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Don’t get caught with your pants down!

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Gilpin County Extension – Septic System Care

By Jennifer Cook

Toilet paper is a hot topic right now, as shelves are empty in most stores. With toilet paper on all our minds, it seems fitting to discuss septic systems.

Best practices to keep your septic system working like a charm:

  • Space out laundry loads, washing dishes, and showers.
  • Practice water conservation.
  • Only flush toilet paper. Avoid flushing inorganics solids such as trash and feminine products.
  • Refrain from pouring kitchen grease, bleach, paint, or drain cleaner down your drain.
  • Know the location of your tank, leach field and well head.
  • Plant native grasses and flowers on your leach field. Avoid trees, shrubs, and irrigation on this sensitive area.
  • Don’t drive on your leach field, compaction can impact leaching field function.

Don’t get caught with your pants down!

  1. Septic tanks should be inspected annually.
  2. Pump your tank every 3-5 years, depending on its size and the number of people living in your house.

Septic systems are regulated by Gilpin County Community Development Department. Their website provides a list of certified contractors who you should use for inspections and pumping – http://www.gilpincounty.org/departments/community_development/septic_and_well_information

Sewage in your tank is about 99% water.  The rest is composed of organic and inorganic solid waste.  Your septic system should manage the household wastewater without any adverse health problems, odor, aesthetic or nutrient (fertilization) effects.

Your tank should be sized so that it doesn’t need cleaned out more than every 3 to 5 years.  It is important to do this pumping, however, as an over-full tank will not work properly, creating bad odor, elevated nutrient levels, and even health problems in the form of bacteria in your water supply.

All septic systems act in generally the same way.  Household waste water is collected in a holding tank – the septic tank – where bacteria digest much of the solids.  The liquid is separated from the solids and is then sent through the pipes, to the junction box, and on to the leach field.  Here, the liquid slowly percolates into the ground.  The soil acts as a physical and chemical filter.  The remaining solids in the tank collect and need to be pumped out occasionally.

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