Homeowner’s Guide to On Lot System Operation and Maintenance
The best designed and proper installed on lot sewage disposal system will still malfunction if the homeowner does not proper operate and maintain the system. In addition to requiring costly repairs, malfunctioning systems can contaminate surface and ground waters, cause various health problems, and spread disease as well as create unsightly messes and foul odors when raw sewage surfaces or backs up into the home.
This year, Brecknock Township will be amending Chapter 86, Sewage Disposal, of the Township Code of Ordinances. The Township is required by the PADEP to implement a maintenance program for all on-lot sewage disposal systems to ensure they are properly operated and maintained by the property owner. As part of this program, property owners will be required to have their septic systems pumped out every three years and visually inspected by the pumper. The Township will be divided into three sewage management districts (areas) as shown on the attached map. Properties in Zone 1 will be required to have their system pumped out and inspected by December 31, 2015, Zone 2 by December 31, 2016, and Zone 3 by December 31, 2017. The cycle will be repeated on a three year basis for future years (i.e. Zone 1 – 2018, 2021, etc; Zone 2 – 2019, 2022, etc.; Zone 3 – 2020, 2023, etc.) to ensure continued maintenance of the systems.
If you have any questions regarding this program, please contact the Brecknock Township Sewage Enforcement Officer, Quinn Haller of Technicon Enterprises, Inc. II, at 610-286-1622 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please reference the below information for additional guidance on the proper operation and maintenance of your on-lot disposal system.
How an On lot (aka “Septic”) System Functions
There are two basic types of anaerobic (without Oxygen) on lot systems; those with gravity distribution systems and those with pressure distribution systems. In both types, there are three major components:
· The septic tank.
· The distribution box (gravity system) or dosing tank (pressure system).
· The absorption area.
Sewage flows to the septic tank where the primary treatment process takes place. In the tank, the heaviest matter settles to the bottom (forming sludge) and the lighter matter (scum) floats on top of a somewhat clear liquid called effluent. While the sludge and scum must be pumped out regularly, the clear liquid flows out of the tank to a distribution box or dosing tank, and is then directed to the absorption area by gravity flow or through pressurized pipes. Within the absorption area, this effluent exits through pipes into a layer of gravel and then percolates through the soil for additional treatment. The bacteria in the soil neutralizes many of the contaminants in the wastewater.
Signs of an on-lot system in trouble include:
· Toilet runs sluggish.
· Sewer odors in the house and/or drinking water.
· Illness, often to household visitors.
· Sponginess around septic tank, distribution box or dosing tank and absorption area.
· Surfacing raw sewage.
· Dosing pump runs constantly or not at all.
· Dosing tank alarm light is on.
· Backup of sewage into laundry tubs or other fixtures
· Many of these signs indicate an on-lot system malfunction
Homeowners can help prevent malfunctions and ensure the long-term use of their onlot system by doing the following:
· Conserving water and reducing waste flow into the septic tank.
· Having the septic tank pumped at least every 3 years.
· Avoiding putting chemicals in the septic system.
· Not using the toilet to dispose of bulky, slowly decomposing waste.
· Inspecting the septic tank, pipes and drainage field annually.
· Maintaining accurate records of the septic system (design, installation, location, inspections, pumping, malfunctions, and repairs.)
· Preventing run-off from downspouts, sump pumps and basement drain discharges, and paved surfaces from getting into the septic systems.
· Keeping heavy vehicles, equipment and livestock away from the septic system.
· Not planting trees and shrubs over or close to the septic system.
· Not using garbage disposals.
Conserving Water and Reducing Waste Flow
Onlot systems not only treat and dispose of domestic sewage from toilets; they also receive wastewater from various other household fixtures, including baths, showers, kitchen sinks, garbage disposals, automatic dishwaters and laundries. Conserving water and reducing the amount of waste flow from household activities is an important step to ensuring long-term use. The more water-using devices in a household, the greater the burden is on the onlot system. Following are some helpful water conservation tips and a comparison of water usage between conventional fixtures versus water-saving fixtures.
· Use the dishwasher and laundry washer only when they are loaded to capacity.
o Top Loading Laundry Washer 35-50 gal./load vs. Front Loading Laundry Washer 15-20 gal./load
· Fix leaky faucets and plumbing fixtures quickly. Install flow control (regulator) devices on faucets.
o Regular Faucet Aerator 2.5-6 gal./min. vs. Flow regulating Aerator .5-2.5 gal./min.
· Take short showers instead of baths. Install flow control or water saving devices on showerheads and other plumbing fixtures.
o Conventional Showerhead 3-15 gal./min. vs. Water Saving Showerhead 2-3 gal./min.
· Reduce water use each time you flush the toilet. Put a heavy device such as a brick in a plastic bag or a water-filled plastic bottle in the reservoir or install a low flow toilet.
o Convention Toilet 4-6 gal./flush vs. Water Saving Toilet 1.5 gal./flush
· Do not use a garbage disposal. These wastes place a greater burden on the septic system. If you have garden space, compost the material instead.
Pumping Your Septic Tank
A septic tank accumulates solids (sludge) and scum which should be pumped out at least once every three years. When an on-lot system’s treatment tank is pumped out, all dosing tanks, lift tanks and other tanks associated with the system should also be pumped out. Tanks should ONLY be pumped from/through the manhole/access port, i.e., the largest tank opening. Tanks should NOT be pumped from/through the observation port. Every pump-out should include a visual inspection of the interior of the tank including a determination regarding the presence of baffles and their condition, as well as the physical condition of the treatment tank and the presence and condition of observation port(s).
Your Toilet Is Not A Trash Can
Trillions of living, beneficial bacteria constantly treat and decompose raw sewage in a septic system. The effectiveness of these bacteria can be impaired if harmful substances and chemicals are put into the septic system. Harmful substances/chemicals include: oils, fats and grease, gasoline, antifreeze, motor oil, varnishes, paints (including latex or water based), paint thinners, solvents, wallpaper pastes and adhesives, photo processing chemicals, harsh drain and toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergents with high sudsing elements, bleach, acids, pesticides, herbicides, and hazardous and industrial waste. Remember, what goes into your toilet and drains may eventually end up back in your drinking water. So instead of using caustic toilet bowl cleaners or bleach, try mild detergent or baking soda or one half cup of borax per gallon of water. So instead of using caustic toilet bowl cleaners or bleach, try mild detergent or baking soda or one half cup of borax per gallon of water. Also NEVER flush bulky, hard to decompose items such as sanitary napkins, diapers, paper towels, cigarette filters, plastics, eggshells, bones or coffee grounds down the toilet because they can clog the system.