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.


8 Items to Avoid with a Septic System

8 Items to Skip with a Septic System


The septic system for your home is a complex mechanism of pipes and bacteria that is designed to handle water, human waste, and toilet paper. Using it for anything else is harmful to the system and in the long run, expensive.

The following is a list of what needs to be thrown out in the trash or taken to the compost:

  • Wet wipes - Yes it often feels more cleansing than regular toilet paper and if disposed of in the trash, wonderful. Even when it says ‘disposable’ they actually are not, as they do not dissolve. Wipes will build up with other waste, like congealed grease, and form masses or clogs.
  • Dryer sheets - Sheets used in the dryer have a coating on them and that coating along with the fibers of the dryer sheet will eventually cause problems.
  • Paper towels, or toilet paper not stating ‘septic safe’ – You want to avoid anything that complicates the job of your septic functioning.
  • Fruit and vegetable skins – These belong either in the trash or in the compost. These can become stuck at any point in the drain system. More so the stringy parts of skins can cause clumping issues.
  • Grease and oil from cooking – While these will slide down your drain while hot or warm, they will congeal when cooled. Better to wait until the grease or oil is cooled and wipe it out into the trash. The natural decay waste processes cannot occur with globs of grease and oil in the tank.
  • Paint and all other hazardous chemicals - These can permanently damage your septic tank. Paint and paint thinners, varnishes, etc. do not belong in your drains. Wash paintbrushes outside.
  • Cat litter - Again, even when the box says ‘septic safe’ it simply is not. Cat litter clumps and remains in clumps. Also, it is possible that cat feces carry diseases that do not need to be shared in your tank.

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. 


What NOT to Put on Top of Your Septic System

What NOT to Put on Top of Your Septic System

Planting grass is the best thing to do with the septic area. You want the area on and around your septic to remain free of anything that can affect the effectiveness of the septic as well as the drain field.

Remembering that the septic and adjoining field is a system to rid waste from your home and keep your family healthy, there are some items that cannot be on your septic system:

  • A deck near or on top of a septic tank.

Do not risk damage to the tank or the waste lines. Most county zoning ordinances will require that you have a predetermined setback from the waste field.

  • Cars or any type of vehicle, including the concrete pad.

Avoid anything that puts weight on the field, there are yards of tubing under the dirt that must be protected to extend the life of your septic but also to allow the system to work correctly.

  • Vegetable gardens

Although in theory this can sound like a good idea, the waste being decomposed in a septic system is not plant compost but human waste, which is often hazardous if consumed by garden vegetables. Planting your garden far away from the system is a much safer for your family’s health.

  • Pools or sheds

The issues with either of these is the immense weight, which will damage the tubing, waste lines and tank. People often forget about the health and well-being of their septic, which can prove an expensive mistake. Pools of course need to be filled which adds weight, and sheds after being built are ‘filled’ as well. Both installations also increase traffic over the septic system.

And lastly, while of course you want to landscape your property, please be aware of the type of tree you plant near a septic system or drain field.

  • Invasive tree roots

Any tree needs to be planted to its height away from the septic system, meaning a 20-foot tall dogwood needs to be planted 20 feet away. The problem with the roots of many trees is that they can not only interfere with the drain field and waste lines or tubing, but sometimes can break into the system itself. Planting trees with shallow roots will be an asset to both your septic system as well as your property.

What can be planted on top of the field:

  • Ornamental grasses which will also hold the dirt in place and provides year-round ground cover.
  • Dogwood, white oak, and crabapple trees which have shallow roots as well as shrubs.
  • Annuals and perennials, including bulbs can also be planted.

Technically, while fruit trees like Cherry can be planted, there may be bacterial contamination, so there may be another spot for fruit trees.

As you can see there are many options for having your landscaping work with your septic system to the benefit of your family! Calling the experts at Tri County Septic for guidance helps you in that goal.


What to do About a Lawn Too Green


If you have lush, green grass growing over your septic tank, it could mean that the hydraulic system is not working properly. The trenches in your leach field are filling with liquid waste because the soil cannot absorb any more water from your house. That wastewater is full of rich nutrients that give the grass over your septic system a good dose of fertilizer and turn it a bright shade of green. This is a sign of trouble with your septic. You want to call the experts at Tri-County Septic for them to come and investigate why your grass is quite so lush and bright green.


On the other hand, brown grass over your septic tank is actually a good thing. It means your septic system is working the way it is supposed to. Brown grass appearing during dry or warm weather usually indicates that your grass is not getting enough water. It is because the soil over your tank is not as deep as the soil over the rest of your lawn. Brown grass over the septic does not need watering, this is a good sign! It means your septic system is working the way it is intended to do.

Watering the brown grass with additional water reduces your leach field's ability to absorb wastewater from your house and may even lead to the failure of your system. Even though the grass turns brown because there's not enough soil to support its root system, you should not add topsoil over your tank. The system needs oxygen to help waste dissipate, adding water does not help this task.

Oxygen helps your septic field to function:

    • Septic tanks send liquid waste from the tank through a series of drain lines positioned throughout the leach field.
    • Microbes in the soil filter and clean the liquid waste before it reaches the ground water.
    • These microbes need oxygen in to do this work effectively. Compacted soil, or wet, soggy soil, has less oxygen in it.
    • Adding additional soil reduces the amount of air available to the microorganisms that break down the wastes in your system.
    • Maintaining your septic system saves you money!

When planting over your septic system, remember not to dig too deep. Drain lines can be as close as 6 inches from the top of the soil. Always wear gloves when working with soil over the septic system to reduce exposure to harmful organisms that may be present.

Plants that do not need much in the way of maintenance or watering are:

    • Ornamental grasses
    • Catmint Black-eyed
    • Susan Verbena
    • Grass

Planting any plant that can be eaten on a septic field is a poor choice. Leave those plants for a garden located away from the septic or drainfield.

Remember to call the experts at Tri-County Septic for lush grass or any other concerns with your septic system!

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