Signs of Septic System Troubles

The septic system is used to dispose of all the waste from the household. Like any other machine it needs regular maintenance to make sure it is healthy and running well. It is important to remember that all the water from your shower and other faucets ends up in your septic tank. All the water that leaves your house through a drain goes into the septic tank; shower, laundry, kitchen sink as well as your toilet, all go to the septic tank.

Signs of Septic System Troubles:

Some of the signs that your septic needs to be seen by the experts at Tri-County Septic are:

  • Frequent clogged or slow drains: Your septic is connected to every drain in your home.  If one or more drain is showing signs of frequent clogs or drains very slowly, it can be a sign of septic blockage.
  • Sewage backup:  When the septic is not pumped regularly, the waste already in the tank has no place to go and may back up into your home. This makes for a smelly and uncomfortable home experience.  Call the experts at TriCounty Septic, now, to resolve this issue.
  • Bright, green grass: The ground surrounding the bright grass is likely to be spongy. This is a sign that your septic system is in distress and overwhelmed.
  • Regular Gurgling Noises:  Pipes that make constant gurgling noises are another sign that all is not well with your septic system. When the toilet is clogged, try plunging it.  If it still is blocked, it could be the septic tank itself.

Regular maintenance and having the tank pumped regularly can make many of these issues disappear. Keep a record of when the tank is pumped.  Have a septic tank professional out yearly to check on the septic tank and drain field. Never enter your septic tank, due to the toxic fumes inside, it can be deadly without the right protection.  Leave this to the professionals. When a septic tank is not regularly pumped the capacity is diminished. The use of drain cleaners is actually bad for your septic system, not only does it harm the pipes but additionally, it will destroy the good bacteria and put the system off-kilter.  And you will still have the clogs and smell you were trying to get rid of. By taking care of your septic tank, system and drain field, you will have drains that drain, toilets that flush, and no unpleasant odors.

Contact the professionals at Tri-County Septic to diagnose and repair any of your septic systems issues.


3 Septic Tank Nevers

Three Septic Nevers

The only items that go down your pipes and into your septic tank and drain field are what dissolves. Grease and oil, either as a result of cooking or frying when warm can slide right down your drain. The problem occurs when the grease and oil cool and become a congealed mass. This does not dissolve and remains as a mass in your septic. Over time, the mass becomes very thick which will cause the scrum layer to push down into the liquid level and possibly reaching the exit pipes of the septic system.

Three culprits in clogging your septic systems:

  • Grease and oils
  • Cat litter
  • Paint or paint thinners (hazardous waste)

Your septic's main job is to dispose of the affluence in the home.  For such an unseen machine, its job is to break down waste and render it harmless. Pouring grease down a drain, will over time, ends up clogging your drain and nothing will get through.  Too much grease and oil bogging down your septic functionality can make it back up, in turn, causing serious as well as expensive damage to it.

Disposing of grease and oil, including olive oil, properly is a great habit to get into.  After cooking or frying pour all grease in a can, let it cool, and throw it away. Wipe pans out with a paper towel and toss them in the trash.  

Once or twice, allowing grease or oil down the drain is not the problem. The issue becomes when the septic system cannot do its job at dissolving matter. The septic systems distribution lines and drainage field can also be affected.   Grease that you pour down the drain ends up floating on top of the water in the tank and interferes with the way water and the broken-down waste flow out into your septic leech field. Developing good habits to dispose of grease helps protect the septic.

A septic system pumping and disposal will help to remove grease and fat, this is a job for the professionals at Tri-County Septic.  If grease and fat is not removed from your septic system, your septic pipes may have to be dug up and replaced.

Anything other than waste and toilet paper does not go in your toilet.  Cat litter, even if the label says septic safe, is not safe and needs to go out in the regular trash.  Cat litter clumps and does not dissolve. Also, by the nature of what cat litter is used for, there are microorganisms that can cause illness.  Cat litter can cause serious damage to your septic system.

Hazardous waste, which includes paint and paint thinners is far too corrosive for your septic. Even washing off paintbrushes or rinsing out paint cans or cans of paint thinner need to be outside and away from your septic. These liquids will eat away at the tubing and filtration system in your septic.

Avoiding items that harm your septic system will go a long way to allowing the septic to do its job of breaking down waste and keeping not only your family but the neighborhood groundwater and wells safe.


Fabric Softeners, Dryer Sheets and Septic Systems

Septic Systems - Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets

dryer sheets

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, sometimes tossing a dryer sheet into the toilet is just easier. Or using fabric softener in the washing cycle. And yet, it is. Fabric softeners, like many other household cleaners and chemicals, can have nasty effects on your septic system. It is a two-fold issue.

  • Chemicals in the fabric softener attack your septic system as well as interfere with the tank’s physical functioning.
  • The quats, chloride salts, are used in fabric softener and sulfate salts are used in dryer sheets. Both are troublesome for your septic system. They are not only antibacterial, allowing them to kill off the good bacteria in your system’s tank, but they also contain nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen runoff, whether from agriculture, landscaping, or septic systems, is the leading contributing factor to harmful algae blooms that are a growing problem impacting groundwater.

Fabric softeners or dryer sheets are also petroleum-based, as in oil-based. Using a fabric softener into the washing machine is just like pouring and grease down the drain. Fabric softeners add to the layer of scum floating on the surface of your tank’s effluent.  When the scum layer becomes too thick, it will be able to flow into your drain field, potentially causing damaging clogs or possibly a system failure. Fabric softeners also contain emulsifiers which is to prevent the oils and chemicals from separating in the bottle. The issue becomes, when these emulsifiers find their way into your septic tank, they interfere with the tank’s natural settling process, preventing the solids from settling to the bottom and the oils and grease from rising to the top. This means solids will be suspended in the effluent that flows out into the drain field, which isn’t designed to handle solids. Clogs can occur.

Softeners are great for keeping your clothes soft, it can wreak havoc on the good bacteria that does all the work inside your septic tank.  If you have used fabric softener with your septic system, keep an eye out for signs of septic system failure.

Signs of septic problems:

·       Lush, green grass above or around your system.

·        Foul odors in and outside your home.

·        Gurgling drains.


If any of these signs occur, call the professionals at Tri-County Septic.

There are ways to have your clothes lint and static-free without the harmful chemicals of fabric sheets and fabric softeners. Alternatives include:

·       Add a half cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

·       Make your own dryer balls using foil.

·       Purchase wool or silicon dryer balls.

·       There are reusable dryer sheets.

·       Baking soda, a half-cup mixed with water, added to the final cycle.

If there is a particular scent or essential oil you enjoy, these can be added to the vinegar, baking soda, or to the dryer balls, usually about ten drops.

Protecting your septic system needs to be a priority for its health and productivity.  Tri-County Septic can answer all your questions about keeping your septic system and drain field healthy for years to come.


Keeping Your Septic Field from Harm

Keeping Your Septic Field from Harm


It is tempting, with all the space that the septic field takes up, and how it could be better used for. Resist that urge. Your septic system is handling all the waste your home turns out and that is a big enough job without making it work harder. What’s worse, is that if gardening or landscaping choices do get it the way of the septic or the drain field, it may not work as well, and no one wants that.

What not to plant near your septic field:

Trees with encroaching roots - Those roots can invade the drain field and it is possible for them to crack the tank itself. Trees need to be planted well away from the septic system either at the property line or 20 feet away.  Shallowly rooted trees like the dogwood or holly shrubs are better but still need to be 10 feet away.

Trees with roots that seek water - The roots of water-craving plants grow down to the pipes and have a better likelihood of interfering with the pipes to find water.

Vegetable gardens - Nutrient-absorbing plants, like root vegetables and other vegetables, will likely take in bacteria if placed too close. While it is true that vegetable gardens do well in manure, human waste doesn’t have the same properties. It is not safe to eat food crops grown in the ground around a drain field because eating them might entail ingesting harmful bacteria.

Plants that can be planted on a septic field include:

  • Ornamental grasses
  • Regular lawn grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Jewelweed plants

These plants will multiply and cover a septic space nicely.​ The shallow root systems are unlikely to invade the underground system and cause damage. These plants will also prevent erosion by holding onto the soil and suck up some of the excess moisture from the drain field.

Another way of keeping your septic drain field safe is not using it as a parking area or a play area. The weight of vehicles will damage the pipework supporting your septic tank. Limiting the amount of foot traffic near your septic will prevent damage to the system. The professionals at Tri-County Septic will be able to give you help in deciding how best to protect the septic system and drain field, so it gives your family years of comfort with a well-maintained system.


The Septic Alarm

The Septic Alarm

Having a licensed septic professional like Tri-County Septic, look over your septic system on a regular basis can save you time, money, and worry. Much can go wrong with your septic system, from corrosion in the tank itself, to an unprotected or malfunctioning float switch.

Newer septic systems have an alarm, some older ones do not, making it harder to know when the septic system is in trouble. However, if your system does have an alarm and your float switch is malfunctioning or doesn’t have the correct sealant to protect the wires, having an alarm does you no good. That green light just keeps blinking away.

The reverse of that is the alarm keeps tripping as if the septic system has a malfunctioning float switch. The job of the float switch is to detect when the water level in your septic system's pump tank is either too high or too low as either condition can cause damage to the system and this needs to be prevented. That is when the septic alarms are meant to go off.

  • Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the parts that are monitoring water levels.
  • The septic tank system alarm works with the use of a float that is placed inside the tank to monitor water levels. If the alarm continues to sound, call the septic company.
  • There will be a red light and a green light located on the alarm box. The green light should always be on.
  • If there is an alarm system installed in your septic tank, you might also hear a high-pitched noise when it is time to pump the tank.

A trickling noise, on the other hand, warrants an inspection from an experienced septic provider like Tri-County Septic to inspect the septic system.

What you don’t want to happen is the drain field becoming overdosed during periods of increased use. When a drain field is overdosed, meaning too much water entering it too quickly, it can be damaged, and the alarm prevents this from happening.

Causes for this to occur:

  • Too much water is being put through the septic system. From an uptick in laundry usage, more dishwashing than the usual amount, or many long showers, all can cause too much water usage.
  • Groundwater is getting into the system. The heavy rains of the spring and summer in NJ may seep into the tank. Standing water or puddles occurring around the septic tank is water that can seep into the tanks causing the water level to rise inside of the tanks.
  • Something can be wrong with one of the septic system’s components. The pump, floats, alarm, timer, etc. may have something wrong that is not allowing them to work properly.
  • This you can do on your own: Use as little water as possible during a period of 10-12 hours. If the red light goes out, the system is working properly. It needed to catch up with the additional water that was introduced into the system.

An alarm signal does not mean sewage is about to back up into the house. Alarms are installed to give you 24-48 hours of usage until sewage may start to back up. Of course, there are plenty of DIY videos for swapping out a float switch or coating wires and connectors, however, remember the whole of your septic system is filtering out contaminants, the fumes of which are often deadly. Call the experts at Tri-County Septic for the well-being of your family and the continuing health of your septic system.


5 Signs Your Septic Needs Pumping

The Five Signs Your Septic Needs Pumping

If you wait far too long to pump out your septic tank several obvious and often smelly consequences will occur. Septic systems sadly don’t come with bells and whistles, except for the green/red light in your basement. However, having regular maintenance done for your tank as well regular inspections to check on the health of your system; not only means less possibility of stench in your home but also more money remaining in your pocket. The professionals at Tri-County Septic are available to help you help your septic system stay healthy!

If your drains begin to gurgle, which will be obvious when the toilet flushes or you turn on a faucet, call for a septic pump. This is one of the minor signs that your septic may be backing up. It could also be completely unrelated, such as having a birds nest in the plumbing vent to your roof. It's important to have this situation assessed so the proper professional can be called.

Signs your septic system needs help now:

  • Odor – As the septic tank fills up there is less room for the odor causing gasses in your tank. And these gasses are deadly. Only a professional should be handling this occurrence.
  • Bright green grass over the drainfield – this is a sign of your septic overflowing, and when it has no place to go, your lawn becomes its option.
  • Sluggish or backed up drains – Your septic is in distress as there is not longer room for your septic to process the effluence of your household.
  • When water begins pooling around the septic or drainfield, this calls for immediate attention as the system is being overwhelmed.
  • Raw sewage – The smell alone should be a sign to call in the professionals. Raw sewage backing up into the home is another call out that your septic needs fast assistance.

Remember, a septic pump which should be done every three to five years costs a few hundred dollars to keep your tank healthy; replacing your septic tank and drain field costs 10s of thousands in New Jersey. 

We've seen a lot of horror stories, and we don't want to see our customers get stuck with a failed real estate transaction or drained savings account. Regular pumping can save you a lot of pain and heartache. 


Septic Field Safety in Your Yard


Do: Put grass seed or wildflowers on the septic field mound. Even weeds are better than leaving the ground above the septic field bare.

-These plantings will prevent the sun from beating down onto your septic drain field.

-All flowers must be shallow rooted, as the field itself can be as little 4 inches from the surface.

-Grasses and flowers stabilize the soils in the area.

-Not only do plants prevent erosion, but they will also use the extra moisture from the drain field. For shady areas Creeping Charlie which is ivy, can be used as it will multiply and cover the area. That said it is often hard to limit its growth to just the portion of lawn you want it be it.

-You want plants that require little digging or maintenance.

DO: Plant shallow rooted trees/shrubs like Azalea shrubs, Dogwood, Crabapple and Cherry trees, Holly and Boxwood shrubs near the septic drain field.

-Ornamental grasses can also be planted not on top of but near the septic field.

-Their shallow root systems are less likely to invade the underground system and cause it damage.

-You don’t want to add soil to the septic drain field, mulching too much or having to water anything frequently.

-How far away trees need to be from a septic system depends on their mature height. A mature tree which will be 30 feet high will need to be 30 feet away.You can also install root barriers to prevent roots spreading to the septic drain field.

DO NOT: Plant a garden any nearer than 10 feet away. Further away would be much better, particularly if it is a vegetable and fruit garden.

DO NOT: Plant willows including pussy willow shrubs anywhere near your septic or septic drain field. Other trees include: Aspen, Birch, Beech, Elm, Ash, Tulip or American Sweetgum trees.

-These trees have deep reaching root systems, which not only go deep but also spread out.

DO NOT: Park a car or ANY heavy machinery on top of the septic drain field. Avoid anything that could do damage to underground pipe system.

DO NOT: Allow children to play on the septic drain field.

-Everything that is flushed or tossed down a drain winds up in the drain field, some of which is toxic. The depth of your field can vary from inches to feet. If there has been a lot of rain or your system is old, hazards can and do exist. Excess water will slow down wastewater treatment.


IF you see bright grass growing on your septic drain field call a septic professional, this is a sign of a system failure or leak.

5 worst things for septic pipes

The Five Worst Things for Your Septic Pipes


Looking at the sink or toilet thinking can this dyer sheet or grease go down that...if you are thinking it, the answer is usually NO. Remember the pipe leading into your septic system is only 3 inches wide. The only things that should be flushed into your septic are items that are dissolvable. Your septic system is an expensive, finely tuned machine with moving parts that operates in water and sludge to dissolve waste from your home, Treat it with respect and it will last for years.

Dryer Sheets - Dryer sheets are coated with a waxy film that allows your clothes to come out of the dryer static free. However, some of that waxy residue remains and when tossed down a toilet can create clogs in your pipes as these do not dissolve.
Cat Litter - Yes, the box will state it is okay in septic systems, it is not. Cat litter by the time you toss it down your toilet already has been used by your cat. It clumps and does not dissolve. Cat waste itself can contain a nasty parasite called Toxoplasma which can cause some serious health problems to humans. Please toss in the trash.
Hazardous Chemicals - Harsh chemicals like bleach, motor oil, poisonous chemicals are big no-go’s for your septic tank. Tossing of them down the drain will kill off the good bacteria that helps to break down waste that keeps your system running the way it should. These chemicals can contaminate your soil which is another long-lasting hazard. Dispose of these chemicals properly.
Grease - Grease and oil doesn’t break down and will coat your pipes to the point that nothing will be able to get through. Clogged pipes lead will to your septic system backing up and this can cause serious damage to your septic system. Pour grease in a can and throw away. Wipe pans clean with a paper towel prior to washing.
Medicines - Having leftover medications, it can be tempting to just flush them. DON’T. Medicines can destroy the bacterial balance in your septic system, causing septic failure. Flushed medications also will contaminate groundwater, endangering the environment and, closer to home, your own drinking water. Many pharmacies will take and dispose of medications properly.

Keeping your septic system flowing and running is best not only for the longevity of your septic system as well as your family, but the environment as well. By avoiding putting items into your system that can harm your system you will save both time and money.

septic pump

Does Your Home Need a Septic Pump?

What is a Septic Tank Pump - and Do You Need One?

Most septic tanks do not require a septic tank pump. (Not to be confused with septic tank pumping, which is the process by which your tank is emptied by a Septic Company. All septic tanks need to be pumped, in that sense.) A septic tank pump, on the other hand, is piece of equipment placed inside of a septic tank to help disperse water above the percolation area to the drainae field. 

A septic tank pump is necessary when the leach field or drainage field that the waste water seeps into is at a higher point than the septic tank, eliminating gravity as an option for flow dispersal. 

If I Need a Septic Tank Pump, Do I Need to Replace My Entire Septic Tank?

Unless there are other major problems with your septic tank, you will not require a septic tank replacement to install the pump. If your septic tank has multiple chambers, your pump can be intalled in your existing septic tank in the final chamber of the tank. 

If you have a single chamber septic tank, you do not want to place the pump directly in the tank as it will pump settled solids into your leach field. If your leach field becomes saturated or compacted, it will result in improper drainage and without leach field rejuvenation, can potentially damage your entire septic system. 

If your septic is a single chamber system, then a pump station can be installed near your septic tank to house the pump. There are filters than can be installed on your pump station to keep larger debris and effluent out of the pump. These filters should be removed and cleaned every 2-3 years, which is the same recommended schedule for septic pumping services

Septic Tank Pump Alarms and Controls

Septic Tank Pump alarms can be installed to give warning in the event of a pump failure or clog. These alarms are activated by a loat switch that is wiered into an alarm panel and can give you much needed notice that maintenance and repairs are required. If you have a septic tank pump alarm and it goes off, please call Tri-County Septic right way before it results in greater damage. 

17 chemicals

17 Chemicals You Shouldn't Put Down Your Drains

There are two very important things to remember when you are going to pour something down your drain.

The first is that your septic system does allow fluids to drain out through a leach field which will in turn, enter the environment and make its way into the local ecosystem.

The second is that your septic system requires bacteria to break down solids and prevent damage to your system.

Any substance that could be toxic to the water supply - or kill off the necessary bacteria in your septic tank, should never be emptied into your system in large quantities.

For instance, rinsing off a paintbrush that was used for varnish is fine. Pouring the leftover varnish down the drain? You'd better not.

17 Chemicals that you should limit or avoid entirely:

1. Cooking Oils

Safe to eat does not equal safe to pour. Olive oil, canola oil, or any other vegetable oil, grease runoff from cooked meats, even salad dressings can all congeal and cause clogs throughout not only the pipes in your home, but throughout your entire septic system.

2. Motor Oil

For the exact same reasons as above, plus one, you should never dispose of motor oil down your drains, or even in your yard. Motor oil is harmful to the environment and dangerous for the water supply.

3. Paints

Many consider washing hands or brushes out in the sink to be acceptable, though we would never recommend that to our customers. Paints and paint additives often contain additives that are toxic. These toxins can leach into your water supply once poured down your drains. In addition to the toxins, the paint have a tendency to congeal and cause clogs. You should never put any paints or varnishes down the drain.

4. Furniture Polish

Furniture polish can be extremely toxic. Poisoning from furniture polish can cause a vast array of damage to multiple systems of the body. Read the labels of all cleaning products before disposing for proper disposal instructions, or call the manufacturer.

5. Lye/Sodium Hydroxide (NaOh)/Caustic Soda

Your septic system depends on bacteria to break down the organic matter in your septic system. Lye can kill these bacteria, causing your septic to sludge up much quicker than it would otherwise. Lye can be found in most cleaners, and in reasonable amounts, it will not cause a huge problem. As a base, it affects pH level of anything it is added to and can increase the pH of your water supply above what is safe for consumption.

6. Drain Cleaners

Drain Cleaners such as Drano are generally lye based and can kill of the necessary bacteria in your septic tank.

7. Oven Cleaners

These are also lye based products and should be disposed of per manufacturer recommendations.

8. Pesticides

It's important to remember that anything that goes down your drain will eventually end up in the water table. Pesticides can be toxic in large quantities, and certain pesticides contain bacteriocides, or antimicrobials that can kill the necessary bacteria in your septic tank.

9. Photo Chemicals

Kodak and other popular photography companies do not recommend pouring darkroom chemicals into a septic. These products can be high in metals that can affect your septic system, as well as have a toxic effect on the water table.

10. Paint Thinners

Paint thinner is an extremely volatile chemical solution. If it mixes with acids, it can have a very bad reaction. (pouring paint thinner down your drain an hour before your spouse pours out vinegar could be a huge problem.) It's highly toxic and should never be mixed with anything other than oil based paints or substances specifically recommended by the manufacturer.

11. Varnishes

Varnish is not only toxic and harmful to the water supply, but it is designed to harden, which can cause serious problems for your septic system.

12. Antibiotics

In normal quantities, such as flushing the occasional prescription down the toilet, antibiotics will not have a major effect on your septic system's necessary bacteria. However, if attached to a residence with a large number of individuals taking such medications, such as a nursing home, etc, antibiotics can cause a lot of damage to your septic system.

13. Cleaners High in Phosphates

Detergents and other cleaners with phosphates are harmful to the environment. It depletes the vital oxygen that fish and other aquatic organisms spent on and can cause significant algae problems in nearby lakes and streams. If you live in a lake community where septic systems are prominent, please educate your neighbors and encourage the use of phosphate free detergents. Phosphorus is harmful to the environment, as it can deplete oxygen which is vital to fish and other aquatic organisms. The use of phosphate-free detergents, also helps prevent algae problems in nearby lakes and streams.

14. Cleaners High in Surfactants

It is recommended to use laundry detergents that are low in surfactants. Visually, you can notice high levels of surfactants based on how foamy or sudsy the water becomes. Many surfactants have poor anaerobic degradability in the septic tank and may inhibit hydrolysis (the chemical breakdown of a compound due to reaction with water.) This impacts the ability of your septic to break down solids. Surfactants have also been shown to negatively affect aquatic life in high levels.

15. Illegal Drug Manufacturing Chemicals

True story: A household involved in the illegal manufacturing of drugs was pouring the chemical byproduct down the sink, which in turn poisoned the well and poisoning the people who were manufacturing the drugs.

16. High Quantities of Household Acids

The most common household acid is vinegar. Normal levels of vinegar are perfectly safe to put into your septic, but if you had a case of apple cider vinegar that just didn't taste right anymore (vinegar doesn't go BAD as it's self preserving as an acid) or large quantities of citric acid perhaps used in candle-making or some other hobby, the drain is not the place to dispose of these as you could have a negative effect on the pH of your water table. Please note though, that vinegar-based cleaners are much safer for your septic than phosphate or surfactant based cleaners.

17. High Quantities of Household Bases

Ammonia and bleach are the most common household bases. As a rule, ammonia is one of the safer base chemicals to pour down your septic. Bleach is also relatively safe. However, if your cleaning business closes down and you decide to pour out all of your bottles of cleaner at once, you can affect the pH level of your water table in a negative way. It's important to be mindful about disposing of high quantities of anything besides water and check manufacturer labels for suggested alternatives for disposal.

Schedule Your Septic Service Today!

Call Today: (908)689-9088

Located in Port Murray, New Jersey

© Copyright 2019 TriCounty Septic Inspection & Repair

Website Designed & Managed by Lattice Marketing

Tri-County Septic Inspection & Repair is Licensed, Bonded and Insured.