How You Can Help
PROPER MAINTENANCE OF A SEPTIC SYSTEM
The owner or user of septic systems should become informed as to the proper operation and maintenance of a subsurface sewage disposal system. Just like other elements of a home, for instance the furnace or the water supply well pump equipment, the on-site sewage disposal system will not function properly without routine maintenance:
Septic Tanks – should be pumped when:
* the scum layer is two (2) inches or more in thickness;
* the top of the sludge layer approaches within 12 inches of the bottom of the outlet baffle;
* a period of 3 years has elapsed since the last pump-out.
When septic tanks are pumped out they should be visually inspected.
Leaching Area –
- should be kept free of encroachments such as buildings, accessory structures, such as, decks, detached garages, sheds, above and in-ground swimming pools, trees or shrubbery, etc.
- should be graded to divert runoff away from the system to avoid hydraulic overloading. This would also include runoff from roof drains and sump pump discharges.
- should be protected from erosion by providing and maintaining sufficient vegetation.
- should be free of vehicular traffic to prevent damage from crushing or compaction.
Things To Do To Avoid Problems With An On-site Sewage Disposal System:
Do not allow excess amounts of fat and grease to enter the system, they can congeal and cause obstructions. In conjunction with this, it is not advisable to install a garbage disposal in the kitchen sink since it would tend to promote the disposal of products high in fats and greases. If a disposal unit has already been installed its usage should be limited.
- Do not dispose of household cleaning fluids down the drain and use chlorine bleaches and disinfectants sparingly.
- Do not use chemical additives, enzymes or septic tank “cleaners”. They are unnecessary and may actually cause a system to fail prematurely by transporting sewage particles from the septic tank to the leaching system. Once in the leaching system those particles will promote clogging of the infiltrative surface.
- Do not dispose of toxic chemicals down any drain.
- Do not dispose of any non-biodegradable substances or objects, such as cigarette butts, disposable diapers, feminine products (particularly, tampons).
- Do not dispose of the backwash from water softening or other water treatment systems to the septic system. This is a Public Health Code regulated prohibition.
- Do not run multiple “full” loads when using a washing machine or dishwasher. Try to stagger use (i.e., Do not run five or six loads on Saturday and none the other days).
- Do not run water continuously while rinsing dishes, thawing frozen foods or, shaving. Consider limiting toilet flushes or retrofit with low flush units.
- Do not connect any “clear water” sources, such as footing and foundation sump pumps to the sewage system.
- Keep accurate records about the location and cleaning of the system in a permanent house file so this information can be passed on to the next owner.
- Facilitate the pumping process by raising the cleanout manhole of the septic tank to within 6″ to 12″ of the surface of the ground.
- Set up and adhere to a sound system of inspection and cleaning.
- Check for faucet leaks, etc. …it is estimated that one leaky faucet can waste as much as 700 gallons of water a year.
- If possible, determine the existing size of leaching system (your local health department may be assistance in this regard). From that information a determination can be made as to the amount of daily flow a well maintained system of that size could handle. Once that limit has been set it is important that it is not exceeded on a consistent basis.
- Educate your family on the proper use of the system.
Fertilizers that are commonly applied to lawns, home gardens, and ornamental shrubs and trees contain the plant nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When applied in the watershed, these nutrients from fertilizers may enter the lake, thereby fertilizing aquatic plant growth. The major concern is the amount of phosphorus that is entering the lake, so it is important
that if chemical fertilizers must be used, to use only those with a low phosphate content. The middle number, indicating the percentage of phosphates, should be less than 3 (i.e. 5-2-5).
Chances are your soil will not need any phosphates. The experts will tell you that in this area, 90% of the time it will not!
A good approach is to first check the pH of the soil. You can do this yourself by buying a soil testing kit available in most hardware stores or garden centers. Acidic soils, a common condition in this area, will require that limestone be applied. If soil is alkaline, sawdust, bark and leaves may be used to get it more balanced.
Try to avoid chemical fertilizers. Some ways to do this might be to:
* Start composting – this is a great way to give your plants the necessary nutrients.
* Only purchase plants and grass that are appropriate for your soil. If you get new plants, get only indigenous, hardy plants. It will be much easier and cheaper to maintain them and you won’t need fertilizer.
* Remember organic is not always good enough. Many organic fertilizers have a high phosphorus content.
If you feel you must fertilize, fertilize in the fall. Grass uses fertilizer more effectively when the soil is warm and the roots are growing actively. In cold, wet, spring weather most of your fertilizer may be washed into the lake.
If you use a commercial fertilizer applicator, ask what chemicals are being used on your lawn. Also do not allow them to apply fertilizer too early in the year. Some lake communities have had to regulate commercial applicators because inappropriate application of their products were abusing the environment.
Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl are nice to look at and fun to feed but in large numbers, they are very harmful to the lake. Their feces are a source of nutrients and bacterial contamination that has forced beach
closings for periods of time over the last several years. The number of geese have multiplied dramatically in recent years. Here is how you can help:
- Geese should not be fed! It encourages them to become dependent on handouts and forego their natural diet. Worst of all, they become permanent residents.
- Geese are lazy and prefer to walk, not fly, to and from water. A low fence, hedgerow, rock wall, natural vegetation or other physical barrier at least two feet high will discourage geese from frequenting a particular area.
- Start early and be persistent. It is much easier to drive geese away when they first arrive in a new area. Do not allow a pattern of feeding and loafing to develop.