This week is the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual SepticSmart Week, which focuses on how to care for and maintain septic systems. Over one in five households in New York use septic systems, and all of the Upper Saranac Lake (USL) watershed properties utilize a private waste water system.
Proper use and maintenance of these systems protects the environment and our drinking water as well as saves homeowners from costly repairs. Homeowners should pump their septic tank at regular intervals and be careful about what goes down the drain or gets flushed. Fats and grease or disposable wipes can clog pipes and drainfields.
As part of a septic education campaign for the USL watershed, the Upper Saranac Foundation (USF), in collaboration with the Upper Saranac Lake Association (USLA), conducted a waste water survey in 2017. Findings showed a startling number of residents — 35 percent — are not upgrading or pumping their systems properly and lacked septic upkeep. The survey also indicated that 24% of the systems in the watershed are over 30 years old, or their age is unknown. It is estimated that the average operating lifespan of a conventional septic system is 20 to 30 years.
As owners of a septic system, you have the responsibility to protect your family’s health, as well as to protect our watershed from contamination. A properly designed, constructed, and maintained system can provide long-term effective treatment of wastewater, and help protect our lake and your property investment.
Malfunctioning septic systems can be extremely harmful. Pollutants found in household wastewater systems include nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. If these pollutants seep underground into the watershed, aquatic plant growth, and potential algae blooms are possible consequences. Effluent can also result in direct contamination of well or drinking water sources and could cause serious human health risks.
USF encourages homeowners with septic systems to learn how their systems work and how to care for them so they stay in proper working condition. More information about septic systems can be found on USF’s website.