Source: Sherman Publications

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Getting to know your well and septic systems

by Susan Bromley

October 30, 2013

By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- Get the scoop on how to maintain your water well and septic system on Monday night during a program at the library.

The Oakland County Health Division will present "Maintaining your private well and septic system," at 7 p.m., Nov. 4, at the library, 304 South St.

"The purpose of the program is to introduce people to the basics of well and septic systems to understand and help take care of them," said Mark Hansell, OCHD chief of environmental health special programs. "We want the message of maintenance to get out to everyone, whether you are a new homeowner or have been on well and septic for years. Come and learn how to maintain your systems."

The presentation will be a team approach— with registered water well contractors and licensed septic installers. The program is not a sales pitch.

Hansell said a member of the Michigan Groundwater Association will talk about well components, how wells work, and maintenance. Homeowners should know the location of their well so they can check the well cap and assure that it is tight-fitting to keep out contaminants. Residents should be able to get between 8 and 10 gallons of draw down from the pressure tank inside the home before the pump kicks on again. The presenters will talk about ways to test the pump or pressure tank that can show problems.

The second part of the presentation will address septic concerns, including components, how it works, and how to keep it working. Having the septic pumped as recommended is key. On average, a septic system should be pumped every three to five years. Hansell also said fixing leaking faucets and spreading out laundry days will also help the life of a septic field.

"Don't save all the laundry for Sunday, it's a lot of water for a septic field to absorb," he said. "You could be using more water than the soil can absorb, which can lead to backups or overflow outside."

While doing laundry or using the dishwasher, he also recommends using liquid detergent rather than powder, which can recombine and be a clogging factor in the tank. Hansell also advises against using the garbage disposal, which can introduce small particles into the septic system, flowing out to the drain field and also causing clogs. Flushing baby wipes is also a no-no.

The third and final segment of the presentation will be a brief discussion of the health division's role in regulating wells and septic systems and the process residents go through to install or replace a system.

"Septic systems fail eventually," said Hansell. "It depends on water use in the house, soils on the property, other site conditions like the water table in the soil, and how well you take care of it. One of the points of this presentation is trying to help you know what to do to get the most life out of your system as possible. The average life of a septic system in Oakland County is 15 to 20 years, it could be much less or much more, depending."

Details: 248-627-1461 or