Barry’s Do’s and Don’ts for septic tanks

I sat down to read the paper yesterday and a front page article caught my eye – the county dump is thinking about eliminating their septic ponds to make room for more trash.

Ha ha – get it? Eliminating their septic ponds?

Well, it’s not funny, really.  To those of us still crapping, er, uh, eliminating, in a tank in our back yard, that means higher rates for pumping and disposal of our, uh, waste. Septic tanks only work if they are pumped every three to five years, if they are left to fail, the city will force us to  spend 10’s of thousands hooking up to sewer.

And then there’s sewer fees of $45/month plus, for life.  Yeah, I know, that sounds ginchee for the city, doesn’t it?  City council can raise sewer fees without a vote of the public. They can transfer the sewer fund money, and have done so in past, actually taking the sewer fund into the red, to cover salaries, pensions and benefits for people who have nothing to do with your doo-doo. In past they have used the sewer fund like a cookie jar. That’s why our fees are so high, not because of the actual expense of the sewer facility. 

Right now, for what you’d pay for a year of sewer, you could get your tank pumped twice a year. But eliminating  the sewer ponds at the Neal Road dump facility would mean trucking our waste out of the county, and that is predicted to double or triple our pump rates. 

Luckily our tanks are new, we’ve got plenty of room and good soil for our leach fields, and we have always had a good relationship with our septic technician, Barry, owner and operator of Chico Septic.  We pump our tanks as recommended – every three to five years – and we try to follow the Do’s and Don’t of Septic Tank Use.

  • DO scrape food from your plates, pots, pans, coffee filter into your garbage can; DON’T put food down your sink. Grease, coffee grounds and food particles clog your leach lines.
  • DO use concentrated, low-suds, low- (or no-) phosphate, biodegradable dishwasher detergent; DON’T use harsh, sudsy detergents, they overwhelm your tank with suds and kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank.
  • DO use biodegradable cleaners where possible; DON’T overuse bleach or other disinfectants, they kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank. If you use this stuff dump it out on your lawn, don’t dump it down your sink, bathtub or toilet. 
  • DO spread your laundry loads out over the week; DON’T do many loads in one day, high volumes of water and detergent will overload your septic tank and kill beneficial bacteria.
  •  DO use “septic safe” toilet paper (check the label); DON’T flush paper towels, facial tissues or wipes down the toilet, they do not dissolve. 
  • DO flush only human waste and “septic safe” toilet paper, DON’T use your toilet as a garbage can. That means NO KITTY LITTER – bag your cat crap and put it in the trash. It means NO CONDOMS – wrap those rascals and put them in the trash. No cigarettes, no tampons or sanitary napkins, no paper towels or facial tissues, no tooth floss, no chemicals, paints or poisons – and that includes your old medication. Really, poop, pee, vomit, and toilet paper, ONLY!

Really, some of that stuff surprised me. When I had a cat I tossed the turds from my litter box into the toilet without realizing what those tiny bits of clay would do to my leach lines. I never would have thought anything of throwing a Kleenex in the toilet, but yeah, they’re thicker and tougher than toilet paper. I knew a woman who flushed cigarettes because she didn’t want an ashtray stinking up her house, and I thought that was Genius! But yeah, a septic tank is a sensitive, almost living creature, with needs and wants just like you. It wants to be treated right, and if it isn’t, oh yeah, beware the wrath of a septic tank scorned. 

I’m sending this reminder around to all my tenants, and I’m reminding you too. We DO want to be compliant, we DO want to be sustainable, and most of all, we DON’T want to be trough fodder for the suits Downtown. 


2 thoughts on “Barry’s Do’s and Don’ts for septic tanks

  1. At the rate our local gooberment rulers are going we won’t be able to afford to go to the bathroom. We’ll just have to explode after 50 years!

    • Mannell said in the story that the deal isn’t set yet, I think I’ll bitch about it to the board of supervisors. It occurs to me that it’s not just private septic tanks – there’s the whole portable toilet industry, and funny as it might seem, that’s a big business around here and not likely to go away anytime soon.

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