Saturday, March 21, 2020

Penn State Extension: Be Careful What You Flush: Avoid Toilet Paper Alternatives With Onlot Septic Systems

By Susan Boser, Extension Renewable Natural Resources Educator

For those that use an on-lot septic system for home wastewater treatment, what we flush down the toilet can have negative impacts on the functioning of the system.
If your supply of toilet paper is running low, you may be tempted to use an alternative product. While other options might do the trick, they can wreak havoc on your home wastewater treatment system. 
Septic systems aren’t able to handle more bulky items that we may want to use. Things like wet wipes, and paper towels don’t break down properly and can clog the system's functioning.
When waste enters your septic tank, heavier materials sink to the bottom, liquid materials fill up the middle of the tank area, while floating materials stay toward the top. 
When a system is working properly, that liquid effluent material exits the tank and is distributed through the leach bed where it sinks into the ground and is treated by microbes in the soil. 
When the system becomes clogged by those more bulky items that can’t be broken down, the effluent can’t properly exit the tank or the leach bed can get clogged resulting in waste backing up into the home or failure of the effluent to be treated properly. 
This can contaminate groundwater and surface water and lead to costly repairs.
In addition, organic waste like that from garbage disposals as well as harsh cleaners, should not be put into your septic system. 
Homeowners should be having their septic tank pumped every two to three years regardless of whether their on-lot sewage system is giving you problems or not. This will limit the build-up of solids in the septic tank and keep them functioning.
For more information also see our fact sheet "Keeping on-lot wastewater systems healthy." 

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for Extension newsletters.

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[Posted: March 21, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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