If you live on shoreline property, maintaining and designing your septic system requires more care than a system located elsewhere. Water pollution can happen even though your system appears to be working well and complies with local health department codes. Indicator dye put into your septic tank can help to find problems that may otherwise be difficult to notice.
It’s important to remember, most wastewater treatment happens in the soil below the drainfield in a traditional system. Septic systems on shoreline property are often close to both groundwater and surface waters, and drainfields are sometimes saturated during high water periods. In this case, partially treated wastewater can easily enter adjacent lakes, ponds and streams. Also, as shorelines erode, the distance between the septic system and the shoreline decreases.
Soil and water conditions near the shoreline, including thin or rocky soils, clay soils, and high water tables, may make a traditional septic system less efficient at treating wastes. In these situations, the system may need to be customized to the specific site and may require more advanced treatment technology.
What you can do:
- Conserve water and spreading the wastewater load over time. This can be especially important at shoreline properties.
- Pump your tank regularly. Depending upon the size of the system and its usage the system may require yearly or bi-yearly pumping rather than the three year cycle most often recommended.
- Clearly label any hazardous materials on the premises and do not dump them down your drain.
- Add appropriate plants between your drainfield and the shoreline. This involves planting areas of small shrubs and trees to help intercept and absorb some of the nutrients before they reach the shoreline. Roots may also stabilize the shoreline and reduce erosion which can contaminate the stream and decrease the distance from shoreline to septic system. Make sure roots of the plants will not damage the drainfield.
- Consider a waterless toilet. Incinerator or composting toilets greatly reduce the volume of wastewater that must be treated. Talk to your town’s health department about waste disposal options and permits.
- Replace or upgrade your septic system. Consider an “alternative” or “advanced” treatment system.