Sewage Disposal

Where the Water Goes
If you are like most homeowners, you probably never give much thought to what happens to what goes down the drain ... until something goes wrong. But if you rely on a septic system to treat and dispose of your household wastewater, what you don't know can hurt you. Proper operation and maintenance of your septic system has a significant impact on how well it works and how long it lasts, and septic system maintenance and repair is the responsibility of you, the homeowner.

Reasons to Maintain Your Septic System
If you aren't convinced that maintaining your septic system is important, maybe these 3 reasons might convince you.

Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is a common cause of early system failures. The minimal amount of preventative maintenance that septic systems require costs very little in comparison with a repair. For example, it typically costs from $3,000 to $10,000 or more to replace a failing septic system with a new system. Compare that to approximately $150 to $250 to have your septic tank pumped, cleaned, and inspected.

Protect the Health of Your Family
When septic systems fail, inadequately treated household wastewater is released into the environment. Any contact with untreated human waste can pose significant health risks. Untreated wastewater from your failing septic system can contaminate your drinking water supply and your neighbors.

Protect the Value of Your Home
Failed septic systems can cause property values to decline. Sometimes a building permit cannot be issued or you may be unable to sell your home until your septic system is functioning properly.

Take a look at information provided by Purdue Extension for important and helpful tips to help save you money, protect your family, and your home with proper septic system maintenance.

Warning Signs
Is your septic system failing? Septic system owners should be alert to the following warning signs that could indicate a possible failing septic system:
  • Slowly draining sinks and toilets
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing
  • Plumbing backups
  • Sewage odors in the house or yard
  • Ground wet or mushy underfoot
  • Tests showing the presence of bacteria in the well water
None of these warning signs can be considered a sure indication that a system has failed, but the appearance of one or more of them should prompt homeowners to have their systems inspected. Septic system failures also can occur without any of these warning signals. For this reason, yearly inspection of your septic system is recommended.

If it is time to make a repair or replace your existing septic system with a new system, the Installers List (PDF) has a list of septic system installers that work in our county frequently. Keep in mind, a septic system permit will need to be issued from the Health Department before construction can begin on any septic system. An Application for a Septic System Permit (PDF) is available that will help get you started. If you have questions regarding a failing septic system or a repair, contact our office at 765-423-9221, ext. 2.

What you Need to Know About Buying a House With a Septic System
Septic systems work great when they are properly sized, constructed, and maintained. The problem arises when any one of these items doesn't occur. If you are interested in purchasing a home with a septic system, make the effort to be a smart consumer so that you don't purchase a home with a failing septic system. Buyers can help protect themselves by having the septic system inspected by a qualified home inspector or an official with the county health department. An Application for an Existing Septic Inspection is available from the Tippecanoe County Health Department. Also keep these items in mind when looking at purchasing a home:
  • Obtain available records from the county health department of an inspection of the septic system.
  • Talk with neighbors and/or a county health inspector to learn whether habitual problems with their septic systems have occurred in the area.
  • Check for visible signs of discharge from the system (including running wastewater, blackened soil or unusually green grass) or any sign of a sewer smell in the area of the system.
  • Ask the seller about the regular maintenance that was done on the septic system. When was the septic tank last cleaned and inspected? The septic tank should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years. If the system has not been maintained, it might not be a bad idea to hire a reputable pumper to clean and inspect the septic tank before closing on a house.
  • Educate yourself on how to use and maintain a septic system. This is the number one way to prevent a costly repair or replacement of the septic system. See the Septic System Owner's Guide for more detailed information.
  • Review the Tippecanoe County Residential Sewage Ordinance Number 1999-03-CM (PDF).
  • View the Indiana State Department of Health Residential Sewage Disposal Rule 410-IAC-6-8.1 (PDF).