What You Can Do

Riverkeeper is teaming up with partners in public health to promote routine maintenance of private septic systems, an important way homeowners can protect water quality. The effort is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Septic Smart Week.

Homeowners with private septic systems are being urged to take three simple steps to protect water quality by ensuring their systems function properly:

  • Have your septic system maintained (septic tank pumped) every three to five years.
    Signs of septic system failure include sewage backups into homes, bright green grass in the leach field area, pooling water or muddy soil around the septic system or in the basement, or a strong odor around the septic tank or leach field. Once a system fails, the remedy is typically replacement, costing several thousand dollars. Regular inspection and maintenance prevents failure and costs roughly $300 or less every three to five years. Maintenance includes pumping out accumulated solids to prevent overflow into the leach field.
  • Ensure that the land over your septic system is kept clear.
    Homeowners should also be aware that the land above their septic tanks, pipes and leach fields should remain clear, with no trees or shrubs, no parked cars and no discharges from roof drains. Roots, heavy weight or excess water can damage the system or prevent its proper functioning.
  • Conserve water, and flush nothing but toilet paper.
    Household chemicals and even personal or baby wipes labeled “flushable” may clog or disrupt the treatment process. Conserving water reduces strain on the system.

For more tips and information, visit water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/septicsmart.cfm

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