Septic System Maintenance Tips to Improve Water Quality

Many of Kentucky’s streams and rivers are unsafe for wading, swimming, fishing, and other forms of water recreation due to the presence of high levels of E. coli bacteria. Human sources provide the most prominent contribution to E. coli exceedances. Rural areas not serviced by municipal sewage collection systems have higher human pathogens contributions from failing septic systems or straight pipes. When bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens are released into the ground, they eventually enter waterways, harming or killing native plants, fish, and shellfish.

The following maintenance tips can help homeowners properly care for their septic systems:

  1. Locate your septic system and drain field.
  2. Have your septic system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor, and pumped every 3-5 years, depending on tank and household size.
  3. Use water efficiently and prevent leaks in the home.
  4. Don’t flush items other than human waste and toilet paper.
  5. Whether you’re at the kitchen sink, bathtub, or utility sink, never pour grease, drain cleaner, paint, or toxic chemicals down the drain.
  6. Consider eliminating or limiting the use of garbage disposals.
  7. Stagger the use of water-generating appliances. Purchase Energy Star appliances to help conserve water.
  8. Never drive or park on your drain field, and never construct decks or patios in this area.
  9. Plant trees and shrubs an appropriate distance from your drain field.
  10. Keep downspouts, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drain field area.
Adapted from EPA’s Septic Smart Guidelines:

To help improve water quality in the Dix River watershed area, Bluegrass Greensource offers homeowner workshops in Boyle, Garrard, and Lincoln Counties. Participants will learn about local watersheds and water quality, how to properly care for septic systems, and how to identify problems with septic systems. Following the workshop, participants can apply for a cost-share grant for septic system repairs, or for a free septic tank pumpout. To be eligible for the grants, homeowners must reside within the Dix River watershed in Boyle, Garrard, or Lincoln Counties.

The next free septic system workshop will be held on:
Saturday, October 17th
10:00-11:00 am
Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service
90 Corporate Drive
Danville, KY 40422

This program is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act, through the Kentucky Division of Water.

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