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Page 7 - Sanitary Sewer and Septic Systems

Many landowners within close proximity to Spring Lake have connected to an available public  sanitary sewer, which transfers waste to a treatment facility.  This is preferable to a septic system, which relies on soil filtration of the waste waters prior to entering into the ground water.

Homeowners who have sanitary sewer available and are not connected are encouraged to hook up. If sanitary sewer is not available, it is the responsibility of homeowners to keep their septic system in optimum condition.  Here are some recommendations to consider. 

1.    Know the location and components of your system. A copy of the original system diagram, if installed within the last twenty years, is available upon request by contacting the Environmental Health Division of your local health department. 

2.    Keep drain fields clear. Tree and other deeper root systems can disrupt and damage drain fields.  Driving on a drain field can cause compaction, reducing effectiveness.  Rainwater from gutters and runoff from paved areas can cause saturation of septic systems and should be directed away from these percolation-dependent systems. 

3.    Look for signs of problems even if the system appears to be functioning properly.  Signs include: sewage odors, slow drains, soggy soil surrounding tank and drain field, or lush grass or excessive plant growth near drain field.  Other indicators of possible problems are depressions in the surface of the ground in and around the drain filed, Cladophora (an algae) growth in the water near your shoreline, and a slow flushing toilet after rainfall. 

4.    Conserve water. The more water that flows through the septic system, the faster the nutrients are released into the ground. 

5.    Be careful of what goes down the drain. Household chemicals and cleaners like bleach or drain cleaner should be avoided because they kill bacteria that are needed to break down waste.  The following items should never be put down the drain because they will not break down in the system: grease, hair, cigarette butts, facial tissues, paper towel, personal hygiene supplies, bandages, paint, solvents, motor oil, or any other household hazardous waste. 

6.    Beware of the "quick-fix." Products that claim to clean septic tanks are no substitutes of proper maintenance.  These quick fixes may accelerate the normal decay process from solid waste to liquid and can send much larger amounts of nutrients into the water system, which may contaminate the surface and groundwater.

7.    Routine maintenance is required. Properly operating septic systems require sludge removal every two or three years. 

For additional information on operation, maintenance or other questions regarding septic systems, please call the Ottawa County Department of Environmental Health at (616)393-5645, or the Muskegon County Department of Environmental Health at (231)724-6208.

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