Effluent from failing septic systems is a major water quality concern in the Lake Winnipesaukee watershed, as the majority of properties around Lake Winnipesaukee rely on onsite wastewater disposal systems (septic systems). Compounding the issue is the fact that many properties are seasonal, second homes or rental properties. Many property owners may not know that they have a septic system, or where it’s located or when it was installed.
To help people better understand the functioning of septic systems and how to care and maintain this critical component of their home, LWA has sponsored several Septic Sense Seminars around the Winnipesaukee watershed over the past few years.
Proper Use and Maintenance of Septic Systems
Everything that goes down the drain, toilet, dishwasher, bathtub, and/or washing machine goes to some type of waste water disposal system; usually either a private septic system or a municipal sewer system.
If a home is on a private system, that system needs to be maintained in order to function properly. Why?
The septic system is a two-part sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground, composed of a septic tank and a leaching system. The sewage generally flows by gravity; first into the septic tank where the larger particles are removed and some decomposition takes place and then into the leaching system where it soaks into the ground.
The effluent that enters the leach field contains bacteria (E. coli), nitrates, phosphorus, and other chemicals; remember – whatever you put down your drain or toilet ends up in your septic system!
The leachate or effluent from your septic system eventually filters through the soil and becomes groundwater. If your system was located and installed properly and maintained, this arrangement works to naturally filter out the pollutants. However, inadequately functioning and/or failing septic systems contribute to groundwater contamination. Wastewater from septic systems may include many types of contaminants, such as nitrates, harmful bacteria and viruses.
Protect Your Septic System
1. Regularly inspect your system and pump your tank as necessary.
2. Don’t dispose of grease, coffee grounds, diapers, cat litter, latex paint, feminine hygiene products, household hazardous wastes, etc. in sinks or toilets. These items can clog the distribution lines or impair the function of the tank.
3. Minimize or eliminate use of sink disposal units which place an added burden on your system.
4. Care for your leach field (drainfield). Avoid driving or parking vehicles on it. Plant only grass over or near the leach field to avoid damage by roots.
5. Avoid use of water softeners; the salts which discharge during backwash into a septic system can crystallize and clog the distribution lines.
For More Information on how
Septic Systems Function visit these websites:
For Information on Contaminants in Drinking Water, visit the NH Dept. of Environmental Services website: http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/dwgb/index.htm