Those with a septic system play a direct role in keeping the Brazos River watershed clean.
So, it is vital to care for it properly.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates a week in September each year to remind septic tank owners to care for and maintain their systems.
For 2020, SepticSmart Week falls on Sept. 14-18.
Common in rural areas without centralized sewer systems, septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures that use a combination of nature and time-tested technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, dishwasher and laundry, according to the EPA. Essentially, the system accepts all the water running out of your house from one main drainage pipe into the septic tank, a buried water-tight container. Wastewater eventually exits the tank and enters a drain field. If overloaded, the drain field could flood and cause sewage to flow to the ground’s surface or create backups in toilets and sinks.
Maintaining a septic system is not only crucial to our waterways but investing in regular maintenance will save you money in the long run. A few hundred dollars every three-to-five years for maintenance is more affordable than dropping $8,000 to $25,000 to replace a system, according to the EPA. Plus, a failing septic system can contaminate drinking well water and can bring wastewater above the surface, creating a health hazard for you, your neighbors and animals.
Of course, septic tanks are different and vary in household size, total wastewater generated, the volume of solids in wastewater, and the septic tank size itself. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected once a year, while household tanks are typically pumped every three-to-five years, according to the EPA.
The EPA has a list of 10 things you can do to ensure your septic system is working correctly.
• 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, when 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.
In Texas, a permit is required for the installation of septic systems. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approves permit requests and oversees if the tank works properly after installation. Texas law also allows TCEQ to designate a local authority to manage the process. The Brazos River Authority is the designated organization on the process for homeowners at two of its three reservoirs: Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Limestone.
More information about septic systems for Texans can be found here.