Well-maintained septic systems contribute to good water quality, healthy beaches, and active recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting on the Key Peninsula. Courtesy: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Dept.

The Shellfish Partners, Special to KP News

Do you really know what happens when you flush? If your septic system is in good working condition, the waste in your toilet bowl flows to your underground septic tank where it breaks down and remains until your next septic system pumping. The effluent from your tank drains into your drainfield where your soil filters and disposes of it safely.

Your main job, other than flushing only waste and toilet paper, is to get your septic system inspected and pumped regularly so it can continue to serve you for many years.

Taking care of your septic system is an easy way to practice good environmental stewardship, and to protect your family and your investment in your home. It all contributes to good water quality in our area, too.

Failing septics are a source of high bacteria levels that contribute to poor water quality, beach closures, interrupt shellfish harvesting and restrict recreational use of our marine waters.

Take these steps to maintain your septic system—and protect the water quality of the groundwater, creeks, lakes and beaches that make the Key Peninsula such a beautiful place to live:

  1. Get your septic system inspected. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department requires property owners to get their septic systems inspected annually or every three years, depending on the type of system you have. See our list of certified septic professionals at tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies. You may be able to take advantage of the Septic Care Incentive Program and reduce your bill by up to 50 percent. Visit tpchd.org/incentive to print the forms and get your savings.
  2. Make septic repairs to prevent surfacing sewage. If inspection reveals a repair that’s out of your financial reach, explore our financial resources at tpchd.org/septichelp. We also offer Clean Water Loans for septic repairs and replacements from Craft3, a nonprofit, nonbank community development financial institution. Find more information at tpchd.org/cleanwaterloan.
  3. Learn about the septic system in your yard. If you don’t know the location of your septic system, visit tpchd.org/asbuilt.php to find out. Learn more about septic operation and maintenance at tpchd.org/OMbrochure.

Septic maintenance is a critical step in protecting local water quality, but you can also practice environmental stewardship with these actions:

  1. Spread heavier water use throughout the week.
  2. Fix water leaks and use water saving fixtures for shower and faucet heads, toilets and washing machines.
  3. Check the septic drainfield and down slope areas routinely for odors, wet spots or surfacing sewage.
  4. Avoid garbage disposal use. The disposal adds solids and grease to your system and may plug the drainfield.
  5. Avoid allowing grease, hair, solid waste, and chemicals from going down the drain.
  6. Keep cars, heavy equipment and livestock off the drainfield.
  7. Instruct children not to play around septic tank lids or in the drainfield. Avoid falls and exposure to bacteria.

The cheapest septic system you will ever have is the one you’re using now. Get it inspected so you can prevent septic system failures.

Still not convinced that maintaining your septic system is good for you and the environment? Please let us know what would change your mind. Contact us at 253-798-4788 or EHsepticsystems@nulltpchd.org with your comments.

The Shellfish Partners are made up of Pierce County Public Works Surface Water Management, Pierce Conservation District, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, community organizations and Key Peninsula residents. We have been at work to protect Key Peninsula’s beaches and shellfish resources since 2006. 253-798-6470 or visit tpchd.org/shellfish.

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