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Maintaining an evapotranspiration system

Maintaining an Evapotranspiration / Absorption Septic System

As a rule of thumb, evapotranspiration/absorption systems are underground and out of sight. However, out-of-mind is a very risky approach to operating and maintaining your system. Think of your septic system as a living biological unit that works for you.

You keep it healthy and it keeps you happy. Long-term efficient operation of your system is directly dependent upon how you maintain it. The septic system serving your home is not a permanent or lifetime unit.

It will fail if not properly maintained. A failing system can cause serious health risks and degradation of the environment and are often expensive to repair. To ensure continued effective operation, have your septic tank and system inspected annually.


Under average conditions, you should have your septic tank pumped out every 3-5 years. However a number of factors impact the frequency of pumping.

  • Don't put large quantities of bleaches, disinfectants, whiteners, nappy soakers and spot cleaners into your system.
  • Don't allow any foreign materials such as nappies, sanitary napkins, condoms or other hygiene products to enter the system.
  • Don't put fats and oils down the drain.
  • Don't allow large quantities of water to flushed through the system, e.g. Space washing loads, spa baths.

All these factors can contribute to more frequent pump outs.

Maintain Your Land Application Area

The effectiveness of the land application area is also governed by the activities of the owner. Regular maintenance is essential in prolonging the life of the system.

  • Do construct and maintain diversion drains on the top side of the application area to divert surface water runoff.
  • Do ensure your trench/transpiration area is kept level by filling any depressions with good quality top soil.
  • Do keep grass regularly mowed to aid absorption and transpiration of the effluent.
  • Do fence your land application area to avoid it being driven on or trampled by stock movement.
  • Don't erect any structures, paths, graze animals or drive over the area.
  • Don't plant large trees or shrubs that shade the trench area, as sunlight is needed to aid the transpiration process, also tree roots can block pipes and trenches.

Reducing water usage in your home will lessen the likelihood of problems such as overloading your septic system. Overloading may result in wastewater backing up into your house, contamination of your yard with improperly treated effluent or effluent from your system contaminating ground-water in nearby creeks, rivers or dams.

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