Septic systems are flush with our sins

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 22, 2022

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The septic system is one of those out-of-sight, out-of-mind linchpins for homeowners that can bring misery or satisfaction.


So much of its success, however, depends on how it’s used.

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My practice with septic tanks is to have them pumped out every 3-5 years, but I know people who haven’t had theirs pumped in 20 years and say the “chemistry” of it works just fine. Still, the best practices won’t stop the roots of an innocent looking tree from growing in stealth mode halfway across your yard and into your leech field distribution box, causing a backup. That’s when everything hits the fan, so to speak. 


A few years ago when our septic was being pumped, I had the opportunity to quiz a local veteran of the business. Yes, he has heard all of the “so you’re the head muckity muck” jokes.


He gave me the real low-down on septics, so he shall remain nameless here for his own protection.


The biggest reason homeowner septics fail is people flushing a lot more than No. 1 and 2–everything from baby wipes to dental floss to condoms. Don’t fall for that “flushable” label on kitty litter, either. 


Dental floss gravitates to other dental floss, and over time it forms a net that catches everything the way those nets on TV’s “Deadliest Catch” do. Everything.


        I read that some septic tank pumpers have reported finding cell phones, which made my mind quickly conjure up a conversation in which someone asks, “What were you doing?,” to which came the reply,”Tweeting.”


         That people would flush condoms into their septic tank isn’t surprising, when you think about it. The evidence disappears in swirling water at the bottom of the toilet bowl. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Not really.


        The septic tank pumper outer sees all and knows all. Maybe this will surprise you, and maybe it won’t, but it floored me when he stopped his work in my backyard and said had even finds condoms in septic tanks at some churches.


        Whoa. That sent my mind racing from pew to pew through the congregation to the choir and right up to the pulpit. Nope. Nope. Nope. Never. Nope. Uh oh. Wait a minute. Maybe. Nah. Yep. Aha!


        The moral of his story is that there really are only a couple of things you should be putting down your toilet. The rest should go into the trash.


       Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at