Operation & Maintenance

Now that you know how a lagoon works, here is what you need to do to operate and maintain your system for maximum efficiency and long life.

Health precautions:

  • Minimize your exposure to wastewater - it contains disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
  • Wear waterproof gloves, wash hands or shower, and disinfect breaks in skin after exposure to wastewater.

Manage Solids


  • They may clog the plumbing.


  • Dispose of cigarette butts, facial tissue, diapers, paper toweling, and feminine products with other solid waste in the trash.
  • Don't put grease and oil down the drain. They may clog the plumbing.

Keep hazardous materials out


  • The lagoon is a natural system that depends on a balance of living organisms in order to treat wastewater.
  • Lagoon systems are not designed to treat products like pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides), medication, paints, paint thinners, solvents, and excess cleaning products.
  • Hazardous materials may cause system failure by slowing down or killing beneficial organisms.


  • Don't overuse or dispose of excess materials such as pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides), medication, paints, paint thinners, solvents, and cleaning products down the drain.
  • The system can handle normal amounts of household cleaning products, including antibacterial soaps. Excessive use may be harmful to the system. Dispose of excess amounts at a household hazardous waste collection.
  • Avoid using automatic toilet cleaning dispensers containing bleach. These introduce a constant antibacterial agent that can inhibit treatment in the lagoon.

Manage vegetation

  • Inside the fence: Plant the dike area inside the fence to perennial grass to prevent erosion. Cut frequently to 3 inches, with a maximum height of 6 inches.
  • Outside the fence: Plant the dike area outside the fence to perennial grass. This grass can be maintained at a height greater than the 3 to 6 inches recommended within the fence.
  • There must be nothing taller than the dike within 50 feet of the dike. This includes trees, bushes and tall grasses as well as structures. Adequate air movement over the lagoon is necessary for evaporation to occur.

Monitor and manage the water level

Monitor and manage the water level. Check the liquid depth the same time each month. Keep a log for your own records.

  • Maintain a 2 - 5 foot liquid depth. This provides for aerobic and anaerobic layers, and prevents plants from establishing in the lagoon. You may need to add water during dry spells to maintain the required minimum 2-foot depth.
  • Maintain a 1-foot freeboard, the distance between the highest level of the wastewater and the top of the dike.

Some homeowners with homes having several bedrooms but few occupants may not be able to keep their large lagoons at the minimum level.

  • This occurs because the lagoon was properly sized for the number of bedrooms, and the amount of wastewater that would be generated if fully occupied.
  • For these situations, a lagoon can be built with two cells. The first cell is maintained at 2- to 5- feet depth if occupants generate low to moderate wastewater volumes. Both the first and second cells are used with high wastewater generation rates.

Check and Repair Lagoon Structures

Check and repair structures monthly.

  • Check the fence and repair holes, gaps or sags that would allow children or pets into the area. Check the gate to ensure that it fits well.
  • Check the lock and replace it if it isn't working properly.
  • Check the dike. Repair it if necessary to maintain the same height and shape as when built.
  • Repair any damage to the dike caused by rodents and burrowing animals.
  • Maintain a cover of perennial grass.

Annual maintenance

On a yearly basis:

  • Have a professional check the sludge depth near the center of the lagoon.
  • Maintain at least 18 inches of water above the sludge.
  • Repair leaks due to erosion, vegetation, animals, etc.

Keep records

Keep records of:

  • Lagoon water levels
  • repairs to lagoon
  • and structures and maintenance for your use as well as if you sell the property.

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