Written by: Keri Lewis, Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute at MSU


Image courtesy of Damedeeso, Canva Pro.

Much like my cholesterol levels, I tend to ignore my septic system until I get bad news. It’s easy to leave what is out of sight out of mind . . . until there is a problem.

Since I grew up in the suburbs, I have a lot to learn about country living, including best practices for a healthy onsite wastewater system. Here are my resolutions for 2022!

Resolution #1: Learn where my system is and how it works. Did you know there are more than 10 types of onsite wastewater treatment systems? I didn’t! By knowing where my system is on our property, what type of system we have, and how it works, we can be better stewards of this important resource.

Resolution #2: Maintain the drainfield. The septic tank does a lot of the work in managing wastewater by allowing organic matter to sink and be digested, grease to float, and water to be discharged. But without a proper drainfield, all that water has nowhere to go! First, do not park on the drainfield! Parking can compact the soil, crush pipes, and prevent moisture from properly evaporating. Second, avoid planting trees or landscape shrubs on or around the drainfield. Plants naturally seek water, so their roots will be on a mission to get into the drainfield’s pipes, which will, in turn, clog the system and prevent it from functioning properly. Finally, direct rainwater drainage systems away from the drainfield. Excess water can interfere with the natural biological processes happening below the surface.

Resolution #3: Think at the sink and don’t overload the commode. Properly disposing of waste is a key factor in maintaining a healthy onsite wastewater system. Toilets aren’t trash cans, and wastewater systems are designed to handle human waste and toilet paper. That’s all! Put everything else in the trash can or recycling bin! Yes, even if you have a garbage disposal, the best thing for your system is to avoid using it.

For more information, check out these 10 tips on being a SepticSmart homeowner and Happy New Year!

Keri Lewis is the new project manager for the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute at Mississippi State University. After living in the suburbs for more than 30 years, Keri moved to the country and changed careers, so she has learned a lot about land and water . . . including the discovery that her homestead has a lagoon for wastewater!