septic system cleaning

Septic Tanks: Inspection, Testing & Maintenance

Whether you own a septic tank or are looking to purchase a home with a septic tank, be sure you understand how it works.

When looking at a prospective home to purchase, or when constructing a new home in a suburb or rural community, you may encounter a septic tank. Septic tanks are used whenever a home is not directly connected to the city’s sewer line. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 25% of U.S. homes operate with an individual septic system or onsite system; that means nearly 1 out of every 4 households are not directly connected to their local sewage line. It is also estimated that 10% – 20% of these systems fail each year and have the potential to harm the environment as well as create a risk to human health. Because maintaining the septic tank falls under the responsibility of the property owner, it is important to understand what it is, how it should be maintained, and other factors associated with owning a septic tank.

What is a septic tank?

A septic tank is essentially a self-serving sewage waste system designed to contain the waste from a home. Designs vary however the septic tank generally consists of a large tank with multiple internal compartments which is buried under the owner’s property. The tank itself can be made from concrete or plastic. Waste pipes from all fixtures, such as the shower, toilet, sinks, washing machine, exit the home and enter the septic tank; solid waste sinks to the bottom, fats and oils rise to the top. The wastes water then passes through another system where debris settles further. The leftover water (Effluent waste) is then allowed to seep into the surrounding ground, called a septic drain field. A visible hatch at the top allows the septic tank to be maintained by a professional. The below diagram illustrates a common septic tank set-up.

 

Why do some homes need a septic tank?

In the U.S., homes located too far from the city’s main sewage line will have a septic tank so that waste is properly handled. It is commonly found in rural and sometimes suburban areas where populations are low. Because septic drain fields require a particular amount of space for both the tank and the septic drain field, septic tanks are not ideal in densely populated cities. The size of the tank is determined by how many occupants will be living in the home as well as how many bathrooms are in the home. Tanks range in size from 1000 gallons to 2000 gallons or more. Keep in mind that if you plan on remodeling the home, and adding occupants or bathrooms, you will want to consult your septic service provider about increasing the size of your septic tank. City regulations may have size stipulations so check with your local building codes as well. Always keep in mind size and location, any tank smaller than 1000 many not meet the house requirements.

How are septic tanks maintained?

Septic tanks, if well maintained, can last anywhere from 25 – 40 years, sometimes longer. Regular annual maintenance is very important and should be performed by a licensed and trained professional septic service provider. Typical costs are between $400- $800 a year for professional maintenance & pumping, there may be additional costs depending upon the gallon size of the tank, its access and condition. The frequency of maintenance will depend upon the size of the tank, how many people use it, the volume of use, and how well the homeowners operate the system.

 

 

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Septic tanks rely upon a certain amount of natural occurring bacteria to help break down the solid waste. Household chemicals, prescription drugs and other toxins like pesticides can damage the levels of bacteria. Living with a septic tank means that precautions should be taken when it comes to moving waste from inside to outside the home. For example, diapers, cigarette butts, baby wipes and feminine products cannot be flushed down the toilet; these can quickly fill up a septic tank. Garbage disposals may be a modern convenience however they move too much solid waste into the tank. Too much water entering the tank, from a leaky toilet for example, can over-fill the tank and cause waste to leak into the septic field. Special care needs to be taken with the land situated over the septic field as well. The land over the septic field cannot be driven upon nor can any non-porous materials be set on top (like a driveway). Because of these many precautions, septic tanks are viewed as a much higher maintenance item for the home.

 

Draining the tank, which should also be done on a regular basis, may require pre-planning from the homeowner. Depending upon the access point to the tank, homeowners will want to move all items around the septic tank entry so that the service provider can have clear access. Sometimes homeowners inadvertently place stone pavers, furniture, or landscaping too close to the entry. Keep in mind these items may need to be cleared to gain access.

 

What are the costs to install a septic tank?

New septic tank replacement range in price depending upon the size and scope of the project. If your property already has a septic tank, it is less expensive to regularly maintenance and drain the tank, as well as monitor what you flush down the toilet, than to pay for a replacement tank. If you plan on constructing a new home that requires a septic tank, most local building departments require a permit. Site excavation and preparation will be additional costs as well. Check with your local septic service provider regarding costs for your specific construction project. Never trust any company willing to give you a price over the phone. These projects require on site inspection to properly determine home and code requirements.

Who can alert me to septic tank issues?

If you already own a septic tank on your property, your licensed professional septic tank service person should alert you to any issues or concerns. Annual maintenance should be performed and about every two to three years the tank will need to be pumped. If you are looking to purchase a home with a septic tank, they can also assess the overall quality and condition of the septic tank in question. They can inspect the date of the tank, date of last inspection, perform a sludge test, make sure that the tank is large enough for the home, check for liquid waste leakage on the property, and check for cracks in the lid. Your licensed septic service professional should bring forth issues or concerns with the tank as the property, and advise the homeowner about fixing or replacing the tank.

 

Warning signs and indicators of a malfunctioning septic tank

Regularly maintaining and servicing your septic tank will most likely stave off any major issues. However, even the most vigilant homeowner should be aware of the following indicators. If any of these issues occur, call your septic tank service provider:

  • bubbling or noise coming from sinks, showers or toilets
  • slower than usual flush times
  • backing up of sinks, showers or toilets
  • green “stripes” of grass in the septic drain field. This may be an indication of leaking or broken pipes.
  • soft spots or pooling water in the septic drain field

If you need help with Septic Pumping, need Septic Inspection, Septic Repair or Septic Installation. We serve Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Boulder, Windsor, Wellington, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with an expert you can trust. 970-399-9940

septic system cleaning

Why You Should Investigate Sewage Odors

Part of septic maintenance is always being on the lookout for potential problems, which is why you should investigate sewage odors as soon as they arise. The stench isn’t just unpleasant, it can indicate a bigger problem that may result in dangerous water contamination. Discovering the causes behind sewage odors in homes with septic systems and using these easy maintenance tips will help prevent a costly and hazardous emergency.

Causes of Sewage Odors

Just because you have a septic system doesn’t mean that sewage odors are to be expected. In fact, a properly functioning system shouldn’t make your sink or water smell bad at all. If you start smelling a sewage odor, there are three possible scenarios of why that’s happening.

Full Tank

When a septic tank gets too full, it can push the wastewater to the drain field and clog it up. This inhibits the drain field from filtering properly, thereby allowing contaminants to pass through. It’s why you may smell a strong sewage odor whenever you’re close to the drain field.

Clogs

Clogs can occur due to hair, soap, food, and other matter that accumulate in sink drains and pipes. This can cause an unpleasant smell similar to rotten eggs. Slow drainage is a sign of a clog either due to a plumbing or septic system issue.

Blocked Vents

Sewage gas builds up if the septic system’s vent is covered or malfunctions, creating a toxic and flammable environment. Avoid using a septic tank odor neutralizer as it’ll only mask the issue and won’t fix the root of the problem.

Fortunately, these issues can be prevented by learning how to take care of your septic system and working with an experienced septic company like Lion Home Service.

Water Contamination Dangers

An overloaded septic tank not only causes sewage odors, but it can also contaminate well water and nearby ponds or lakes. Wastewater contains all sorts of bacteria and viruses, as well as nitrogen and phosphorous which can seriously harm the environment.

If sewage escapes from the septic tank and reaches local water bodies, toxic algal blooms can occur. Adhering to a septic tank pumping schedule significantly reduces this threat, however, you should still regularly test well water to ensure it’s safe.

Easy Septic Maintenance Tips

Prevention is essential when it comes to maintaining your septic system. Here are four things your household should do to ensure a properly functioning system:

  • Inspect and pump regularly
  • Use water efficiently
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Maintain your drain field

By following these easy maintenance tips, you’ll be better able to prevent unpleasant sewage odors and hazardous situations like water contamination.

Prevent Issues with Septic Services

Foul smells can be a sign of a more serious issue that can become a costly and dangerous emergency if ignored. That’s why investigating sewage odors as soon as they occur is essential for septic maintenance, both for your wallet and health. Lion Home Service is a locally-owned business that helps clients prevent septic issues with pumping and inspection services in the Northern Colorado area.

Call 970- 399-9940 to schedule a septic service appointment today!

septic system cleaning

Septic Systems vs Sewer

What’s The Difference?

Septic systems and sewer systems are two different ways of treating and disposing of waste and water generated in your home. Both methods work by carrying the water away from your home and treating it so that it can be released back into the environment as clean groundwater. Although they may perform the same function, each system does so in a very different way. It’s helpful to understand how each one works, and why it may be better to choose one over the other, depending on where you live.


WHAT IS A SEWER SYSTEM?

A sewer system consists of the various underground sewer pipes as well as the water treatment facility and all of it is maintained by a municipal utility department. If your home is part of the local sewer system, the wastewater and any other materials that get washed away when you flush your toilet, take a shower, or run water in your kitchen sink, goes down the drains in your home and through the pipes that carry it away. A sewer system connects entire communities and puts the burden of treating wastewater, as well as maintenance of the system, on local government agencies.

WHAT IS A SEPTIC SYSTEM?

Septic systems are a form of on-site waste management used to treat the wastewater from an individual household. It consists of a tank and a drain field with a pipe that carries the wastewater away from the home. The soil in the drain field contains microorganisms that digest the organic materials and remove most of the contaminants from the water before it filters through the soil and into the groundwater. With a septic system, it is the homeowner’s responsibility for the maintenance of the septic system and treatment of the wastewater.

PROS AND CONS OF SEWER AND SEPTIC SYSTEMS

The biggest advantage that sewer systems have over septic systems is that there is less responsibility on the homeowner for maintenance. They are essentially a hands-off option that allows you to have one less thing to think about. The only time you may have to get involved with plumbing maintenance is if you happen to flush an object down your toilet that’s too big. Sewer systems are virtually maintenance-free, although you have to do is pay the monthly bill.

Although tapping into the local sewer system sounds like the way to go, what happens if you live in a rural area, outside the reach of the sewer pipes? In such instances, a septic system offers a way to take care of wastewater. If you are building a new house and it’s possible to connect to a sewer, you may want to weigh your options carefully as connecting to a sewer can have a higher upfront cost than installing a septic system.

When it comes down to it, homeowners who have a choice of whether or not to install a septic system have to weigh convenience over cost. Their choice will depend on how comfortable they are with being responsible for maintenance. Once you’re aware of the do’s and don’ts of owning a septic system, many people prefer them because of the more affordable cost rather than having to pay a sewer utility bill.

septic system cleaning

Disposable Wipes: Good For You, Bad For Your Septic System

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 1 in 5 five households in the U.S. have a septic system. These individual sewage disposal systems are separate from the centralized pipes and wastewater treatment facility maintained by a city and they are often found in rural areas where city sewer pipes don’t reach. While a septic system can provide an easy solution for homeowners who can’t tie into the municipal sewer system (or want to avoid the exorbitant cost to do so), it’s important to know how to care for one. In today’s blog from Lion Home Service, we want to discuss something that’s ruining many septic systems all over the country — disposable wipes. Keep reading to learn more and if you need septic tank service or have additional questions, please contact Lion Home Service in Fort Collins.

Septic System Basics

Before we get into why disposable wipes are wreaking havoc on septic systems, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how a septic system works. Each system consists of three basic components — the pipe that takes your wastewater away from your home, a septic tank that holds your wastewater and allows solids to settle out, and a drain field where the wastewater is filtered through the soil to remove contaminants. When you flush a toilet, run your garbage disposal, or do your laundry, the wastewater is carried away from your home and is deposited into the septic tank where it sits long enough to allow the solids to settle out. Over time, these solids are broken down by bacteria in the tank, creating a sludge that is eventually pumped out when your septic tank is serviced.

However, what happens if the items being washed down the drain aren’t biodegradable and can’t be broken down completely? They end up sitting in your tank, taking up extra space. Or, in many situations, they clog up pipes or worse yet — your sewage pump, causing damage and leaving you with a hefty replacement bill.

People are guilty of flushing just about everything down the toilet — cotton swabs, cigarette butts, cat litter, and the list goes on. But perhaps the biggest problem we see stems from something most people assume is perfectly okay to flush — disposable wipes.

There’s a Disposable Wipe For That

In the past few years, it seems like the market for disposable wipes has exploded. And we aren’t just talking about those so-called “flushable” wipes that are intended to be used as a substitute for toilet paper. You can now find disposable wipes for cleaning your face, your baby, your pet, your car, and your house. Some disposable wipes have mild cleaning agents in them, while others may have strong chemicals, disinfectants, or even furniture polish in them. No matter which type of disposable wipes you use, it’s important to remember one thing — none of them are okay to flush down your toilet.

Just do a quick search on the internet and you’ll find dozens of stories of people spending thousands of dollars on septic system repairs because of these wipes. And don’t be fooled by the ones that claim to be safe to flush. The fact is, many disposable wipes are made of materials such as polyester, polypropylene, and in the best cases, highly-durable cellulose fibers. These materials are chosen for their ability to hold together when wet, but because of this, they do not break down quickly in water. Over time, they can build up in your septic tank and even clog your pipes. If your main sewer line gets clogged, your wastewater and raw sewage can back up into your house — and no one wants that!

More Problems Caused By Disposable Wipes

If the threat of an accumulation of used wipes in your septic tank isn’t enough to make you think twice before flushing them, think of what happens when your sewer line gets plugged. First, wipes increase your chances of a blockage because they often wrap around other items you may have flushed such as paper towels or cotton swabs. When this happens, the sewer line between your house and tank can get plugged, causing raw sewage to start seeping into your home. So, how do you prevent this disaster from occurring? A good rule of thumb is to always dispose of wipes in the trash can, even if they are labeled “septic safe”.

In a perfect world, flushable wipes would also mean that they were biodegradable, but right now that isn’t the case. To make matters worse, it’s important to also consider the effect that antibacterial or other chemically-laden wipes are having on your septic system. In order for your septic system to function properly, it requires a certain amount of “good” bacteria to break down the organic material. When you flush wipes that have antibacterial chemicals in them, they also kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic system that are needed for it to continue to work properly.

Keep Your Septic System Running Smoothly For Many Years To Come

Most experts agree that a properly maintained septic system can last for decades. If you use your toilet as a trash can, however, it’s likely that you’ll have to repair or replace your system prematurely. In addition to disposable wipes, there are several other things you should never flush down your toilet or wash down the drain. Those items consist of things that are either not biodegradable or are hazardous to the bacteria in your septic system or to the environment.

Do your part to protect the environment and get the most life out of your septic system by following a regular maintenance plan with the help of the experts at Lion Home Service. We’re a locally-owned company offering professional septic system cleaning as well as other home maintenance services such as furnace and AC installation and repair, roof installation, and water heater repairs, among others. Visit our website for a complete list of services or to contact us about scheduling your septic system service today.

 

septic system cleaning

Never Put These Items Down the Drain If You Have a Septic Tank

If you have a septic tank, you’re probably aware that you need to schedule a septic tank cleaning about once every three to five years. But did you also know that even with regular service, there are things you could be doing that can dramatically harm your system and reduce the life of your tank? At Lion Home Service, we know a thing or two about septic systems, and we also know that oftentimes it’s what you don’t flush down your drain that can extend the life of your system and prevent a dangerous backup of sewage.

In today’s post, we want to review all of the things you should avoid washing down the drain or flushing down your toilet. Keep reading, and if you have a septic tank problem or need service, please contact Lion Home Service in Fort Collins.

How Does a Septic Tank Work?

Whenever you do something in your home that involves water going down a drain, that water — whether it be from doing dishes, flushing a toilet, or even washing the garage floor — has to go somewhere. It either goes into the pipes that carry it away from your home and over to a central water treatment plant or, if you have a septic system, it goes to your septic tank. This securely sealed container holds your wastewater allowing any solids to settle to the bottom. Eventually, when the water reaches a certain level, it leaves the septic system and flows into your drain field where the water evaporates.

Caring For Your Septic Tank

If everything you put down the drain goes to a tank that eventually gets pumped out, you might be wondering why it matters so much what items you flush. There are two main things to keep in mind. First, anything you flush must be biodegradable, meaning that it will easily break down in your tank. Items such as flushable wipes, cotton swabs, and even paper towels don’t completely break down in a septic system and this can cause a big problem. These items can plug your pipes and even cause damage to your septic tank that can result in you, the homeowner, having to pay for costly repairs.

Second, you should never wash or flush anything down a drain that could potentially harm the good bacteria in your septic system or contaminate the groundwater. Using bleach or other toxic chemicals to clean is good for eliminating harmful bacteria in your home, but they also eliminate the beneficial bacteria needed for a properly functioning septic system if you wash them down the drain. And remember, once the wastewater in your septic tank reaches a certain level, it flows into your drain field. If your wastewater is filled with hazardous chemicals, there’s a likely chance it could seep into the groundwater, contaminating it.

List of Items To Never Put Down the Drain

Now that we’ve explained the two most important categories of items that can harm your septic system, we would like to share a couple of lists of common household products that should never go down your drain. Read them carefully and then share it with others in your household so that everyone is aware of what is okay and not okay to flush.

Hazardous Materials

  • Paint
  • Gasoline
  • Motor oil
  • Weedkiller
  • Solvents such as paint thinner
  • Bleach
  • Insecticide
  • Herbicide
  • Drain cleaner
  • Medications (especially antibiotics)

Non-Biodegradable Items

  • “Flushable” wipes
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Dental floss
  • Cigarette butts
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cat litter
  • Condoms
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cotton swabs

Although this is not an all-encompassing list, it should give you an idea of the things you shouldn’t be flushing down your toilet. Instead, you should use cleaning products and even toilet paper that is labeled safe for septic systems. While this may seem like a hassle, learning how to properly care for your septic system will save you and the environment from potential contamination problems and it will no doubt keep your septic system running smoothly for many years.

Signs Your Septic Tank Is Full

If it’s been several years since you’ve had a septic tank cleaning or you’re unsure that it’s ever been done, it’s important to schedule service as soon as possible. Tanks do fill up — and you’ll want to have it pumped before it causes a problem. But what if you already suspect that you have a problem? Here are some telltale signs that your septic tank may be full:

Pooling Water

If you notice large pools of water around your septic system’s drain field, this could indicate that your tank is overflowing and the wastewater isn’t able to evaporate naturally.

Odors Coming From Drains

If you smell something offensive every time you take a shower or turn on a faucet, there’s a chance that your tank is full and sewage is starting to back up in the pipes, causing the smell.

Slow Drains

If the water isn’t making its way down the drain as quickly as it used to, this could be a sign that your septic tank is full.

Sewage Backup

When a tank is full, sewage will start to overflow or backup in the pipes. In severe cases sewage can even come up in the drains in your home, This is not only disgusting, but it also poses a serious health risk for you and your family.

Particularly Green Grass Around Your Drainfield

In some cases, you may see pooling water around your drain field, but in other cases, you just notice that the grass around it is particularly green. This is often another sign that your septic system may be overflowing.

Contact Lion Home Service For Septic Tank Cleaning

Don’t let your septic system get to the point where it’s overflowing. Contact Lion Home Service in Fort Collins for regular septic tank cleaning. We’re a local-owned and operated company serving the entire Northern Colorado area including Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Windsor, and Fort Collins. Call today to get your free estimate. We look forward to serving you!