Assessing the depth of sludge in a septic tank
Properly maintaining your onsite wastewater treatment system ensures it will perform as designed to treat and safely dispose of treated wastewater (effluent) from your home.
Wastewater systems cannot be installed then forgotten. Even fairly simple systems need regular and effective maintenance. This will save you money in the long run by avoiding replacement of a failing system.
In the same way that you maintain your car to extend its life and ensure optimal performance, you need to maintain your onsite wastewater management system.
For a more complex wastewater treatment system, such as an aerated water treatment system, you need to have a qualified and experienced service provider undertake regular inspections as part of your service agreement.
For simpler systems, such as a septic tank, you can do a few simple checks yourself for signs of any potential problems. Also, keep records of your inspections and any changes you notice.
Warning signs of system failure include:
- surface ponding, boggy areas or effluent runoff
- tanks lifting out of the ground
- excessive and lush vegetation growth
- strong odours.
If you spot one of these problems or you are concerned about your system's performance, contact a plumber, wastewater consultant or your system's service provider. Your local council is another source of information and advice.
Remember: don't attempt to repair the treatment or disposal system yourself - contact your service provider. Also, never enter a septic tank.
Always be guided by the manufacturer's product manual, if you have it, for specific maintenance requirements for your type of treatment system and effluent disposal system.
- Check for any unusual odour - if your system is operating properly it should not be smelly.
- Check tank lids and inspection ports for holes or cracks.
- Check for boggy or very green patches near treatment tanks, which may indicate a leak or overflow.
- Septic tanks need to be desludged on average every three to five years - keep a record of dates.
- Ensure aerated wastewater treatments systems are serviced every three months by a qualified Aerated wastewater treatment system (AWTS) service technician - keep a copy of the inspection report and send a copy to council.
- Respond to any alarms associated with your aerated wastewater treatment system - disruptions to power supply, for example, can cause pump burn out and system failure.
- Be aware of your water use - unusually big or small wastewater loads may result in lower level of treatment
- Check drains and trenches around your treatment system tanks to ensure stormwater is diverted away.
- Pump outs must occur on a regular basis, usually weekly or fortnightly - keep a record of dates.
Regular maintenance of your onsite wastewater system will save you money, protect your family's health, and keep our drinking water safe.
- Keep children, stock and vehicles off effluent disposal areas - council conditions of consent may require that these areas are fenced off.
- Trim trees or shrubs so that sunlight can reach all of your effluent application (disposal) area.
- Check drains and trenches around your effluent application (disposal) area to ensure stormwater is diverted away.
- Check surface irrigation systems for broken or missing drip, trickle or spray points.
- Check for boggy patches near effluent disposal areas, which may indicate a problem.
- Have your irrigation system checked by the service agent when they are servicing your treatment system.