Do your part and be SepticSmart!
September 18-22 is SepticSmart Week, which encourages homeowners and communities to properly care for and maintain their septic systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than one in every five U.S. households depend on septic systems, also known as private sewage systems. There are over 9,900 permitted, active septic systems in McLean County alone.
The Private Sewage Disposal Program at the McLean County Health Department (MCHD) regulates methods of disposing sewage from facilities and homes that are not served by a public sewage system. This often includes homes in rural areas. The goal is to ensure all sewage systems are constructed and maintained properly to eliminate the transmission of disease, disease organisms, and nuisances.
“Proper maintenance begins at home,” said John Hendershott, an Environmental Health supervisor at MCHD with more than 33 years of experience evaluating permit applications and inspecting septic systems. “A poorly maintained septic system can contaminate groundwater and harm the environment by releasing bacteria, viruses, household chemicals, and other pollutants to local waterways. Proper septic system maintenance protects public health and the environment and saves the homeowner money through avoided costly repairs.”
Simple tips for homeowners to keep in mind include:
- Protect It and Inspect It: You should have your septic system inspected about every three to five years by a qualified professional (or according to their state or local health department’s recommendations).
- Think at the Sink: What goes down the drain has a big impact on your septic system. Fats, oils & grease (FOG) and solid foods can clog your system’s pipes and drain field.
- Don’t Overload the Commode: A toilet is not a trash can. Disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, and cat litter can damage a septic system.
- Don’t Strain Your Drain: Use water efficiently and stagger the use of water-based appliances. Too much water use at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products.
- Shield Your Field: Tree and shrub roots, cars, and livestock can damage your septic drain field.
- Pump Your Tank: Ensure your septic tank is pumped at regular intervals as recommended by a professional and/or local permitting authority.
- Keep It Clean: Contamination can occur when a septic system leaks due to improper maintenance. Be sure your drinking water is safe to drink by testing it regularly.
“If you’re not sure what type of septic system you have, how old it is, or where it is located on your property, you can contact us to get a copy of your permit,” said Tom Anderson, Director of the MCHD Environmental Health Division. “In most cases the permit will provide you with that information.”
For more information, or to find a list of licensed contractors, visit the Septic System page of the MCHD website or call (309) 888-5482
For more tips on SepticSmart Week, visit the Septic System page of the US EPA website.