Septic systems are designed to break down and filter solid and liquid wastes so they can seep back into the ground clean of toxic substances and harmful pathogens. Properly functioning septic systems do an excellent job treating waste water, but broken or out of date septic systems and cesspools do not. Not only can they harm our drinking water, they can be very costly to fix and pose serious health risks to you and your family. Proper maintenance on your septic system can prevent these negative impacts on your water quality and you save money.

How You Can Help

1. Make sure you have a septic system, not a cesspool. Cesspools do not provide any wastewater treatment at all. If you do have a cesspool, your town may offer low-interest loans that you can use to upgrade to a conventional septic system.

2. Inspect your septic system annually and pump out the system regularly. Pumping out every three to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank; smaller tanks should be pumped more often.

3. Use septic system safe household products. Use non-toxic household chemicals and properly dispose of household hazardous waste (NOT down the drain). See more information on Household Chemicals on this website. DO NOT use toilets and drains as trash cans! Excess solids (like food scraps, baby wipes, or paper towels) may clog your drain field and lead to costly maintenance. Do not divert storm drains or basement pumps into septic systems.

Where To Learn More

“Onsite Wastewater Factsheets”
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“Household Hazardous Products”
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Eco-Depot (FREE public household hazardous waste disposal and recycling)
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Scituate Reservoir Watershed Education Program -- Funded by Providence Water Supply Board
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