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Say No to Smelly Sewage Back-Ups

Environmental Health Supervisor Randall Olsen
by Randall Olsen03/27/2018 1:44 p.m.
Updated: 01/04/2019

Two weeks ago, Gary Porter encouraged homeowners to Show Your Septic System Some Love This Spring. This week, Randall Olsen describes how to get back on track with septic care—even if you’ve backslidden with your maintenance efforts and your system is showing signs of neglect.

Spring is here, and the flowers are in bloom. The grass is growing, and lawnmowers are humming. Kids are playing in your backyard. We hope you notice the fragrant smell of tulips, daffodils and grass clippings—and not the unpleasant odor of a failing septic system.

When bad things happen to good septic systems

But it happens. Each year, we hear from about 400 residents—or their neighbors—with complaints about onsite septic systems that are showing signs of neglect. In fact, they probably stink. We investigate each complaint and work with homeowners to provide resources and resolve issues.

Poor maintenance is usually the cause of septic system woes such as:

  • Sewage back-up into the home.
  • Surfacing sewage over the drainfield.
  • Discharging sewage into surface water or storm drain.

Not only is sewage smelly and nasty, but direct contact with it can harm your health—and the health of our ground and surface water—because of the bacteria and viruses it contains.

Simple septic system interventions

How can you make sure you don’t experience these signs of neglect with your septic system? Just like you regularly maintain your car, your septic system needs care and maintenance, too. Have you noticed a slow running drain or sewage back-up in your home? You can make simple and inexpensive fixes to prevent blockage in your plumbing.

  1. Check for a clean-out between your house and septic tank. Carefully remove the cap. If you see standing water, you have a blockage problem. Use a snake to clear the line.
  2. Determine if you have access to your septic system. Look for riser lids that give you access to your tank. Close up of a septic system green riser lid
  3. Clean the outlet filter. Over time, the filters get plugged if they aren’t regularly cleaned. Use a garden hose to rinse the filter over the tank opening. This is like changing the air filter in your car.
  4. Check your inlet baffle. Waste leaves your home and enters your system at the tank inlet baffle. Look for blockage such as toilet paper, solids or debris. Use a tool to push the blockage into the tank. Remember to clean the tool when you are done.

When it’s time to call in the pros

You might feel comfortable changing the oil in your car, but you would likely hire a professional to change your timing belt. If the tips above don’t work, we recommend you hire a certified septic professional to tackle the more difficult maintenance on your septic system. They can conduct minor repairs that will help extend the life your system. They can:

  1. Replace broken pipe. This helps waste flow through your system.
  2. Pump your septic tank. This removes sludge, scum and liquid from the tank and prevents solids from entering your drainfield.
  3. Clear clogged drainfield lines. This allows your system to drain properly.

Regular septic system inspection is a great preventative maintenance step.

Protect the investment you have in your home and property today. Don’t neglect your septic. Show it some love to keep your septic system in good working order.

View our 3-D septic system models to learn more about the system components and their function. Learn more information about how to care your septic system.

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  1. Updated: 01/04/2019
  2. Updated: 01/03/2019
Environmental Health Supervisor Randall Olsen

by Randall Olsen

Randall works to keep our environment free from pollution and contamination.

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