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Check your septic tank regularly


Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480

Published: Friday, June 11, 2010

Story source:

Robert A. Schultheis, 417-859-2044

MARSHFIELD, Mo. – It’s a good idea to check your septic tank after periods of heavy rainfall, such as the spring and fall rainy seasons.

“Sludge and scum levels should be checked annually,” said Bob Schultheis, a University of Missouri Extension natural resource engineering specialist. “Depending on the tank’s size and number of people in the house, the tank usually needs pumping every two to five years.”

During heavy rains, the restrictive clay soils in some parts of Missouri cannot accept more wastewater from the increasing number of rural homes, he said. Using water conservation measures in the home will help reduce the likelihood of absorption field failure, especially in wet weather.

It is fairly easy to tell if a septic tank system has a problem. Sinks will drain slowly. Toilets won’t flush right. Sewage may surface in the backyard.

Bacterial contamination will build and may result in family members becoming ill.

To avoid such problems, owners should test their water annually through their county health department, he said.

Treating septic tanks using yeast, enzymes or other additives flushed down the toilet is not recommended. Some additives are damaging to the soil or groundwater. Others are unlikely to pollute groundwater but interfere with the settling of the solids in the septic tank, Schultheis said. Additives that dissolve solids in the tank often just move them to the absorption field and plug it, forcing expensive repairs.

“Instead, pumping the tank on a regular basis is recommended,” he said.