Clark County Public Health sees big increase in septic system repairs

The culprit could be that more of us are stuck at home during the pandemic

VANCOUVER – With more of us staying home more often during the ongoing pandemic, Clark County Public Health has seen the number of permit applications for on-site sanitation repairs increased by 30 percent over the past two years.

A basic design for septic tanks. Image courtesy of EPA.gov

“There can be many reasons an on-site sewer system can fail, but we suspect that with so many families working and learning at home, many systems have much more wastewater volumes than normal,” said Chuck Harman, Environmental Public Health program manager. “Older wastewater treatment plants on site that are older, have not been kept up to date with inspections and maintenance or receive unusual waste such as cleaning cloths, can fail.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Clark County Public Health want to remind homeowners the importance of keeping local sewer systems updated through inspections and maintenance. This can help protect the value of your property and avoid costly and unnecessary wastewater treatment plant replacements.

“Solving small problems and taking corrective action avoids bigger problems,” said Harman. “This is how local septic tank owners protect their investments, maintain a sustainable wastewater treatment method, and protect the groundwater that is Clark County’s primary source of drinking water.”

The first and best tip is to avoid washing things like disposable towels. Even so-called “flushable” cloths can often clog or damage septic tanks over time.

Another major reason for the failure of the sewer system is the draining of grease down the drain. Edible oils can solidify once in your sewer system, causing clogging and residue.

Public Health recommends homeowners work with government-certified professionals to perform system inspections and get advice on on-site maintenance, repairs, or replacing septic tanks. A list of certified professionals and additional resources for homeowners can be found on the Public Health website.

For more information for homeowners, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Clark County Public Health contributed to this report

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