by Kevin Flood, PE
Like many Americans, I’ve spent a LOT more time at home over the last year or so than I normally would. I certainly feel lucky to be able to do my job from home and the shorter commute allows for some more time with my family, but these lifestyle changes have resulted in some additional strains and challenges to our everyday lives. No, I am not talking about parents having to serve as teachers’ aides to help navigate the joys of remote learning (although, kudos to those of you who have managed to do so!), I’m talking about the additional use of your home water and septic systems, and how the increased volume has potentially impacted the functionality of those systems.
We often take for granted how much we rely on our water and individual subsurface disposal system until we need to address a problem. The largest problem with residential systems during the pandemic has been that increased usage can overwhelm a private subsurface disposal system and cause detrimental effects to your home and the environment on the whole. While my team works with municipalities across the region to implement wastewater collection, community treatment, and private subsurface disposal systems for their assets, in a residential setting, your septic tank essentially serves as its own miniature wastewater treatment plant in your backyard. But with increased usage, what are some of the ways you can plan and adapt to ensure that your system is meeting your current, and potentially increased, needs? Here are some quick tips to help you manage your wastewater needs:
Limit Your Water Consumption – Simple tasks like turning off the water while brushing your teeth or setting a timer to limit your shower time can go a long way in keeping your system using the appropriate amount of water. Other plumbing improvements, such as installation of low-flow toilets and shower heads/faucets, further help to reduce consumption.
Do Not Flush Those “Flushable” Wipes – These became very popular with many consumers back in March of 2020 when toilet paper was tough to find. While these wipes advertise that they are to be flushed, their material does not break down at all once it enters your septic system, and can either require more water to flush, or worse, can cause undue strain on your septic tank and leaching field. In municipal wastewater systems, these wipes can sometimes survive long journeys through sewer pipes until they get to larger treatment plants, where the “flushable” wipes can cause clogs and, ultimately, problems for equipment that conveys and treats wastewater.
Keep Your System Clean – Some cleaning products and additives designed to keep your septic tank operational may actually do more harm than good, as some of these chemicals may contaminate groundwater or disrupt the natural processes of the bacteria in the system. Make sure you understand what is safe to put into your septic system.
Taking the proper steps can go a long way to maintaining a healthy, functioning septic system.
At Fuss & O’Neill, we provide planning, design, and construction services for wastewater solutions ranging from decentralized management to conventional collection and treatment systems for municipal, commercial, industrial, and private entities. Our team is detailed, technically-sound, creative, and HIRING! Now is your opportunity to join our group of unsung heroes who are constantly worrying about properly functioning systems so that most people don’t have to. Follow the link below to check out our current opportunities:
About the Author
Kevin M. Flood, PE, leads many water, wastewater, and water resources projects for Fuss & O’Neill. With more than 30 years of experience, Kevin works with his clients and co-workers to develop comprehensive technical solutions that are both practical and cost-effective.