How can I prevent my septic system from failing?
Failure due to clogging usually happens over a longer period of time (often many years), and is more common in soils that have slower percolation rates (for example less than 1 inch per 30 minutes), or have a high clay content. This type of failure is mostly caused by the occupants of the house and what they flush into the septic system, or how often and how well the system is maintained.
Failure due to clogging is usually preventable through proper care and maintenance of the septic system. Specific recommendations include:
- Have your septic tank inspected and pumped to remove the accumulated solids at least every 3 years; more often for soil types that are at greater risk of this type of failure. This prevents the solids that naturally accumulate in the septic tank from flowing into the leaching field and contributing to clogging. Remember: septic system pumping must be performed by a GEPA-registered contractor.
- Avoid the disposal of food and cooking wastes into your septic system, especially fats, oils and grease. Make sure everyone in your household follows this rule. Do not wash food scraps into the sink, even if you have a garbage disposal. Use strainers in the sink basin drains, instead. Scrape excess food into the trash before washing dishes. Collect used cooking oil in jars or other containers, and never pour down the sink. Soak up the grease from bacon and meat in paper towels and throw it in the trash, before completing your wash by rinsing it out in the sink.
- Use only toilet paper that is certified to be septic-system safe. Don’t flush paper towels, disinfecting wipes, and other products that are not designed to dissolve. Be particularly careful when purchasing toilet paper and cleaning products from foreign countries: many have been found in recent studies to not dissolve, which can contribute to early cogging of septic systems.
- Don’t overuse cleaning products or dump chemicals down your drain. Ordinary use of household cleaning products is not a hazard. However, if you use too much, or dump excess paint thinner or other DIY or hobby-related chemicals into your system, you can kill the helpful bacteria that live in your septic system. Damage to the natural bacterial activity of your septic tank can cause it to fill with solids faster and lead to premature clogging, as well running the risk of contaminating Guam’s aquifer.