Where Did We Go Wrong?

As interesting or routine as it may seem, there are instances when we should have warned the home owner about routine maintenance instead of evaluating a prematurely failed septic system. We show up during an emergency and diagnose the problem instead of warning the client ahead of time as to what could have prevented the problem.

When a rental property overloads the septic system and the property owner is not cooperative, the simple solution of replacing leaky toilet parts now becomes a costly drainfield replacement. There are situations where people use more water, and discharge more wastewater than what the system is designed for. They pay the water bill, overlook the recent history of the water usage consumption data and ignore the occurrence of excessive flow entering the septic system.

Practices such as consecutive loads of laundry and allowances to cater to guests, extra people or even a large family seem normal. However, in time, a septic system, which was designed to handle a specific flow becomes overloaded and fails. When sewage ponds in the yard or backs up inside, this should serve as a warning that there is a situation in need of immediate attention. Or when the high water alarm sounds and is ignored, it makes you think where did we go wrong in telling those we have served that if conditions such as these arise? They should be dealt with.

Sadly, though, an ongoing sanitary nuisance becomes a normal practice in some households. They deal with the continuing occurrences of sewage backing up into the house, or, more often, overflowing into the yard. The client should be reminded that conditions such as these are a threat to public health and personal safety.

If you’ve bought a new car or truck recently you will note that the automobile dealers are constantly sending you informational newsletters, service updates and coupons for service. They are constantly trying to improve the automobile buying experience through education of their customers. A simple postcard, email, or phone call can be used to remind customers of issues like having their septic tanks pumped routinely, their filters cleaned, advising them to conserve water and not to pour grease down the drain, as well as reminding them not drive on the septic system, pave over the drainfield, and plant trees or bushes in the drainfield area. Remind the client of routine maintenance. If there was no mention that loads of laundry should be spaced out and the system was just serviced for an overuse condition, we neglected to advise what to do to prevent the condition from reoccurring.

The client must be advised if an outlet filter device is installed, and they must know where the device is located, how often it requires service and who to contact to clean the filter. There are many instances in which the occupant is unaware that there is a septic tank in the yard and where it is located. When the alarm is going off, sewage is ponding in the yard, and the toilets are operating with open flappers, it should remind us to inform and educate the client before these problems occur.

There are instances when a sewer flow meter may be installed to warn the client of intermittent periods of surge or the potential to conserve water when peak flows occur. A visible readout would notify the user of the sewage flow. Your advice to the client should affirm that your future involvement could be a positive experience instead of responding to an emergency.

Albert Royster is an Environmental Specialist with Volusia County Health Department in Deland, FL.

Story by Albert Royster

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