Septic systems in North Carolina and Asheville NC
Sourced from a great educational site www.soil.ncsu.edu - click here for more information Remember that information can always become out of date or subject to new legislation - if you are buying a home be sure to have the septic system inspected by a professional in that area. If you use a septic system, or if you are buying a home with a septic system, this owner's guide can help you be sure that your septic system is used and maintained properly. This folder also provides a place to record and keep important information, such as a copy of your permit, a sketch of your system, maintenance records, and other
Sourced from a great educational site www.soil.ncsu.edu - click here for more information
Remember that information can always become out of date or subject to new legislation - if you are buying a home be sure to have the septic system inspected by a professional in that area.
If you use a septic system, or if you are buying a home with a septic system, this owner's guide can help you be sure that your septic system is used and maintained properly. This folder also provides a place to record and keep important information, such as a copy of your permit, a sketch of your system, maintenance records, and other
Many different kinds of septic systems are used in North Carolina, but most of the 1.2 million systems used are slight modifications of the conventional septic system. This type has a septic tank and a drainfield with gravel-filled trenches (usually two to
Cooperative Extension Service publication
Other types of systems include pump to conventional systems, pressure manifold systems, low pressure pipe (LPP) systems, and aerobic treatment unit (ATU) systems. These types of systems normally have pumps, electrical floats and controls, alarms, or other mechanical parts that are sure to fail without maintenance. For this reason, state rules have specific maintenance requirements for a number of
Your local Health Department can tell you what type of system you have and what legal requirements there are for long-term maintenance of that system. You may be required to have an operation permit from the Health Department and a maintenance contract with an approved "management entity" (organization). The management organization could be a certified septic system operator or a public agency involved in wastewater management. These activities will result in monthly or yearly system maintenance fees for homeowners, but they also should help improve the longevity and performance of
To properly maintain your septic system, you should know the location of both the septic tank and the drainfield. Contact the local Health Department for a copy of your septic system permit and soil evaluation sheet, which will indicate the approximate location of the system and the size of the tank. Keep these items in a file folder.
A good starting point for finding the tank is to look in the crawl space to see the direction in which the house sewer pipe enters the soil. Then, gently push a thin (3/8- to
Most housing sites are legally required to have a repair area in which a second drainfield could be built if needed. This repair area is identified when the site is permitted. The law also requires you to protect this area from excavation, building, swimming pool construction, and other land-moving activities.
Sketch your home, septic system, repair area, and other important features (such as your driveway) on the grid labeled Septic System Layout. When you have your septic tank pumped, measure and record the distance from the house to the access port on the tank. This will help you find it again. You may also wish to mark the location of your tank and boundaries of your drainfield in
Unfortunately, if house fixtures drain well, many people are not concerned about whether their septic system is working properly. They don't realize that untreated sewage can be a health hazard. If your system shows signs of problems, contact your local Health Department immediately. They will diagnose the problem and prescribe changes or additions that must be made to repair
State law requires that you get a permit from the Health Department before repairing a failing septic system. It is important that the system is repaired as soon as possible to minimize the health risk to your family and community.
Before planning a maintenance program, find out what maintenance has already been done. If you are buying an existing home, ask the seller a few important questions If the house has just been built, ask the septic system contractor to provide you an "as built" diagram that may show details not on the permit. If you have an LPP system, ask the contractor and Health Department to provide details concerning the initial pump delivery rate and pressure head they set up when the pressure distribution network was approved Proper care of your septic system requires day-to-day management as well as periodic maintenance
If the house has just been built, ask the septic system contractor to provide you an "as built" diagram that may show details not on the permit. If you have an LPP system, ask the contractor and Health Department to provide details concerning the initial pump delivery rate and pressure head they set up when the pressure distribution network was approved
Proper care of your septic system requires day-to-day management as well as periodic maintenance
- The drainfield does not have unlimited capacity.
- The typical daily water use is
50 gallonsper person.
- The soil drainfield has a maximum design capacity of
120 gallonsper bedroom. When near capacity, systems may not work.
- Overloads can occur seasonally or daily.
- Water conservation will extend the life of
- Don't use your septic tank as a trash can for cigarette butts, tissues, sanitary napkins, cotton swabs, cat box litter, coffee grinds, or
- Restrict the use of your garbage disposal.
- Don't put grease or cooking oil into the system.
- Don't poison your system with harmful chemicals such as solvents, oils, paints, thinners, disinfectants, pesticides, poisons, and other substances. They can kill bacteria that help purify sewage and can also contaminate groundwater.
- Save money. Commercial septic tank additives are not necessary. The bacteria needed for partially decomposing the tank solids are naturally present in sewage. Even if you use additives, you will still need to pump the solids out of
- Keep the soil over the drainfield covered with vegetation to prevent soil erosion.
- Be careful not to mow the lateral turnups off of
- Don't drive heavy vehicles over the system.
- Avoid construction over the system and repair area.
- Maintain the natural shape of the land immediately downslope of the system, and protect this area from excavation (cutting
- Don't cover the tank or drainfield with asphalt
- Don't put in a separate pipe to carry wash waters to a side ditch or the woods. This graywater contains germs that can
|Preventive Maintenance Record|
|Your Septic System Installer|
|Date System Installed|
|Your Septic System Pumper|
- Repair dripping faucets and toilets.
- Cut down and remove trees that like wet conditions. Treat the stumps to prevent
- Landscape the yard to divert surface waters away from the tank and drainfield.
- Be sure that the water from the roof, gutters, and foundation drains does not flow over
- Install an interceptor ditch, if needed.
- Maintain drainage ditches, subsurface tiles, and drainage outlets so that water can
- Install a concrete riser (or manhole) over the tank if it is buried
6 inchesor deeper, to provide easy access for measuring and pumping solids.
- Keep track of how quickly sludge and scum accumulate in
- Have solids pumped out of the tank
- Don't wait until your drainfield fails to have your tank pumped. By then, the drainfield may be ruined. With septic systems, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton
- Cooperative Extension Service publication
AG-439-13,Septic Systems and Their Maintenance, contains more information on pumping frequency.
- Hire a certified operator when required by law, as in
- Low pressure pipe (LPP) systems installed or repaired after
July 1, 1992.
- Aerobic treatment unit systems.
- Some other complex systems.
- Be sure the pump, electrical controls, floats, and alarm on your LPP, ATU, pump to conventional, or pressure manifold system continue working properly between scheduled
- Work carefully and safely. Sewage contains germs that can cause diseases. Never enter a septic tank. Toxic and explosive gases in the tank present a hazard. Old tanks may collapse. Electrical controls present a shock and spark hazard. Secure the septic tank lid so that children cannot
- Don't attempt to repair a failing system yourself. Get a repair permit from the Health Department and hire an experienced contractor.
For more information about septic systems, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service center. The following publications are available:
- AG-439-11, Soilfacts: Management of Single Family and Small Community Wastewater Treatment and
- AG-439-12, Soilfacts: Investigate Before
- AG-439-13, Soilfacts: Septic Systems and Their Maintenance
- About Septic Systems: What You Need to Know
This fact sheet is based upon a concept used by Dersch and Rhoads of the Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service and Lopes of the University of Massachusetts Cooperative
The North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources (Division of Environmental Health), members of the On-Site Sewage Program Advisory Committee, and local county Extension and Health Department Staff members provided technical review and
This publication was supported in part by the North Carolina Septic Tank Association.