DEP Reminds Homeowners to Maintain Septic Systems

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reminding Pennsylvanians about the importance of on-lot septic system maintenance.

This annual initiative, led by DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), encourages residents to learn about and properly maintain their septic systems during SepticSmart Week from Sept. 21-25.

“More than 29 percent of Pennsylvanians rely on a septic system,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “It’s so important that these systems are maintained properly to prevent failure and to protect the public health and environment.”

Lacking or improper maintenance of an on-lot septic system can contaminate groundwater supplies with E. coli and other pollutants. This is very important as many of the homeowners who rely on septic systems also have private wells that provide potable drinking water.

Discharges from failed systems can also contaminate surface waters like lakes, rivers, and ponds, contributing excess nutrients that can cause toxic algal blooms and other water quality problems.

Homeowners are responsible for making sure that these systems work properly. The life-span of a septic system is generally 25 years, but septic systems are vulnerable to early failure if they are not regularly inspected and pumped, and properly maintained.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends property owners take the following precautions to maintain their system:
• Inspect and Pump Frequently: The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.
• Conserve Water: All of the water a household sends down its pipes ends up in its septic system. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system. Consider installing low-flow plumbing fixtures, faucet aerators, and high-efficiency toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers to save on water use.
• Proper Waste Disposal: Do not flush anything that isn’t human waste or toilet paper.
• Maintain the Drainfield: never park on the drainfield. Avoid planting trees or other plants near the drainfield to prevent root infiltration.

Throughout the week, professionals from DEP will be on hand from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Capitol’s East Wing Rotunda to answer questions and provide helpful information about septic system maintenance.

DEP will also share tips and information throughout the week on its Facebook page (www.facebook/PennsylvaniaDEP) and Twitter (@PennsylvaniaDEP).

Click here to learn more about SepticSmart Week.

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