There are more than 530,000 homes and businesses in Minnesota that use a septic system to treat waste from toilets and sinks. Most of them are working great, but they all require maintenance to protect human health and the environment, including both groundwater and surface waters like lakes and rivers.
To underscore the importance of maintenance, Governor Mark Dayton has declared Sept. 17-21 SepticSmart Week in Minnesota to encourage people to think about and maintain their septic systems.
The MPCA’s Aaron Jensen says residents can take advantage of SepticSmart Week to schedule their next septic system service. “The entire septic system should be maintained, and the septic tank pumped out about once every three years. Even more often if you have a big family,” he says.
Pumping the septic tank removes waste solids, fats, and oils that can build up and eventually reach and clog the drainfield. That situation can cause waste to back up to the surface or into a home and require expensive repairs or replacement, not to mention posing a threat to human health and the environment.
These seven simple tips are important for protecting environmental health and preventing a costly system repair or replacement.
- Think at the sink: What goes down the drain has a big impact on your septic system. Fats, grease, and solids can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
- Don’t overload the commode: A toilet is not a trash can. Disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, and cat litter can damage a septic system.
- Don’t strain your drain: Use water efficiently and stagger use of water-based appliances. Too much water use at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
- Shield your field: Tree and shrub roots, cars, and livestock can damage your septic drainfield.
- Keep it clean: Contamination can occur when a septic system leaks due to improper maintenance. Be sure your drinking water is safe to drink by testing it regularly.
- Protect it and inspect it: Regular septic system maintenance can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs and protect public health.
- Pump your tank: Ensure your septic tank is pumped at regular intervals as recommended by a professional or local permitting authority.
For more information on the SepticSmart Week’s tips, visit www.epa.gov/septic. For more information about preparing your septic systems for the cold weather months, visit MPCA's Time to get your septic system ready for winter.