Remind customers about these 7 things they can do to help extend the life of a repaired system.

Depending on why a system needs to be repaired, there are many areas where the property owner may need some extra education to help their repaired system perform properly. Many of these tips could help to extend the life of their system.

1. Reduce wastewater quantity.
There are many ways for property owners to use less water. If possible, they should start by replacing old 5-gallon-per-flush toilets. Toilets are the No. 1 water-using device in a home, so this simple change will make a big difference.

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Low-flow showerheads and faucets will also reduce the amount of water used. If the homeowner is unable to replace existing interior plumbing, all leaks should be fixed. They should also eliminate the discharge or backwash from the water softener, iron filter, treated hot tubs or pools, or any other water treatment devices, and also ensure sump pumps and other clean-water drains do not discharge into septic system.

2. Spread out water usage.
This is particularly important for laundry, as doing load after load does not allow the septic tank time to adequately treat wastes and can stir up solids and send them downstream. A good rule of thumb is one load per day.

3. Reduce organic loading to the system.
If the property owner currently has a garbage disposal/grinder, they should discontinue use. Aside from human waste or toilet paper, nothing solid should go into the toilet or down the drain. A lint filter on the washing machine is another way to reduce the solids load to the system.

Related: Rules and Regs: Illinois Drafts Standards For Direct Discharge

4. Eliminate the use of biocides.
This includes antibacterial soaps and cleaners, bleach-based cleaners and detergents, automatic toilet bowl cleaners, shower cleaner, unused medicines, solvents, paints, antifreeze and other chemicals.

5. Have maintenance performed as needed.
As septic professionals, it is critical we provide property owners with an owner’s manual that provides basic information about their systems and the needed care. You can make a customized guide at or use general information developed by your company or an education organization in your state or region.

6. Prevent compaction and irrigation.
Remind homeowners not to drive or park anything heavier than a lawn mower on any part of the septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in the soil treatment area or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components. Also, all surface water and irrigation should not be directed over the system.

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7. Do not use additives.
To date, there are no products on the market that adequately replicate the natural bacteria occurring in a properly operating system. Resources spent on these products are better directed at proper maintenance.

About the Author
Sara Heger, Ph.D., is an engineer, researcher and instructor in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. She presents at many local and national training events regarding the design, installation and management of septic systems and related research. Heger is education chair of the Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Association (MOWA) and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA), and serves on the NSF International Committee on Wastewater Treatment Systems. Send her questions about septic system maintenance and operation by email to

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