Septic Systems

Maintain your septic system so your kids can grow up
with memories of barefoot summers!
Homes that are not connected to a centralized wastewater treatment system line typically are served by their own septic systems. When functioning properly septic systems can provide long-term and effective treatment of human and household waste. However, when not properly maintained septic systems can be a source of water pollution. High levels of bacteria, viruses, and high levels of nitrogen can be discharged into the groundwater table resulting in pollutant discharge to our local tidal rivers. This can affect fishing, swimming, shellfish harvesting, and harm to our local flora and fauna!

So what can you do to protect your investment and prevent failures leading to public and environmental health risks? It is helpful to first understand how your septic system functions. Conventional septic systems rely on simple principles and components to work effectively:

Let's Find Out How Your Septic System Works:

  1. Water runs from your home into one main drainage pipe.
  2. The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene.When septic systems are well maintained, they do a good job preventing the germs from your toilet from reaching the May River. The tank separates liquid from solid and begins breaking down bacteria in the waste underground.
  3. The liquid wastewater is then discharged to the drainfield. However, if the drainage field is not working properly for any reason, lots of harmful bacteria, including fecal coliform bacteria, can end up washing into streets and eventually into the May River. Once there it will contribute to existing problems, harming shellfish and polluting water.  
  4. Finally, the rest of the cleansing process happens as the waste water drains through the surrounding soil, naturally removing bacteria, viruses, and nutrients.

Here are 5 ways to keep your septic system in tip top condition:

  1. Regular maintenance. Do not wait for signs of failure to make sure everything is working!
  2. Keep records. Know your pumping and maintenance history and have a map of your system.
  3. Conserve water. The less you use indoors, the less strain there is on your system outside.
  4. Monitor what goes down your drain. Chemicals can damage the good bacteria in your tank, grease can clog your tank, and be sure to never flush anything that doesn't degrade.
  5. Do not put anything besides grass on your drainfield. Keep all vehicles, solid surfaces/covers, and plants with root systems clear - anything heavy can cause stress fractures or inhibit evaporation.
For additional information about septic tank maintenance please visit the EPA's SepticSmart website at

For residents within the May River Watershed: Please see the Town of Bluffton's page to learn more about the Town of Bluffton's septic assistance program.