Septic Maintenance Key Component To Protecting Watershed

ASHVILLE – Septic system maintenence isn’t the most glamorous part of being a homeowner, however it’s one of the most critical.

On Wednesday, the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission held the first session of two, intended to educate homeowners on improved wastewater management. The focus for this session was septic tank health and maintenence, and how well maintained septic systems can reduce the amount of sediment and phosphorous that enters the lake.

The meeting features lectures from representatives of several different organizations, such as: Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County watershed coordinator; Tom Erlandson, Chautauqua Lake Management Commission; Bob Eichinger, Onside Engineering LLC; Mark Stow, Division of Environmental Health director; Paul Snyder, Bryan Mently and Bill Boria, Department of Health; and Sri Vedachalam, Cornell University.

While the event lasted three hours, there was one message which resonated through the entire event: good septic system maintenence requires a septic inspection every 6-12 months.

According to Eichinger, the first step in actively maintaining a septic system is identifying whether or not a septic system already has a problem. Signs of malfunctioning septic systems include: gurgling sounds from toilets, slow draining sinks, tubs and showers, wastewater backing up into household drains or basements, strong foul odors around the septic tank, surface ponding around the septic tank, soft or soggy soil where dispersal fields are located, long strips of darker green grass in dispersal field even in dry weather, and aquatic vegetation growth in waterfront properties.

“A visual inspection of a septic system is always a good idea,” said Eichinger. “Knowing where your septic system is very important, because there are things you should never do around a septic system. Never park or drive a car over a septic system. Never dispose of non-biodegradable items down a drain. Spread washing clothes out over a whole week to keep from overloading a system. Finally, keep a record of your septic system. If you’re buying a house and the seller doesn’t know where their septic system is, that’s a terrible sign, because it means the previous owner probably never bothered to pump that system.”

The rest of the meeting was spent discussing options for septic system replacement, including high-efficiency septic systems and county laws regarding where and how systems must be installed. For full access to the event’s lecture notes, visit wri.eas.cornell.edu/NYSP2I_workshops.html.