Maintaining Your Septic System

Maintaining Your Septic System

What makes a good septic system?

A properly designed, constructed, functioning and maintained septic system protects human and environmental health. This includes, but is not limited to surface water, groundwater and soil quality in the immediate vicinity of the proposed onsite wastewater system site. A good habit to adopt is an annual inspection of and maintenance of your onsite wastewater system to help ensure a well-balanced, working septic system.

Wastewater 101

Whether you live in a rural area and have your own onsite wastewater system or your house is hooked up to a municipal wastewater system, everyone needs to be conscious of what we flush down the toilet and dump down the drain. Your toilet and sink drains are not meant to be garbage disposals, and while the end point of your septic system is like a “black hole,” it is not a case of out of sight, out of mind. The end result of flushing/dumping anything and everything down your toilet or drain will cause undue stress on and/or malfunctioning of the septic system.

Regardless of what type of wastewater system your home is hooked up to, minimizing solids and grease in wastewater will improve overall system performance. Solids and grease add to the sludge and scum layers in the septic tank or lagoon, making it necessary to have a septic tank pumped/lagoons dredged more often. Solids such as human waste and food waste add to the organic load in the system. Too much organic matter can produce an unbalanced or over loading of the system, resulting in inadequate wastewater treatment. Problems can include clogged pipes, clogged filter screens, or a clogged and/or saturated drain field.

Septic Tanks

  • Have a Nebraska Certified Pumper pump it regularly - every 2-3 years is common, but more often may be needed. Ask them to also inspect the tank to assure baffles are not damaged;
  • Keep records of pumping – how much was pumped and date;
  • No, Rid-X type products CANNOT replace septic tank pumping & WILL NOT solve septic tank problems;
  • Inspect ports & manhole covers making sure they are not damaged; and
  • No sidewalks, drives, patios, or buildings should be located over the septic tank to protect the tank integrity.

Drainfields include lateral and mounds systems

  • Avoid driving vehicles and other heavy objects on the footprint of a drainfield. Drainfield soil needs to remain uncompacted for effective and efficient final treatment of the effluent from a septic tank;
  • Do not locate animal confinement areas over a drainfield to avoid soil compaction;
  • No sidewalks, drives, patios, or buildings should be located over drainfield; and
  • Maintain perennial grass cover over a drainfield to prevent erosion.


  • Keep fence around the lagoon intact and maintained;
  • Keep grass on berm mowed;
  • Don’t allow trees to grow on the berm or in the lagoon; and
  • Manage the vegetation in lagoon to allow good airflow and sunlight to reach the water surface.

Annual inspection and maintenance of your system will help ensure human and environmental health and prevent costly repairs and headaches. For more information on wastewater systems, check out UNL Extension’s wastewater publications at:

This article was reviewed by Bruce Dvorak

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