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Septic System Care

Septic System Care

DrainsOne of the most important things you should know about your septic system is that, in many ways, it is like any organic body. It can't deal with inorganic waste; that is, waste that can't be broken down naturally. For that reason, things like plastics, rubber, solvents and acids shouldn't enter the septic system. "Disposable" diapers are diapers that should be disposed of by transport to a landfill rather than being flushed down the toilet, because they are made with plastic that will clog drains. If plastics do make their way into the septic tank, there they sit, since bacteria can't break them down. Only organic things should be put into the septic system, and even those things should be broken into pieces small enough that they won't wind up as a clog in a pipe somewhere between a plumbing fixture and the septic tank.

If the septic tank itself has a healthy population of bacteria, those billions of little microbes will break the organic matter down even further. However, if the bacterial population has been decimated by the use of things like chlorine bleach or by acid or alkaline drain cleaners, the organic waste won't be broken down and the tank will fill up faster than ever.

A well-maintained septic system shouldn't create any odor, and the smell of sewage coming from drains is a distinct warning sign that something is wrong. Coupled with toilets that suddenly flush slower than usual, sewage smells may indicate that the tank is full and must be pumped. If you have sewage smells even though your tank isn't full and the plumbing seems to be working all right, you may have a problem with a sewer vent pipe. Sewer vent pipes vent sewer gas from plumbing fixtures to the outside of the house. If the vent pipes aren't installed correctly, if they aren't high enough or if they become clogged, you may wind up with sewer gas in the house. Sewer gas is dangerous on two counts: first, it contains methane, which is flammable and explosive. Second, sewer gas can suck the oxygen out of the house and cause death. Either way, you're in big trouble, so if you smell sewer gas, don't wait—open the windows, leave the room, and call a licensed plumber.

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