The birds are chirping, and the weather is warming. These are sure signs that spring is upon us! While we are relishing in the long overdue warmth, our septic system may be struggling. Spring rains and snow melts along with temperature fluctuations can cause problems with your septic system. Fortunately, there are thing you can do to prevent problems before they occur.
Although fall can be hectic, it is not the time to sideline your septic system. Managing your septic system is a year-round task, but maintenance can prove more difficult in the winter months. Preparing your septic system for the winter will save headaches, protect against early system failure, and prevent a messy springtime thaw.
“Dirt Don’t Hurt”, unless you are talking about sediment. Sediment is made up of loose particles of clay, silt or sand that have been eroded from the soil. Once eroded, they become free flowing in air or water and eventually settle onto land, stream bottoms or lake beds. Sediment is among the most abundant types of non-point source pollution. It is estimated that over 4.5 billion tons of sediment pollute the rivers of the country each year. That is the equivalent of 25,000 football fields, 100 feet deep!
Hopefully most people are aware of the dangers of pouring oil, pesticides and other products into our storm drains or dumping them into our rivers. Now that leaf raking season is fast approaching, remember storm drains and rivers are no place for leaves either.
Your soils are clay, your yard is soggy and your home is in the country, chances you have a mound type of septic field. As a mound septic system owner, one of the first questions you may have is, “What am I going to do with this large hill in my yard?”. It is true that the mound, at three or four feet high and up to 90 feet long, offers unique landscaping challenges. Luckily there are things you can do to both protect the mound and make it visually appealing.
What do you do with your leftover and expired food? Would you dump it in a pile in your front yard to feed the wildlife? Most people would not pile food in their yard however; many people seem to think it is ok to drop off their unwanted food in parks. They justify it by saying they are feeding the ducks. In reality, they are doing the ducks more harm than good even if this result is unintentional.
Feeding the wildlife in community parks and other urban areas is a tradition that has remained prevalent for generations of people who frequent these areas. For many, it’s a way to connect with nature, bond with family, or just spend some leisure time. It can seem so hard to resist ducks begging for attention, and it would seem that providing food for them would make them healthy and happy, but it doesn’t.
Nitrogen is essential for all living things. It exists in the environment in many forms, including as nitrate and nitrite. Although nitrogen is abundant naturally in the environment, it is also introduced through sewage and fertilizers. Excessive concentrations of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water can be hazardous to human and animal health, especially for infants and pregnant women. The Shiawassee Conservation District is hosting a free well water screening for nitrates and nitrites from July 17-19, 2018. The screening is open to any Shiawassee County resident who relies on a private well for their drinking water.
Common sources of nitrogen in groundwater include septic systems, fertilizers from lawns, golf courses, crop fields, gardens, and livestock operations. Some nitrate enters water from the atmosphere, which carries nitrogen-containing compounds derived naturally from chemical reactions or from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline.
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 homes with an on-site wastewater disposal, system maintenance falls to the homeowner. Household wastewater flows into the septic tank, where the heavier solids settle on the bottom to form a sludge layer. Floatable solids, such as greases, oils and fats, collect at the surface to form a scum layer. The remaining liquids empty in to the drainfield to be treated by natural processes in the soil. Homeowners are responsible for regular tank pumping to remove solids so they do not clog the system.
It has been suggested that additives can be used in a septic system to accelerate digestion of biosolids, break up scum, improve settling of solids, or restore clogged soil. There are two distinct categories of additives: 1) chemical, including inorganic and organic compounds and 2) biological, such as yeast, bacteria, and enzymes.
Biological additives may reduce the amount of grease and effluent in the septic tank. However, these additives may increase biological activity to the point of adding extra solids to the tank. A breakdown of the scum layer in the tank by these additives is also detrimental. The scum layer holds back fats, greases and other floatables, preventing them from clogging the drainfield.
Like many others, I have enjoyed working in my yard after a long winter. We have been mowing our lawns and working hard to clean up brush to prepare outdoor spaces for gardens and summer cookouts. As we do this, it is important that we take time to properly dispose of yard waste and not just dump it into ditches or streambanks.
It might seem harmless to toss our grass clippings, leaves, and sticks into streams, after all isn’t all from nature anyway? But, it actually causes significant problems for water quality, aquatic habitats, and the environment.