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Main Content
Septic System

Septic System

Reprinted from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

If you have acreage, chances are pretty good that you have a septic tank. A properly maintained septic system can last a long time if you take steps to safeguard it. 

Keep these do’s and don’ts from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in mind: 


  • Conserve water to avoid overloading the system. 
  • Learn the location of your septic tank and drain field. Keep a sketch of it handy with your maintenance records for service visits. 
  • Cover the drain field with grass to prevent erosion and remove excess water. 
  • Keep your septic tank cover accessible for inspections and pumpings. Install risers if necessary. 
  • Keep a detailed record of repairs, pumpings, inspections, permits issued, and other maintenance activities. 
  • Divert other sources of water, such as roof drains, house footing drains, and sump pumps away from the septic system. Excessive water keeps the soil in the drain field from naturally cleansing the wastewater. 
  • Have your septic tank pumped out regularly by a licensed contractor. 
  • Call a professional whenever you experience problems with your system, or if there are any signs of system failure.  


  • Flush material that will not easily decompose, such as hair, diapers, cigarette butts, matches, feminine hygiene products, or cotton swabs. 
  • Wash or flush medicines or hazardous chemicals such as paint, paint thinner, and bleach into the system. They kill the bacteria needed to decompose wastes in the septic tank and drain field. 
  • Drive over the septic tank or drainfield. 
  • Flush flushable wipes. Many septic tank pumpers and city public works employees are finding they don’t break down. 
  • Plant anything over or near the drain field except grass. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs may clog and damage drain lines. 
  • Dig in your drain field or build anything over it. 
  • Cover the drain field with a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt. 
  • Make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining the required permit. Use professionally licensed septic contractors when needed. 
  • Allow backwash from home water softeners or condensate from an air conditioner or heat pump to enter the septic system. 
  • Enter your tank. Any work to the tank should be done from outside. Gases that can be generated in the tank and/or oxygen depletion can be fatal. 

Signs of septic system failure

  • Pools of water or soggy spots, foul odors, and/or dark gray or black soils in the area of your drainfield.
  • Sewage backs up into the lowest drains in the house. 
  • Gurgling of drains, slow drainage (check for clogs first). 
  • Soapy discharges onto the ground surface, ditches, or surface waters. 
  • The ground is too soft to mow over the drainfield.