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Commissioner's Column: Septic Smart Week

Date: September 01, 2020

Septic Smart Week, which is held every September, is a very important week for us to get the word out to the public about protecting public health and the environment in New Hampshire. More than 65% of the state’s wastewater is first processed by a septic system. You may have one in your back yard. As owners of these septic systems, it’s important to know of the negative impacts that these systems can have if not operated and maintained properly.  

If a septic system is neglected, there can be a failure, which would be expensive and a health hazard, for your family and your community. A failed septic system could impact your groundwater and surface water around your home, and the landscape of that property. That’s why NHDES has worked so hard to educate people about their septic systems. Along with social media campaigns around Septic Smart week, we have worked with the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers to launch a Get Pumped! campaign last year that promotes regularly pumping your septic system.  

It is recommended that you get your septic tank pumped every 3 to 5 years, though it depends mostly on how many bathrooms and how many people live in the home. With many more people working from home during the current pandemic, it is a good idea to check your septic tank and consider getting it pumped. A typical pumpout can cost between $250 and $500, which is a far cry from the $6,000 to $15,000 it could cost to replace your leach field if your septic system fails. Additionally, it could cost you extra when selling your home, since septic systems are inspected during every real estate transaction in New Hampshire.

There are every-day things you can do to protect your systems, too, such as:

  • Learn more about what’s flushable and what isn’t. Many products that claim to be “flushable” actually clog up your system.
  • Conserve water. Fix leaky faucets and toilets ASAP to extend the life of your systems, saving you even more money.
  • Only wash clothes when you have full loads. Be mindful of large water uses, and stagger the use of water-generating appliances, such as washing machines, showers and dishwashers.
  • Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal system. Wastes from disposals fill up your systems more rapidly, which means more frequent pumping.
  • Don’t pour cooking grease or oil down the sink or toilet.
  • Don’t park or drive on your drainage field. The weight can damage drain lines.

This year, the EPA Septic Smart Week is September 14 through 18. NHDES will be posting on social media each day with tips on how to protect your septic system. Also, keep an eye out for the “Where’s Septic Sam?” postings (our version of Where’s Waldo for Septic Smart Week).

If you have a septic system, take some time to double check if you and your family are doing the right things when using your septic system to protect others and our environment. If you do not have a septic system at your home, the chances that you know someone who has one are pretty good. Sharing this information with others can go a long way to help protect human health and the environment.