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How to Protect Your Septic System Drain Field

The drainage field is an often overlooked aspect of the septic system, yet it is more important than the tank for the proper operation of the entire system. Homeowners can take several measures to ensure their drain field is properly maintained.

1. Never park vehicles or place other large objects on the drain field, as this will compact the soil and reduce its ability to treat wastewater. It also may damage the network of drain pipes within the field, causing them to need to be replaced.

2. Avoid planting water-loving shrubs with deep root systems or trees near the drain field, as roots could damage the pipes, or they could change moisture levels within the soil causing it to be less effective.

3. Effluent from sump pumps and roof drains should not be discharged in the vicinity of the drain field, as this could keep the soil too wet, reducing its capacity to absorb the waste water and causing it to puddle on the surface, creating an environmental and health hazard.

4. Check for depressions in the drain field where surface water can collect. The drain field should be level with the surrounding soil to discourage puddling. If the drain field is on a sloping site, surface water diversion may need to be considered.

It is helpful to draw a diagram of the septic system which shows the location of the house, the septic tank and its manholes, and the drain field. This diagram will make it easier for a qualified maintenance worker to check and maintain the system. Sketch a diagram showing the location of your septic tank and drain field in relation to your house. Measure exact distances from at least two referencepoints (such as the corner of the house and a tree) if possible. This need only be a sketch, although the more accurate the drawing, the more helpful it will be in the future, so include measurements of distance wherever possible.

USDA Extension Service, entered 1999-12-17

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