Health & Fitness

Septic systems aren’t something to ignore

Question: Where does all of the wastewater from your home - including dishwater, laundry, and sewage from your bathroom - end up? If you live in town, chances are high that you are connected to the city sewer and that your wastewater goes to the LOTT sewage treatment plant for proper treatment.

However, for many people there is no central sewage collection. Those who live in rural areas, just outside of town, or in a home that is not sewer-connected send all their wastewater into a household-size, backyard sewage treatment plant, otherwise known as an on-site septic system.

Septic systems rely on the soil underneath them to treat wastewater and sewage. The treated water eventually trickles into underground aquifers, our groundwater. Nearly all of us in Thurston County rely on groundwater for our drinking water. Failing septic systems can contaminate our precious drinking water.

Septic systems come in many different sizes and styles to accommodate different houses and soils underneath the system; the age of the system also determines how it works. Although each one is unique, they share some general operating principles. All septic systems require maintenance. Maintaining a system is much less costly than having to repair or replace a failed system.

One simple way to preserve your system: Learn the location of all components of your septic system, including the drain field, then keep cars, livestock and heavy machinery off. This prevents crushed pipes, which can lead to a failed drain field.

Septic systems typically need to be inspected annually and pumped every three to five years, depending on activities inside the home. Is there just a single person living in a three-bedroom home? That person might be able to wait longer to have their system pumped. Are there three kids in the home, a mother-in-law who just moved in, and regular dinner guests? That system could benefit from a yearly inspection. Industry professionals can inspect a system and provide an estimate of how often it should be pumped.

Learn how to care for and maintain your septic system at one of two upcoming septic workshops.

At the workshops, county Public Health and Social Services staff members will offer tips for prolonging the life of your system, answer questions, and help you create a maintenance plan. Get tips for choosing a qualified pumper and ideas for how to inspect your tank yourself. Find out which household products can harm your system and what maintenance tasks can help prevent the need for expensive repairs. Take home materials, a coupon for $10 off your next tank pumping and the knowledge to properly maintain your septic system.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Contact her at 360-867-2501 or


 • 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Griffin Fire Station, 3707 Steamboat Loop N.W., Olympia.

 • 7-9 p.m. Oct. 21, McLane Fire Station #91, 125 Delphi Road N.W., Olympia.

Register online at _fpforms/ehoss/ ss_wkshp.htm or call 360-867-2582 (TDD 360-867-2603).