A backed-up toilet is not a good situation under any circumstance. For homeowners with on-site septic systems, the question becomes, is it my plumbing or could my septic system be failing?
The quickest way for a septic system owner to decide whom to call when drains are slow is to count the fixtures backing up. If more than one fixture is slow or backs up, call a septic system provider. If it is just one fixture, start with a plumber.For the septic system owner, most professionals will check the cleanout during the backup. A cleanout is part of the pipeline leading from your house to the tank. Checking this component helps the septic provider determine if the issue is a backup from the septic tank or from the pipes under the house. If it is the latter, they will refer a plumber. Homeowners should never check this component themselves, as the cleanout can spill raw sewage when mishandled.
Septic systems with risers and inspection ports (6-to-30-inch pipes with lids at ground level) make pumping and checking the septic lines much easier. Not only will the risers or ports help fix an issue faster, they can also save money in digging costs.
Homeowners can lessen the risk of septic system issues by monitoring items that are flushed through the plumbing system. Items such as grease, oil, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, sanitary products, harsh cleaners and chemicals should never be put through a septic system. Discharges from water softeners and sump pumps should not go through the septic tank either. It is not necessary to treat this water as wastewater. It will cause unnecessary loading to the system.
Regular maintenance, including pumping the septic tank every 3 to 5 years, following water conservation strategies, and avoiding harsh chemicals and septic system additives are the best way to protect the septic system.
For more information on septic system functioning or maintenance, contact the Shiawassee Conservation District. A functioning septic system protects the home, water quality and our environment.
This project has been funded through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.