Rules and Regulations
There are many laws pertaining to installation, maintenance, and disposal of liquid waste written into the state and local legislator. Click the link below to view them:
When to Have Your Septic System Pumped
Some materials in wastewater are not easily decomposed. You will need to have these materials pumped from your tank. If you have more than one tank or a tank with two compartments both should be pumped out regularly. If you fail to pump your tank regularly sludge may enter your drain field and cause serious problems. Wisconsin law dictates that septic tanks must be pumped out or inspected every three years to ensure your tank sludge level is less than one third. This time schedule is fine for a system that is working properly, but a failing system may need to be pumped out more frequently. Signs of a failing system include high surface water in the drain field, slowly flushing toilets, slow sink drains, or the backing up of wastewater into the house. If you notice any of these signs you should have your pumper inspect your system. Common causes of tank failure include failing to pump and inspect the tank regularly, lack of understanding on how your tank works, poor soil, or faulty design or installation.
About System Additives
There are many companies out there who claim to have an additive that will “rejuvenate your system” or “make pumping your tank unnecessary.” Beware of these claims, as some may be bogus. With the use of strong cleaning agents or medicines, you may need to restore the bacteria in your system. Most quality additives will help take care of toilet paper buildup, even with normal usage. Please do not put any additives in your system without asking your certified technician first.
To learn more about products we recommend that are safe to use in your system please view our products page or contact us today!
Major Components of a Septic System
Your septic system has four (4) major components.
- A house sewer line which carries the waste from the house to the tank.
- A septic tank which prepares the waste for disposal into the drain field.
- A liquid distribution “D” box may be used to distribute the waste water evenly through the drain field.
- A drain field which helps purify the waste water by filtration through the soil.
How Your Septic System Works
A septic tank is simply a large concrete or steel tank that is buried somewhere in your yard. A typical septic tank holds around 800 to 1200 gallons of water. Wastewater flows in one end and out the other. Within the tank there are three layers. Anything that floats rises to the top and forms a layer called the scum layer. Anything that sinks to the bottom forms a layer called the sludge layer. In the middle of these layers is typically clear water. However, this water contains bacteria and chemicals that act as fertilizers.
Wastewater enters the tank via sewer pipes from in the house. Since a septic tank naturally produces gases and since the gases smell, sinks have loops of pipe called P-traps which hold water in the lower loop and thus prevent the gases from flowing back into the house. The gasses flow up a vent pipe and out the top of your house. After the wastewater from the house enters the septic tank it displaces water that is already there. This water then flows out of the septic tank and into a drain field. A drain field is made up of perforated pipes buried in trenches filled with gravel. The water is slowly absorbed and filtered by the surrounding ground. The size of the drain field is directly determined by how well the ground absorbs water. In places where the ground is very slow in absorbing water (such as hard clay) the drain field has to be much larger to accomplish its task. If you have ever heard the expression “The grass is greener over the septic tank” it is true, sort of. The truth is the grass is greener, but it is over the drain field, not the septic tank. Grass takes advantage of the extra nutrients in the soil around the drain field.
System Care and Maintenance
Septic systems require little maintenance and are relatively easy to care for. Although problems can occur, if you routinely have your system serviced and follow steps to keep system in good health you can avoid running into major costs for repair. Septic systems are just like your vehicle, the better you take care of it the longer it will last.
There are three simple guidelines we recommend for you to follow that will lengthen the life of your system and keep more money in your wallet:
1. Remember to schedule an appointment for your septic system to be pumped out every third year. At Lynn’s Honeywagon we recommend that you have your system serviced every three years on average. We will advise you if we need to change the service interval. After your first service, we enter your information into our system that sets a reminder for however long we set the frequency. When the reminder is triggered we send you a postcard letting you know that it is time to make an appointment.
2. Conserve Water. Septic systems can only handle so much water at a time. The tank needs time to separate the liquids and solids and send the liquids to the drain field. Here a few tips that help you conserve water:
- Check for runny toilets and leaky faucets
- Consider installing low flow or high efficiency toilets
- Make sure to use the right load size when doing laundry
- Do your laundry throughout the week instead of washing everything on one day
3. Protect your tank. Septic systems aren’t indestructible. Do not put anything heavy on the ground over your tank or drain field like a shed, parked car or RV, cement, asphalt, or above ground pool. This can damage the tank and pipes and compromise the effectiveness of the drain field.
Protecting the inside of your system is just as important as the outside. Here is a list of some common items that should not go down your drains or toilets:
- fats, greases,or oils
- coffee grounds
- kitchen waste (such as egg shells or bones)
- paper towels
- hair combings
- dental floss
- gauze bandages
- disposable diapers
- tampons (even the ones that claim they are flushable)
- sanitary napkins
- panty liners
- cigarette butts
- kitty litter
- paint thinners
- photographic solutions
- waste oil
Avoid installing or using an existing garbage disposal in your home:
- Garbage disposals can cause clogs to develop in the drain field that leads to more waste water. When this happens, tanks will require service more often and can cause your system to back up and destroy your home. This is because there are the wrong kind of bacteria in the tank to digest vegetable matter, causing it to build up in the tank faster. If you have/use a garbage disposal it’s highly recommended that you get your septic system pumped out at a minimum annually.
Use septic-safe products:
- Use environmentally safe soaps as much as possible. For example, dish soap, or hand soap.
- Use septic-safe toilet paper.
- We recommend that you use one packet of per month. To help digest the cellulose in toilet paper.
Provide good maintenance around the tank:
- Cut down all large trees and shrubs near tank and drain (leach field). Keep it clear of roots; the roots of trees can damage pipes and the tank. Be especially careful of trees with aggressive roots such as willow trees.
Facts About About Your Septic System
(this section is an excerpt of the brochure, for the full printable version click here)
The Wisconsin Liquid Waste Carriers
Association, Inc. has prepared this brochure
to help you prevent septic system problems.
If you own a septic system, protect your
investment in your home. Take a few minutes
now to learn about the location, operation and
maintenance of your septic system.
Protect Your Investment
[cryout-multi][cryout-column width=”1/2″]If your septic system has ever overflowed
or clogged, you realize the importance of
maintaining a waste disposal system properly.
A malfunctioning septic system is not just
unpleasant, it is also dangerous and expensive.
The following information will help you to
understand your system and prevent problems.
The above sketch shows a single septic tank.
You system may consist of one, two or more
septic tanks, possibly followed by a lift pump
tank. All of the tanks should be cleaned during
routine maintenance. The cleaning must be
done through the manhole cover (approx. 24″
diameter) and not through the small inspection
If your septic system was installed after
mid-year 2000, you will have a filter device
in place of a conventional outlet baffle. This
filter should be checked approximately three to
six months after your system is installed and a
cleaning schedule should be developed based
on your household size and/or usage. Filters
many also be located in the pump chamber or
in line outside the septic tank.
Danger: Septic Tanks Must Not Be
Entered Without Proper Equipment
and Training [/cryout-column]How Does a Septic System Work?
The purpose of a septic tank is to treat
household wastes: body wastes, kitchen waste,
laundry and bath water. The minimal use of
bleaches, detergents and soaps do not harm the
As waste enters the tank, solids settle to the
bottom, where naturally occurring bacterial
processes reduce the solids.
Liquid wastes and scum rise to the top of the
tank, where a baffle or outlet filter retains the
scum. Liquids flow to the distribution system
and then are absorbed and treated by the soil.
To operate properly, a septic tank must be
designed and constructed to suit the individual
needs of the homeowner. The homeowner must
anticipate the number of household occupants
and install a system of appropriate size and
design in accordance with local and state
plumbing codes. The tank must be watertight.
If the tank is too small to accommodate
the waste received in a given time it will
overload—forcing solids from the tank into the
Solids may clog the drainfield, blocking the
flow of liquid to the soil. The result? Odor,
sewer back-ups, malfunctions, and expense. [cryout-column width=”1/2″][/cryout-column][/cryout-multi]
[cryout-multi][cryout-column width=”1/2″]Septic System Care
Have your system cleaned and checked on
a regular basis, generally every two to three
years, and more often if you have a large
family, and/or use a garbage disposal. (Garbage
disposal is not recommended.)
Do Not Put the Following Items Down
your Drains or Toilet:
Alternate Location (manhole)
Baffle or Filter
If you have questions about septic tank
additives talk to your service provider.
Common questions about
How do I know if I’m having a problem?
• Wet spots over the seepage area or
• Odor in the home
• Finding the toilet empty of water
• Gurgling drains
• Puddle or ring around the basement
• High water alarm (lift pump system)
How do I maximize the life of my system?
• Conserve water, and repair leaky faucets
• Spread laundry out over the week, but always
load the washer completely
• Install water-conserving fixtures
• Divert rainwater runoff away from manhole
covers and seepage area
• Do not have or use a garbage disposal [/cryout-column] [cryout-column width=”1/2″]Have a plan for your septic system.
Prior to the design and installation of your
system, consider these points:
IMPORTANT: Provide convenient access
for cleaning and repairs to the system. Both
long distances and elevation differences are
• Locate the system to allow for future decks,
landscaping, home additions, pools, etc.
• Locate the systems where it cannot
endanger the water supply system.
• Do not drive over the tank or system.
• If the tank or piping is built under an area
crossed by sidewalks, paths, dog pens, etc.,
it must be insulated to prevent freezing.
• The dispersal system (seepage bend) must
be able to absorb the liquid wastes in all
• Do not plant trees near your system.
• Any exposed manhole cover must have an
effective locking device, warning label, and
be 4″ above grade (top of riser). It is the
property owner’s responsibility to keep the
Prior to cleaning, it is suggested that:
• The manholes are uncovered but not removed
• A water hose is available.
• Children and pets are supervised.
Make cleaning and maintenance of your septic
system easy. Draw a picture of your system
showing its location in relation to your home,
as well as the location of the tank manholes
and the piping and leaching system.
“Septic systems are affordable, easy to maintain and environmentally friendly.
Maintaining a properly-cared-for septic system will include
pumping and cleaning. When compared to city or municipal sewers, septic
systems are extremely affordable. Please note that pumping fees might
reflect external factors, such as disposal costs, that are not in control of
the pumpers.”[/cryout-column] [/cryout-multi]
Wisconsin Liquid Waste
Carriers Association, Inc.
10 E. Doty St., Ste. 523
Madison, WI 53703