How to prevent septic system failure from Coronavirus.

As we discussed in the last blog, Shelter-in-Place orders are increasing stress on septic systems, and many will fail as a result.  Most of the stress is caused by increased water use.  Other issues causing increased stress on the systems are septic tank particulates and suffocating the drainfield.  Both of those will be discussed in a future blog.

So, what can you do to lighten the load?  Although the following list is far from exhaustive, it provides many water conserving ideas that are simple or low cost but have great impact.

1.      Ensure that all plumbing valves, including toilets, close properly.  One ounce per minute adds up to 11 gallons per day.  A sticking toilet valve can send over 1,500 gallons of water to the septic system in just 8 hours!

2.      Add aerators to all faucets or replace the units with water conservative models.  Older faucets produce more than 2.5 gallons per minute.  Flow restricting aerators can reduce flow to 1 gallon per minute without jeopardizing comfort!  Similarly, shower heads can produce from 1 to 8 gallons per minute.  Install conservative models, and shower without fear of sewage backing up in the house.

3.      When grooming, allow water to run only when actively rinsing.  Reducing shower times saves 2.5 gallons per minute with a standard shower head.

4.      Automatic dishwashers are much more water conservative than washing by hand, depending on pre-rinse habits.  Use a basin full of water for rinsing rather than under running water.  (Your actual water savings can be measured with a simple test: Close the drain while rinsing under running water and observe how much water accumulates in the sink)

5.      Dialing down clothes washer sizes helps, but not nearly as much as combining loads to maximize load size.  The trick is to minimize the number of cycles.  Surprisingly, cleanliness is not lost by maximizing the load size.

6.      Use disposable paint equipment.  Water based paints are designed to adhere, so it takes incredible amounts of water to clean rollers and brushes.

The status and limits of your septic system can be determined with an evaluation.  But with or without knowing the limits, the best advice for maintaining a septic system is water conservation.  See our next segment on how sludge plugs septic systems during Shelter-in-Place.

Thank you for reading, and stay healthy!

Enviro-Assist, Ltd of South Lyon, Michigan provides:

Septic System Inspections
Septic System Engineering
Septic System Troubleshooting & Consultation
Well Inspections
Drinking Water Sampling
Water Supply Consultation
Educational Seminars
Call Enviro-Assist Today: (248) 486-1753

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