The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to present Septic Smart Week, Sept. 20-24—an annual event focused on educating homeowners on the proper care and maintenance of their septic system.

About one third of Wisconsin’s population uses onsite wastewater treatment, otherwise known as septic systems.

Onsite systems provide a sustainable, dependable and affordable method for wastewater treatment. Failing septic systems can contaminate and harm human health and the environment by releasing bacteria, viruses and household toxics to ground and surface water resources.

These tips are important for protecting environmental health and preventing costly system replacement:

Protect it and inspect it: Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a qualified professional. Advanced treatment units need inspection more frequently.

Think at the sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.

Don’t overload the commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. For example, flushable wipes, coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog or damage septic systems.

Don’t strain your drain: Be water-efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day.

Shield your field: Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Pump your tank: Routinely pumping your tank can prevent your septic system from premature failure. Tanks should be pumped when necessary, typically every three to five years.

Test your drinking water well: If septic systems aren’t properly maintained, leaks can contaminate well water. Testing your drinking water well is the best way to ensure your well water is free from contaminates.

Wisconsin DSPS staff will be offering free one-hour webinars this week. Register at

For more tips on septic system maintainance, visit the EPA website,

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