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The Do’s and Don’t of Septic Systems

Depending on where your business is located, you might rely on either a sewage or septic system. While few people think about their septic systems, it’s an integral component for anty business. This is especially true if you own or operate a restaurant. Restaurants process countless pounds of food, refuse, grease, and oil daily. Because of this, the septic system needs to be properly maintained.

Failing to do so can lead to serious damage. Not only can a damaged septic system destroy pipes and lead to more significant and costly repairs, but it can manifest other problems throughout the restaurant. For example, grease that fails to be properly filtered through a grease trap might end up on kitchen floors — leading to trips and slips which can sideline employees and create financial liabilities for homeowners.

Likewise, gross smells may develop, sending patrons running for the hills. And you might even be creating a fire hazard thanks to the buildup of fats, oils and grease (FOG). But business owners and restaurant managers can avoid this by making sure they treat their septic systems with care. Here are a few tips to help you keep your kitchen and business running.

What Not to Do with Your Septic System

Before we break down best practices, business owners and managers need to be aware of the problematic behaviors that can damage their septic system and lead to costly repairs.

Don’t Toss Solid Waste Down the Drain

This tends to be a directive usually aimed at residential properties, but it also applies for kitchens. Even if there are garbage disposals built into your kitchen’s sinks, avoid relying on them. While convenient, these devices actually increase the amount of solid waste that enters your septic system.

Over time, this means that your grease trap and septic system may get prematurely full. And if you’re not routinely emptying the grease trap or having your septic tank cleaned, this can lead to discharge that either backs up or leaches into surrounding areas. However, if you do have a garbage disposal, you’ll need to increase the frequency with which you pump your system.

Don’t Toss Solid Waste Into Toilets

Most people have seen the signs in restaurants or public bathrooms elsewhere, cautioning people against tossing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet. There’s a good reason for this. When solid waste makes its way into the plumbing, it can clog your septic system. Avoid costly repairs by ensuring that staff and guests know your toilets aren’t trash cans.

Don’t Run Multiple Water-based Appliances Simultaneously

Even if you’re confident that you won’t impact water pressure by doing so, avoid running a dishwasher at the same time as other water-heavy devices. This puts a strain on your septic system which can lead to breakdowns over time.

Don’t Block the Septic Tank or Drainfield

This might seem like an obvious directive, but it still needs to be said. Avoid parking over or near the septic tank or drainfield. Similarly, be mindful of any vegetation nearby. Roots from plants can extend and “seek” out water in piping, leading to cracks in the septic system and the pipes leading to or away from it.

This can lead to costly repairs if the pipes need to be replaced. Likewise, avoid building or digging near or on your drainfield for the same reasons. And, avoid creating obstructions like placing a hard surface like asphalt or concrete over the drain.

Don’t Use Additives in Your Septic System

This is another concern that tends to be more of an issue with residential properties. However, additives might seem like an option that makes caring for your septic system between professional pumpings easier — but it’s not. Instead, many of the chemicals or additives people use to break down waste create the opposite effect.

In short, they create bigger blockages. Sometimes the additive or the byproducts it creates when it comes into contact with waste in your sewage either don’t dissolve or break down small enough to pass through. Instead it can create a solid blockage which will require a professional to remove.

Don’t Go the DIY Route if You’re Not Experienced

Yes, doing tasks yourself like emptying the grease trap can technically be cheaper. But there’s a process that must be followed and when it’s not, things can get expensive, messy, and even dangerous. Likewise, while your grease trap is being serviced, your business can’t operate since you don’t want to risk having water, solid waste, and grease escaping the system.

Especially for high-volume restaurants, it’s worth it to spend the money to have a professional come. Not only are they trained on the proper techniques to manage your septic system, but they can also clean it faster and more efficiently than an unsuspecting employee that’s been drafted for the job.

Best Practices for Your Septic System

It can’t be stressed enough that your septic system is like the unofficial heart of your restaurant. Yes the kitchen is essential since this is where food is prepared. But if you don’t take care of your septic system, it will eventually break down, causing your business to get put on hold. To prevent that from happening, here are a few tips to keep your septic system running smoothly.

Do Schedule Regular Inspections

Just like people go for annual physicals, your septic system deserves regular TLC. A routine inspection gives you a chance to identify potential issues before they become big problems. More importantly, business owners can plan for preventative remediation projects in a way that works with their budget — instead of being faced with costly emergency repairs plus lost income.

Businesses are encouraged to have their septic systems inspected every one to three years. As with grease traps, the actual frequency that works best for your establishment will depend on the amount of activity your system experiences. Specifically, businesses with septic pumps may need to be seen more frequently.

Do Regularly Clean the Grease Trap

As mentioned earlier, an overrun grease trap is a recipe for disaster. Grease can back up and appear in unexpected places like on floors and other surfaces, create odors, encourage fires, and generally create an unhygienic environment. Depending on the volume of food a restaurant prepares, the recommended frequency can vary.

For example, conventional guidance recommends that a grease trap be cleaned out about every quarter. However, if your business is a high-volume entity, this may need to be adjusted to a more frequent schedule.

Do Keep the Drainfield Clear

It’s understandable that a business owner may not know the proper setback distance for building structures or planting shrubs near the septic system’s drainfield. As mentioned earlier, placing structures or plants too close to the septic drainfield can create problems. When in doubt, consult a professional who can assess the property and provide guidance based on the specific location of your drainfield.

Do Use Water Wisely

Instead of trying to run multiple water-generating appliances simultaneously, be smart and stagger the usage. Even if you have the strongest water heater tank and plenty of pressure, you don’t want to overload your septic system. More importantly, make sure that essential staff that usually use those appliances are aware of the strategy you’re implementing to avoid creating trouble later on.

Do Take a Proactive Stance to Plumbing Fixes

A dripping faucet or a pipe that leaks can seem like a minor issue. But in reality, they can spell big trouble for septic systems in the long run. Avoid having a small problem become an expensive headache by taking time to identify and fix plumbing leaks when you discover them.

Don’t Leave Your Septic System to Chance

As a business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run smoothly so that you can spend your time focusing on building revenue. Septic systems might not be the most exciting topic to cover, but they’re vital components especially for businesses like restaurants that rely on a working plumbing and refuse system to stay in operation.

While there are things business owners, managers, and staff can do to avoid placing a strain on the property’s septic system, ultimately regular maintenance is the best protection against damage that can sideline operations. Annapolis Septic Service is a local family-owned service provider that has been serving the greater Annapolis region since 1967.

We have the expertise, and understanding required to effectively fix and tackle common septic system issues as well as perform routine grease trap maintenance. Don’t leave your business to chance. Contact us today for a quote or to schedule service.