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Frequently Asked Septic & Drain Questions

Q: Can I put an additive in my tank instead of pumping it out?
A: There is no additive that you can put in the tank that will deal with the sludge.  Some of the material in the tank is not biodegradable.  It must be pumped out.  If not pumped out, the sludge will eventually overflow into the soil absorption area and clog the system.

Q: How often should I have my septic system cleaned?
A: This will depend on the number of people in your household, the amount of wastewater generated and the volume of solids in the wastewater (e.g., using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids).  For the areas of Prince William County and Fairfax County, state and county laws mandate cleaning the septic tank every 3-5 years.  For optimum performance, we recommend every 2½-3 years.

Q: I recently had my tanked pumped out.  Why is it full already?
A: Septic tanks are designed to operate full for proper water/solids separation.  It is necessary for the tank to be full for this to occur.

Q: Are there certain items that I shouldn't flush down the drain or toilet?
A: There are many items that can overtax or destroy the biological digestion taking place within a system, or clog pumps and pipes.  Do not use the septic system for disposal of anything that can easily be put into the trash.  Some examples of items that should not be flushed are: hair combings, coffee grounds, diapers, kitty litter, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, condoms, paper towels, fat or oil, dental floss and bandages.  Never flush chemicals of any kind, such as paints and pesticides.

Q: Is there anything I can do to protect my septic tank?
A: To protect and prolong the life of your septic system:

  • Do not drive over the drain field
  • Do not plant trees or shrubbery in the drain field area - roots can clog the lines
  • Do not cover the drain field with hard surfaces - grass is the best cover
  • Divert surface runoff water from other areas away from the drain field
  • Use water sparingly and replace plumbing fixtures with high-efficiency models when possible
  • Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks
  • Don't put a lot of water into the system at one time; space out your laundry
  • Use toilet paper that is biodegradable
  • Never tie a water softener into a septic system