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The following is a four part article that was written by Joe Frisella and printed in the Rhode Island Builder's Report which is the award-winning publication of the Rhode Island Builder's Association.

SEPTIC SYSTEMS. HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?

.And what can we do to extend their lives?

The cause of most failures originates from the dwelling; the source of all that ends up into the septic system.

I

Excessive water use due to:

 

(a)

Leaks.
Leaky toilets can cause anywhere from 50 gallons to 2000 gallons a day to access the ISDS. The septic system for a three-bedroom dwelling is designed to accommodate only 450 gallons. If your dwelling is served by a municipal water supply, I recommend stopping all sources of water use and observe the small dial on your water meter. If it is moving you have a leak. If so, it is most likely a toilet. All toilets will leak eventually.
If your dwelling is served by an individual well, place food coloring in the upper tank of your toilet and if the colored water enters the bowl within a hour you may have a serious leak.

 

(b)

Air conditioner condensation directed to the septic system

 

(c)

Backwash from a water purification system that in many cases have salt added to it that changes the environment in the septic system

 

(d)

Teenagers! Need I say more!

 

(e)

One or more babies

 

(f)

Using the washing machine with small loads

 

(g)

Jacuzzi overuse

 

(h)

Leaky faucets

 

(i)

Excessive water use can cause suspended solids and oil/grease to readily access the leach field

     

II

Excessive use of solids

 

(a)

Grease and oils (floatables) gaining access to the septic system can cause the leach field to fail in a short period of time.

 

(b)

Garbage disposals add solids to the septic system that also may carry out into the leach field.

 

(c)

Lint from washing machines can also gain access to the leach field adding to the cause of possible failure.

 

 

 

III

Toxic waste and additives

 

(a)

Adding caustic products that clean the drain will interfere with the natural biological digestion in the septic tank and leach field.

 

(b)

Additives to the septic system that are recommended to keep your ISDS functioning properly actually interfere. Folks, let nature take its course. God has provided an army of microorganisms to digest the suspended solids in the effluent without any help.
If for some reason your septic system appears to malfunction, contact a professional who will look into the cause of failure. Fix the cause of failure and be done with it! Anything you add to the system will interfere with the natural microorganisms that, when let alone, can do an incredible job.

     

IV

Proper Maintenance

 

For a conventional system, proper maintenance would be that the occupant of the dwelling is careful as to what enters the septic system and has the system inspected and pumped on a regular schedule.

Now for those who are listening, let's review what just went down.

The causes of failure are: too much water, too many solids, and toxic additives all caused by little old you. Now the truth is out, hope no one is listening; yes you are an intricate part of your septic system!

Now what is the question? After all of this rhetoric I almost forgot. Oh yes, how long do septic systems last before they fail? Answer-IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU! The rule of thumb is anywhere from one week to 20 years. The early stages of failure are usually due to design and/or installation. Without the precautions listed below, an ISDS usually fails within 20 years of use.

It is my humble opinion to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief that a septic system should last as long as the provided you adhere to the following recommendations.

Let's start with the dwelling:

 

(a)

Conserve on water use