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FAQs

What is the life of a septic system seepage field?

Seepage fields will last a long time if proper maintenance is observed. With time, the spaces between soil particles become clogged with suspended solids carried out of the septic tank in the effluent.

How do I find out where my system is located?

You can request a copy of your “as-built” drawing from your local health department.  If they have no record of your system, a septic system designer can be employed to locate and draw one up for you and the county.

How often should I have my septic tank inspected?

A family of 4 on a gravity drain field should have the tank inspected every 3 years.  If the septic system is more complex and contains a submersible pump or Alternative Treatment Unit (ATU) the system should be inspected annually.

What are risers?

Risers allow the lids to be located at the surface.  They are installed on the top of the septic tank, sealed down with a mastic to keep water from getting into the septic tank.  Lids are screwed down to allow easy maintenance on the system. 

All companies charge to dig up septic tanks, but adding a riser eliminates that fee.  It allows quick and easy access for the septic technician and also doesn’t disturb your yard from unpleasant holes when you are due for your routine maintenance pumping.

Southwick Liquid Waste and State Law

Southwick Liquid Waste is proactive, not reactive when it comes to state law.  We have county by county rules and regulations to make sure that your septic services are done right the first time.

How much water does an average family use?

Average water usage varies from 60 to 125 gallons per person per day depending on the number of bathrooms and appliances, such as automatic washers, dishwashers, and garbage disposal units, and on the habits of the residents. For design purposes, an average of 100 gallons per person per day is assumed.

Can I use an automatic washer? How many gallons of water can it use?

Yes, all systems approved in Lancaster County are designed to accommodate an automatic washer. Depending on the make, an automatic washer uses between 37-48 gallons of water per load.

Should I use a garbage disposal?

Garbage grinders can be used in homes served by septic tanks and subsurface seepage fields. If they are used, solids may build up in the tank more rapidly a carry-out of solids into the field may be increased. This means that the tank may need to be pumped more frequently so that the life of the seepage field may be extended. The system will last longer if garbage is disposed in other ways.

Is my septic tank large enough?

The minimum size tank allowed in Lancaster County is 1,000 gallons for a one, two, or three bedroom house. An additional 250 gallons of capacity is required for each additional bedroom over three. It is recommended that a future basement, bedroom, or den be considered as a bedroom for design purposes of the proposed septic system.

Can I put a line under a driveway?

Lines under a driveway should be schedule #40 PVC pipe, in order to prevent crushing. The trench should be sand packed to prevent sagging.

Why should a lateral field be a minimum of 50 feet from a lake or stream?

Contrary to popular belief, septic tanks do not accomplish a high degree of bacterial removal. With the lake or stream on a downhill grade, water naturally tends to seep toward the lake or stream. Seepage through fifty feet of soil will filter out most of the bacteria.

Can I install a system on a hillside?

Yes, if the lateral lines follow the contour of the land and a distribution box is used to assure that the effluent cannot flow directly to the lowest portion of the field. (Note: Contours are lines of equal elevation.)
Installation problems will occur if laterals run downhill. The bottom of the lateral trench should be almost level, and not drop more than six inches per 100 feet.

What is a distribution box?

A distribution box system ensures that each line receives ideally the same amount of sewage. This allows the entire seepage field to receive effluent.

What about an aerated septic tank unit?

These are systems in which domestic sewage undergoes aeration treatment similar to some municipal wastewater treatment plants. The effluent from these devices may be superior to that of the septic tanks in that the effluent is relatively clear and free of odor. However, effective removal of disease-causing organisms from the effluent of these devices has not been established. IF these systems were allowed to discharge to road ditches or to the ground surface, a more serious health hazard could result because the effluent no longer has the appearance and odor of sewage. For this reason, a lateral field or lagoon is required in conjunction with these treatment devices.

What is the requirement on clean-outs and slope of the building sewer?

A clean-out should be located for each 75 foot length of the sewer line and also at any changes in grades or alignments greater than 45 degrees. The slope of the building sewer should be 1/8 inch per foot minimum.

Where should my well be located in relation to my septic system?

It should be located so that the surface drainage flows away from the well and the septic system is downhill from the well.

What is the required distance between a septic system and a well?

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department requires the well to be a minimum of 100 feet from the lateral field, 50 feet from the septic tank and 10 feet from the sewer pipe. See table below:

Minimum distances (in feet) between components of sewage disposal system and adjacent structures or property and/or public right-of-way lines.

Components of Sewage System Well or Suction Line Pressure Water Line Stream Building Public ROW and/or Property Lines
Building Sewer 50* 3 10 0 20
Septic Tank 50 25 25 15 20
Disposal Field 100 30 50 30 20

*May be as near as ten feet if it cannot be avoided and special material construction features are employed on sewer from 10 to 50 feet from well and meeting Health Department Requirements.

How deep and far apart can laterals be?

The bottom of the lateral trench cannot be more than five feet deep with a recommended maximum depth of three feet. Lateral trenches should have at least six feet of undisturbed earth between them.

Is ventilating the field necessary?

Not if the system is constructed properly. Building code regulations provide for removal of gases through the building sewerage system vent.

Why are septic systems installed so close to the ground surface?

Systems should be kept shallow because the top 18 to 30 inches of the soil is more porous and will percolate water faster than the clay that usually comprises the subsoil. Evapotranspiration is best at this level. Aerobic bacterial action also increases at shallower depths. Water rises to the surface by capillary action and is drawn into the root systems of plants. Moisture evaporates from the ground surface and leaves.

What is the best time of the year to install a septic system?

When the ground is dry so that the trenching process will not smear the sides of the trench.

What precautions shall I take with a septic field?

Know the location of your field and prevent heavy trucks and equipment from passing over it. Large hooved animals should not be allowed on the field in wet weather.

Are any records kept on the location of the septic system?

The Health Department has kept drawings of all legally installed systems in the City of Lincoln three-mile limit since 1967 and in Lancaster County since 1973.

How can I determine the location of my septic system if no drawing is available?

The field can usually be located in the fall because the grass over the field is greener or sometimes the grass will be drier. In the winter, a light snow may melt sooner because of the heat of the sewage in the tank and field. New systems are about 12 inches below the ground surface and a tile probe may be used to locate the lateral field and septic tank.

Does a new septic system need an additive to start it?

Some 1,200 products, many containing enzymes, are on the market for use in septic tanks and extravagant claims have been made from some. Past research has shown there are NO benefits in using additives.

Will septic systems freeze?

Shallow septic tank systems that are properly constructed will not freeze if kept in continuous service. The line between the house and tank may freeze if water stands in it. Shallow lines underneath driveways and other areas that are cleaned of snow may freeze under certain conditions.

Should I plant a tree near the septic system?

The roots of trees and shrubbery may be a source of trouble for perforated pipe or tile. They may enter the tile lines and clog them so completely that the liquid wastes are forced to the ground surface. When this occurs, a portion of the seepage field must be replaced.

What can I do to prevent solids from entering the field?

Pump the tank when needed and check the baffles to see that they are in good condition. The distribution box can also be checked to ascertain if solids are accumulating there.