Q: What can I put in my septic system?
A: Nothing but human waste and toilet tissue. Your septic tank will not replace your garbage service. NO kleenex, paper towels, wet wipes (even if they say "flushable"), tampons, applicators, condoms, hair, q-tips, cigarette butts, eggshells, grease, or compost. NOTHING!! Any of these waste products will clog your system, create backups, and lead to costly repairs. Non-organic materials also increase the cost of pumping services.
Q: What kind of products/enzymes do I need to add to my septic tank?
A: Most biological additives, such as yeast, are harmless, but some chemical additives can potentially harm the soil in the drain field and contaminate the groundwater. There are many products on the market that claim to help septic systems work better. However, the truth is there is not a magic potion to cure an ailing system. The general consensus among septic system experts is that septic system additives are unnecessary and money is better spent pumping out the septic tank.
Q: Can I use a garbage disposal?
A: Yes, just remember to be cautious about what goes into the drain.
Q: How do household cleaners affect my system?
A: Always use the cleaning products as recommended by the manufacturer. Most household cleaning products will not adversely affect the operation of your septic tank. However, drain cleaners are an exception. It only takes a small amount of these products to kill the bacteria and temporarily disrupt the operation of the tank. Other household products that are hazardous include paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, photographic solutions, and pesticides. These items can overtax or destroy the biological digestion taking place within your system.
Q: How often should I have my septic tank pumped?
A: Every 4 years for a family of four. More often if you work from home, have a large family, or have multiple guests. Larimer County recommends every 3 years because a septic tank is like a settling pond for solids. The solids will form a layer at the top and bottom of the tank allowing the water to flow through the middle layer of the tank. Over time the two solid layers grow together causing a clog in the tank and a back up in the line from the house.
Q: How do I know if I need to have my tank pumped?
A: If it has been longer than 3 years, or you cannot remember when it was last done, your tank likely needs to be pumped. Other indicators would be If you hear gurgling in the drains when your washing machine is draining, have a wet area in your yard where the leach field is, water coming up from under the toilet or in the basement drains or shower, or you are selling your property. Also if the top crust of solids in the tank is greater than 6-8 inches, service is needed.
Diagram of basic septic system.
Never put garbage or grease in tanks - nothing but human waste, and toilet tissue.
Q: What does it mean when I hear gurgling when the washing machine drains?
A: Have the system checked immediately. This is usually a sign that the tank has too many solids in it or that the leach field is struggling.
Q: What causes a sewer gas smell in my house?
A: If there are any floor or shower drains, or sinks that are not used very often. the water in the trap that is supposed to stop these smells from entering the house has dried up. Pour a half gallon or so of water in the drain or just let the water in the shower or sink run for 10-15 seconds and the smell should start to dissipate immediately.
Q: How many gallons do septic tanks and vaults hold?
A: There are four different sizes of tanks and vaults. As a general rule, the requirement for a 1 to 3 bedroom home is 1000 gallons, 4 bedrooms is 1250 gallons, 5+ bedrooms is 1500-2000. Size of existing tanks can be determined by calling the County.
Q: What is the difference between a septic and a vault?
A: A septic tank has a connected leach or drain field where all gray water drains and disperses back into the ground. Only solids remain in the tank (See diagram). A vault is a collection tank for both gray water and solids. Vaults have to be pumped out much more frequently.
Q: How do I locate my tank on my property?
A: One way to determine the location of your septic system is to start in your basement or crawlspace and determine the direction the sewer pipe exits through the wall. Next, go outside and start probing the soil with a thin metal rod 5 - 15 feet from the foundation to find the septic tank and then beyond the septic tank to find the septic absorption field. Call for utility locates if you have underground utilities in the suspected area. Once you have found your system, draw a map and keep it on hand to save time on future service visits. You may also contact your County Department of Health and Environment to check if there is a septic permit, map, and inspection of the system installation on file:
Larimer County 970-498-6775 Weld County 970-304-6415 Boulder County 303-441-1564
Q: Do I need to locate both access lids to my septic tank?
A: We recommend pumping and inspecting the outlet side of the tank at least every 2-3 times the inlet side is pumped. Why? Some solids will work their way over to the outlet side and will not be removed by only pumping from the inlet side. This will cause the system to operate sluggishly. This is also the perfect time to inspect the condition of the outlet baffle to assure no solids are making it into the leach field.
Remember, digging can be very time consuming and therefore costly, so it is always best for homeowners to locate and dig up lids.
For Septic and Vault Pumping:
P.O. Box 7816
Loveland, CO 80537
Johnston Sanitation Services