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Frequently Asked Questions: Septic Systems

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Q:  What do I need to do to get a septic permit?

A:  That depends on several factors.  Your best bet would be to gather some basic information about your parcel (lot/tract number, name of the subdivision or Certificate of Survey number, size of the parcel) and the address assigned by the County Public Works Department and either stop down at the Environmental Health Department or give us a call.  One of the sanitarians should be able to give you an idea of what you will need to do to get a permit.  It may be as simple as filling out an application and providing us with floor and site plans, or a site evaluation and other analyses may be required.  Contacting the Department is best place to start.

Q:  Should I add any septic cleaning chemicals or additives to my septic system?

A:  No.  Septic tanks and systems are basically self sustaining, and have all the materials to keep working properly.  At the least, adding chemicals might just be a waste of money, at worst, adding chemicals or other additives could cause your system to fail prematurely.

Q:  How often should I have my septic tank pumped?

A:  A septic tank relies on several things to continue doing its job.  One of these is the proper amount of residence time for the effluent coming into the tank, to ensure that the liquid coming into the tank spends enough time in the tank to allow large particles to settle out before the liquid heads to the drainfield.  If too much sludge accumulates in the tank either by not pumping, or not pumping often enough, it can lead to a reduction in the residence time, sending more material to the drainfield and could lead to premature failure of the system.  The Health Department recommends a pumping frequency of between 3-5 years for most households.  It is possible that the system will continue to operate if the tank is pumped less frequently, but will likely reduce the life span of the drainfield, and will result in diminished treatment of the effluent.

Q: I have an effluent filter as part of my system, how often should I clean it?  How should I clean it?

A:  The Department recommends that homeowners check their filters after 6 months of initial use.  At that point, you can evaluate whether the filter needs to be cleaned every 6 months, or if it can be cleaned once a year.  Remember that failing to check and or clean your effluent filter can lead to slow drains or sewage backing up into the home.  To clean the filter, you should wear rubber gloves, remove the access lid to the tank, remove the filter by lifting up on the handle, and using a hose, spray off the contents of the filter back into the tank.  You should not spray the filter off onto the ground surface.  Replace the filter into its housing, and replace the access lid back onto the tank, being sure that all screws are reinstalled and tightened.


Q:  I have a septic system, or am looking at buying a home with a septic.  How can I find out what is installed, where it is, and how old it is?

A:  You can contact the department and we can try and find a record of the septic system and inspection report.  You will need to have the address where the system is located; we may need more information to locate the record, but the address is the best starting point.  If the system was installed before 1967, we definitely won’t have a record of it, as permits were not required for septic systems before then.

Have more questions?  Contact Us!

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