This is part 4 of 4 in this blog post series. Please first review Wastewater 101, Wastewater 102 and Wastewater 103.
Essentially you have 3 parts to getting a new (or upgraded system).
1. Design work
This blog post discusses the Maintenance of your system.
OK! So you have your system installed and everything is running well. Congratulations.
You've spent alot of money on your system, so it's very important to maintain it to keep it trouble-free for a long time.
First - it is important at the start that you understand DO's and DON'Ts of a septic system. The most important thing to remember is When in Doubt, Don't Flush it. The only thing going down the drain (or in the toilet) should be human waste and regular household wastewater. Strong cleaning chemicals, feminine products, condoms, etc will damage or shorten the life of system components. Garbage grinders (food grinders) in your sink should never be used. Discharges from water softeners and water purification equipment should never enter a septic system. Weeping tile, sump pumps, and downspouts should never enter a septic system.
Your system has many components that need regular cleaning or maintenance.
Regulations today require a designer to design for a septic tank that is big enough to allow intervals of at least 3 years between cleaning/pumping. If you are unfamiliar with this, basically a vacuum truck comes out to your property, opens the lid on your tank, and sucks out everything in it. The main concerns are to remove the accumulation of "sludge" at the bottom and the accumulation of "scum" layer floating on the top of the liquid in your tank.
An annual visit by a qualified professional should be scheduled. They should check and service your pump, clean your filters, and check floats and alarms and other components to make sure everything is working.
Lateral pipes (in a pressure system) should be scrubbed approx every 5 years.
If you have an ATU (Advanced Treatment Unit), you will normally be required to sign an annual maintenance contract before it is installed. ATU's must have regular maintenance otherwise they can fail quickly.
It is also important to protect the area of your components. Avoid traffic over the septic tank or drainfield area (vehicles, livestock). Divert groundwater away from them as well. Lawn mowers are OK - its important to maintain grass cover over the drainfield or mound.
Good maintenance will keep your system running smoothly. There shouldn't be any offensive odours and you shouldn't see ponding effluent anywhere or spongy soil around the drainfield.