance, as well as education and awareness for the surrounding community. The EPA estimates that one in five homes in the United States depends on a septic tank, whether their own or a small community cluster system. 


Septic systems that are properly designed, sited, installed, operated and maintained provide excellent wastewater treatment but can cause serious problems if not. The EPA said that the most serious problems that have been documented in poorly maintained tanks are the “contamination of surface waters and groundwater with disease-causing pathogens and nitrates.”

In the state of Texas, a permit is required for the installation of septic systems.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the official agent to investigate and approve a permit request, as well as overseeing if the tank works properly after installation. Texas law also allows TCEQ to designate a local authority to oversee the process. The Brazos River Authority is the designated organization on the process for homeowners at Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Limestone. If you are installing a septic system outside of these areas, check with your county health department to learn which organization is designated for this purpose near your home.  

The EPA recommends several tips for maintaining a septic tank: 

  • Have your system inspected every three years by a qualified professional, or according to your state and local health department’s recommendations.
  • Have your septic tank pumped, if necessary, every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring items such as oils, grease, chemicals, paint or medicine down the drain.
  • Keep cars and other heavy vehicles parked away from the drain field and the tank.
  • Follow the system manufacturer’s directions when using septic tank cleaners and additives.
  • Repair leaks and use water-efficient fixtures to avoid overloading the system.
  • Maintain plants and vegetation near the system to ensure roots do not block drains.
  • Use soaps and detergents that are low suds, biodegradable and low phosphate or phosphate-free.

Prevent system freezing during cold weather by inspecting and insulating vulnerable system parts. 

EPA’s SepticSmart initiative is nation-wide and includes several resources for homeowners and other organizations. You can view these resources here
For a permit application for an on-site sewage facility license at Possum Kingdom Lake, click here.
For a permit application for an on-site sewage facility license at Lake Limestone, click here.