Are you one of the 20 per cent of Australian households and property owners with a septic tank system? If you are it’s your responsibility to ensure your septic system is up to code. A faulty septic system is both a health risk for your family and the greater community, not to mention potentially damaging to the environment.
Recent research found that about 70 per cent of regional NSW septic systems failed to meet environmental and health protection standards. Back in 1999 leaking septic systems were found to be linked to several cases of hepatitis and a major food safety crisis in the oyster industry. Many septic tank owners aren’t fully aware of the possible risks associated with poor septic system maintenance.
A poorly maintained septic system can have harmful effects on the environment up to 50 km downstream, so it’s extremely important that those planning to install a septic tank system or who are already living on a regional property are aware of the risks.
Many newer septic tank systems are less prone to leaking, however these newer systems are costly and older systems still make up the majority of tanks in regional NSW.
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Septic tank owners should be aware that operating a faulty system comes with lofty fines, up to $120,000 for individuals and $250, 000 for corporations, for pollution offences under NSW law.
As a septic tank owner you are responsible for keeping the system all maintained. This involves ensuring routine maintenance is performed by a licenced professional, registration is completed and approved and that your property’s plumbing is in compliance with all council requirements.
In detail, your responsibilities include:
Ensuring the house drains and tank don’t leak.
Plumbing problems are always fixed when the occur.
The septic system is regularly checked.
The septic tank is pumped (de-sludged) when it becomes too fill to process the flow travelling through it.
That you ensure the maintenance and protection of the absorption field.
There are numerous signs that may indicate a faulty septic system.
A bad smell, reminiscent of sulphur or rotten eggs.
Damp or soggy grounds, or pools of water forming downhill.
Abundant dark green grass growing on or around the absorption area.
Slow clearing drains or toilet.
Toilet or drain backflow.
Lots of weeds growing downhill form the absorption area, in nearby drainage channels or on the banks of a nearby waterway.
The septic tank has not been assessed in over 12 months or
The septic tank has not been pumped out (de-sludged) in the past 3-5 years.
Firstly, don’t attempt to repair a faulty septic system or tank yourself. Septics systems are high risk, contain both germs and toxins that could potentially lead to injury or illness. If you suspect your property’s septic system is defective contact a licenced plumber immediately.
If you’re conducting a check on your septic system, make sure you keep the following precautions in mind:
Sewerage contains disease-carrying germs.
Septic tanks contain toxic and explosive gases.
Never enter a septic tank and wear a mask when near one to prevent breathing in the fumes.
Never smoke or use a naked flame near your septic tank.
Always ensure someone is nearby and aware that you’re out inspecting the septic tank.
Always switch off the power.
Always secure the septic tank lid so that children aren’t able to open it.