Here at GeekyAntics, we like to cover all the things we geeks think about or at least should be aware of. It’s usually fun or useful stuff. Today’s featured article is in the latter camp, thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Martin Septic Service of Georgia. Enjoy!
Now, you may be reading this thinking, “But, wait, I don’t own a house.” That may be true but you don’t want to deal with a crappy (quite literally) situation in the future, do you? Here are some things you should know, even if you are a renter or soon-to-be homeowner.
1. Septic Systems Are Everywhere
Before talking with Vince Martin of MSS (that’s Martin Septic Services, for short), it never struck me just how much we take septic systems for granted. If you are used to living in big cities like I am, transitioning to rural areas can be tricky. After tons of research and probing Vince with the right questions, I learned that septic tanks are used by one in five U.S. households nation-wide but, in the South, that number is at around half and growing. If you live in a trailer or rent a house, chances are you have a septic system. If you own a home, those chances are even higher. Septic systems come in many flavors but, basically, you have a septic tank, a bunch of pipes, and a drainfield where everything ultimately ends up.
2. Smart Water Usage & Conservation
Water conservation is always a smart play and it’s great for the environment, but it is absolutely crucial when you have a septic system in place. In our household, we’ve gotten better about spreading out laundry and doing smaller loads. We’ve also gotten into the habit of running the water less and lower pressures. Even spacing out bath/shower time makes a huge difference. I know, we all love our long showers and bubble baths but the idea here is to give the septic tank enough time to drain. Trust me, you DON’T want that thing to overload!
3. The Economics Of Septic Systems
A routine inspection and preventative can be as little as $300. Conversely, replacing a failing septic system can cost you anywhere from $3000 to $15000, depending on what sort of system you need for your land. As is the case with any other major investment such as a car or a house as a whole, being proactive is best (and MUCH more affordable). When you consider the exorbitant costs of emergency services and the huge mess a drainfield can become due to septic system negligence, investing in routine work makes A LOT more sense… And take this from a really frugal guy – ME!
4. What NOT To Flush Or Drain
Hazardous chemicals such as bleach, disinfectants, and cleaning solvents should never be washed down the drain, if at all possible. Of course, if you’re cleaning your sink, bath tub, and other water basins, this may be unavoidable so consider using natural cleaning solvents for smaller jobs. The trick here is to do simple cleaning on a regular basis so you don’t have to use the harsher stuff for the really tough jobs.
Even everyday items can be pesky. Coffee grounds (in large amounts), food scraps, onion skins, potato peels, pasta, rice, banana peels, and oil/grease are the biggest offenders, yet folks wash them down the drain all the time. Cigarettes and other non-biodegradable items are a HUGE no-no, too.
As a good rule of thumb, any starches or items that expand are huge troublemakers. It may seem silly but, if it doesn’t break down easily under hot running water, opt to put it in the trash or in a proper waste receptacle.
The biggest matter of debate here are eggshells. While they are arguably good for sharpening garbage disposal blades, they are surprisingly resiliant and may cause clogs/build-up in conjunction with other tough everyday items such as paper towels and cotton balls. Lots of advice out there says eggshells are safe but I’ve done some pretty exhaustive research and that advice may be a bit short-sighted. Better safe than sorry!
5. Why Septic Systems Exist
Why would you want a septic system in place of traditional sewers? I mean, the process sounds kind of gross, right? The simple answer is that septic systems are more cost-effective in less populated areas. In big cities, sewer systems make sense but, the more sparesely-populated an area is, the more cost-prohibitive building sewer systems becomes. Septic tanks also have a typical life expectancy of up to 30 years, which makes them a nice long-term investment. All your plumbing ultimately drains through the septic system making it a core system and something worth learning about (which is why you’re here)! Don’t worry: waste material is treated by natural bacteria before the water is drained back out into the environment; that is, IF the system is working properly!
6. Things & Signs To Look Out For
So, when do you call in the professionals to look at your septic system? If you rent, it doesn’t hurt to talk to the property management but they likely have routine visits. If you live at a place for a year or two yet you never notice anyone checking the septic system, a casual conversation may give you some peace of mind and avoid potential catastrophes. Truth be told, if you wait for there to be signs of failure, it may be too late.
Some things to look for are slower draining and strange odors coming from the drainage. If you’re lucky, it may just be an issue with pipes in a localized area and nothing to do with your septic system.. But you never know!
7. The Very Real Risks Of Negligence
Septic tanks that go untreated and unchecked can release toxic waste into the environment, which poses a very real threat to your family, pets, and wildlife. Untreated wastewater released from failing systems can contaminate drinking water sources and ruin crops, for starters. The cost of emergency services aside, it’s best to take a proactive approach rather than putting off septic system inspections and maintenance.
Want to learn more? Of course you do! Here’s a useful septic system PDF from West Virginia University, explaining everything you ever wanted to know about septic systems and then some!
If you’re in our neck of the woods, be sure to visit Martin Septic Service of Middle Georgia for your yearly inspection and all your septic system needs. Martin Septic Service covers Eatonton, Grey, Oconee, Milledgeville, Atlanta, and surrounding areas in middle Georgia. Heck, even if you’re not in need of plumbing services of any kind, visit Vince Martin on the official Martin Septic Service Facebook page for funny stuff, memes, and useful DIY tips. There’s also a Martin Septic Service Google+ page!