Tips for Taking Care of Your Septic System

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With the return of long, sunshine-filled days and warmer temperatures, a lot of us have been spending more time outside; including in our yards! If you live on a property with a septic system, this puts you, your family, and pets, up close and personal with your home’s wastewater treatment system for better or worse.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Septic System This Summer (and beyond!)

  • Inspect it! All septic systems are required by WAC 246-272A to have an inspection by a Certified Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Provider. Most septic systems require annual inspections (pressure, pump to gravity, alternative systems, mounds etc.) however, conventional gravity systems can be inspected every 3 years. There is no exemption for seasonal use, so if you have a “summer cabin” plan your inspection while you’re visiting this summer.
  • Protect your drain field. Do you know where your drain field is? Your system’s drain field requires oxygen to adequately treat effluent. Take some time to find out where the different components of your septic system are by checking records available on Property One Stop. Once you know where your drain field is, do you need to divert downspouts away from it? Should you put up some rocks or a log to prevent people from driving over it? Does your chicken coop or garden planters need to be moved?
  • Ensure access by installing risers. One of the most common frustrations with inspections (and an added expense) is accessing your septic tank. If you’re lucky it may only be a few inches below grade, but some systems may be 2-3′ below ground making digging and accessing the tank lids a literal pain in the back. Take the drier summer months to dig down one last time and install risers! These green plastic tubes are sealed to your tank top to provide a watertight seal, and the circular green lids are screwed on. This means accessing your tank is as easy as pulling out your screwdriver!
  • Learn more about how your septic system works in our 40-minute Septics 101 online class. This no-cost online course will provide some good pointers for you and your family and is a required class to qualify for our rebate! If you don’t have internet access, you can take this class at any local library.

A septic system is a huge investment for your property. Every septic system is designed to operate for 30-50 years, but eventually all septic systems will fail. A new system could run from $10-50,000+ depending on the soil conditions and previous development on your property. Required, routine inspections provide you with information about your system’s status, alert you to any maintenance issues that need to be addressed and can inform you if pumping is needed.

Septic System Resources

Have questions or want more information about septic systems and maintenance? Give Skagit County Public Health a call at (360) 416-1500 or email

4 thoughts on “Tips for Taking Care of Your Septic System

  1. It’s true that my uncle recently expanded his farm and added a new field further away from his existing water source. To ensure efficient irrigation and livestock water supply for the new area, he’s now looking into getting a powerful water pump that can handle the increased demand. I feel like he knows that you, your family, and your pets will be up close and personal with your home’s wastewater treatment system if you reside on a property with a septic system, for better or worse. I’ll send him this anyway just to be sure so thanks.

  2. A wet mess of sewage water was collecting around the yard owing to a septic tank overflow, which my sister encountered as she went out to the backyard one rainy morning. The smell was much worse. She immediately began looking for a septic tank pumping service to handle the unpleasant problem as a result of this upsetting experience. I hope she remembers that although septic systems are expensive investments for properties, they are all expected to last between 30 and 50 years before failing.

  3. I appreciate that you described why the majority of septic systems (pressure, pump to gravity, alternative systems, mounds, etc.) need annual inspections. However, every three years, typical gravity systems can be assessed. In light of this, I will make sure to service our septic tank within the coming week. Since we had it installed four years ago, it has never been maintained, and our house has started to smell bad.

  4. My parents are proud that they own a septic tank that makes their life so much easier. This is why they want a reliable septic tank cleaning service that will help keep it running. I hope they’re aware that oxygen is necessary for the drain field of your system to properly process wastewater. You said to check the data on Property One Stop to determine the locations of the various parts of your septic system.

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