Septic Smart


It’s everyone’s favorite time of year! No, I’m not talking about fall or college football right around the corner. I’m talking about Septic Smart Week. However, in all seriousness maintaining a healthy septic system is very important. Fixing a septic system that is damaged from improper use can be expensive and time consuming. Let’s talk a bit about septic systems and how to maintain them.

One in five households in the US are on a septic system. One third of people in the Southeast are on a septic system. Septic systems provide several benefits. One of these is that a decentralized waste management system reduces the risk of disease transmission. A septic system also has environmental benefits because it removes pollution from surface water and recharges ground water and aquifers.

There is also a cost benefit because it reduces the need for communities to build large treatment facilities. A septic system that is properly constructed and maintained is provides excellent wastewater treatment. State and county governments regulate septic systems.

There are a few different types of septic systems but generally, they all have a pipe bringing wastewater from the house to the septic tank. In the tank, solids will float to the bottom, where microbes break them down over time. There will be another pipe that flows to the drainfield. The drainfield handles the effluent that comes off the tank. This effluent goes into the soil, where microbes filter it.

One problem that you can have with your septic drainfield is roots clogging the stones and penetrating the pipes in your drainfield. Don’t plant trees on your drainfield. Also, avoid parking cars or other heavy machinery on it, as this can damage your pipes. Keep stormwater drains away from your drainfield.

Excess water in the drainfield makes it difficult for soil to process all the water that is flowing through it. Another thing to do is to make sure that you have properly disposed of waste. The only things that should go down the toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Be careful about what you put down your sink. Toxins will kill the microbes that digest and treat the waste in your septic system. If you have a clogged sink, try to use a snake or boiling water to clean it. Never pour cooking oil or grease down the drain. If you have a garbage disposal try to limit its use. This will reduce the amount of fat and grease that enter your drainfield and clog it up.

Another tip to help your septic system is to use your water efficiently. High efficiency toilets and showerheads can reduce the amount of stress that you put on your septic system. Select the proper load size on your washing machine to avoid overloading your septic system. If you can, spread your clothes washing throughout the week. Doing all of your laundry in one day will put a lot of water through your septic system at one time.

Finally, a professional should inspect the average household septic system at least every three years. Typically, it will need to be pumped every 3-5 years.

If you have questions about your septic system contact your County Extension Office or email me at

On September 28 at 5:30, I will be hosting a Radon Education Program. This event will be virtual, but there is some limited in person seating available. Pre-registration is required for this free event. Call the Union County Extension Office at 706-439-6030 to pre-register.

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