Septic systems are here to stay

Many onsite waste water treatment systems were installed as a temporary solution. These systems are still in use today and need proper use and maintenance to protect them.

There are over 1.2 million onsite waste water treatment (septic) systems in Michigan. That’s approximately 43 percent of all Michigan residents with onsite septic systems. Many of these systems were installed in the 1950’s and 1960’s or earlier. They were seen as a temporary solution – “until the sewer comes.” Over fifty (or more) years later, in many cases, the sewer still hasn’t come and probably isn’t going to either.

In an ideal world, a septic system would hold the solid waste and fats, oils and greases in the septic tank until it was pumped out by the professional hauler. The effluent (liquid waste) would leave the tank and go to the drain field where it is dispersed through a series of perforated pipes into the ground which filters any contaminants out before it reaches ground or surface water.

In the real world, homeowners and businesses want to construct septic systems in areas that are not always suitable for proper functioning of a septic system, such as areas with high water tables, dense clay soil and sandy soil or shallow wells. How do you use and maintain an onsite waste water system in less than ideal conditions?

Sometimes you can alter the system to work in a less than ideal situation. In other cases, the property owner will need to work with the county Health Department and a design consultant to find an alternative system that will work on the property.

Michigan State University Extension is offering a Septic System Use and Maintenance Workshop on Monday, March 7 beginning at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Orion Township Library, 825 Joslyn Road, Lake Orion.

This workshop will cover how a septic system functions, system use and maintenance, best management techniques to extend the system’s life, water conservation, how to detect septic failures and alternative systems. Additional septic system handouts will be available for participants.

To register for this free workshop, go online. For more information about the program or for registration assistance, call 586-469-6440. Registration is strongly encouraged as seating is limited.

Visit MSU Extension’s septic system education website for more information on this topic. 

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