Lord Fairfax Health District Offers Tips for Taking Care of Septic Systems

Sept. 12, 2017

For More Information: Lorrie Andrew-Spear, Northern Region PIO, 703-530-2627


SepticSmart Week is September 18- 22, 2017

(WINCHESTER, Va.) – One in four households in the U.S. has a septic system. It’s not something we think about – until something goes wrong. Everyday habits and regular maintenance can keep the system running smoothly and prevent harmful and costly damages.

The Lord Fairfax Health District and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are joining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for SepticSmart Week, September 18 to 22. SepticSmart Week is an annual outreach initiative that teaches homeowners and communities how to properly care for and maintain septic systems.

VDH estimates there are one million homes in Virginia served by septic systems, which are also called onsite sewage systems. Failure to maintain and service a home’s septic system can lead to system backups and overflows. This can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways, and risks to public health and the environment.

The EPA recommends having your system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and getting the septic tank pumped every three to five years. Now is the time to schedule your septic system service and inspection – long before the winter holiday season when licensed inspectors’ schedules often fill up. Septic system failures are common during the holidays when soil may be saturated, plants use less water, and more people are in the home using the system.

“Improving sanitation, specifically keeping human waste separated from people and their food and water supplies, was one of the major public health advances of the twentieth century, contributing to a great reduction in death and illness from infectious disease, and a significant rise in life expectancy.  We encourage everyone to take action to ensure your septic system functions properly. No one wants to deal with disruptive and often costly repairs. Taking a few easy steps to maintain your septic system will protect your home, your family’s health, the environment and your property value,” says Colin Greene, M.D., MPH, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District.

For more information about proper care and maintenance of your septic system, see the tips below, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/septicsmart-week-2017 or water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/septicsmart.cfm or contact the Lord Fairfax Health District’s Environmental Health Office.

  • Think at the sink. Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. This can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
  • Don’t overload the commode. Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Items that can clog and potentially damage septic systems include coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter.
  • Don’t strain your drain. Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products, and run laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day – not all at the same time. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn’t been pumped recently.
  • Shield your field. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield. A vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.
  • Test your drinking water well. If you are on a well, test your water.