Most owners of rural property (cottages on islands) are living with some way to deal with raw sewage. You probably have an outhouse, compost toilet, or a flush toilet. If you have a flush toilet , you will have a type of septic system. Sometimes all that can be seen of a septic system is a lid where the tank is and a large open grass area or raised mound. It is important that you determine where your system is and is it working properly. If you do not have a record showing the location of the system, you may be able to get it from the local municipal building department, board of health, or conservation authority.
The way you treat your septic system will influence how long the system lasts and how well it functions. You need to be careful about what substances you flush down the drain and how often your septic tank is cleaned out and inspected.
Toilets and Drains are NOT garbage cans !! Some items you flush down a drain can significantly reduce the ability of the beneficial bacteria in a septic system to break down and treat domestic sewage. Harmful chemicals and substances will kill bacteria and render a septic system useless. Try to use enviromentaly friendly soaps. Antibacterial soaps will kill the good bacteria in your septic tank.
NEVER put the following items or substances into a septic system. Fats, oils and grease. Gasoline, antifreeze. Varnishes, paints and solvents. Caustic drain and toilet bowl cleaners. Bleach, pesticides. Nail polish remover. Cat box litter. Tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers, paper towels, facial tissues, Baby wipes. Plastics, condoms. Coffee grounds, egg shells, and other kitchen waste or cigarette filters.
A typical on-site sewage system consists of two major parts: a septic tank and a leaching bed area.
Septic tanks should have two chambers and are generally constructed of concrete, steel, fiberglass,
or polyethylene, are watertight and are buried underground. The purpose of the septic tank is
to separate solids from liquids and begin the process of breaking down contaminants. Solids settle
at the bottom of the tank and scum floats to the top of the tank.
Wastewater (effulent) from the septic tank then flows to the leaching bed area through a distribution
box or header line. Leaching beds (sometimes called tile beds, disposal areas or absorption areas)
consist of underground perforated pipes or clay tiles which evenly distribute wastewater over
natural soil or imported fill. The purpose of the leaching bed is to further treat the wastewater through
a process where bacteria requiring oxygen digest and remove impurities.
Tank inspection and cleaning - Having your septic tank inspected regularly is one of the least costly ways to avoid the inconvenience and expense of doing a major septic system repair. Inspections can determine if the outflow to the leaching bed is clogged because of a back-up in the tank, if too much solid or scum material is in the tank or whether the tank needs to be pumped more frequently. How often you need to pump the tank depends on the size of the tank, the flow of wastewater entering the tank and the volume of solids in the wastewater stream. Generally this should occur every 3-5 years. But factors like more people in the house or the addition of a high water use appliance can exceed the capacity of the existing tank, requiring more frequent pump outs. Septic tanks contain deadly gases, so do not enter a tank without the proper safety equipment.