Maintain and Upgrade Septic Systems


In areas without public sewer service, household wastewater (from bathrooms, kitchen and laundry) is treated by a septic system.  A septic system has two major components:  a septic tank and a drain field.  Wastewater flows from the house to the septic tank, which retains water long enough for heavy solids to settle to the bottom.  A solid pipe leads from the septic tank to a distribution box where untreated waste water is directed to the drain field—one or more perforated pipes set in trenches of gravel.  Here, the water slowly infiltrates into the underlying soil. 

Even though wastewater is much cleaner than when it entered the septic tank, it still contains pollutants.  25% of all homes in Anne Arundel County have septic systems. Each of these systems, in good condition, releases about 30 pounds of nitrogen per year into our waterways.  You can also install a Best Available Technology (BAT)  nitrogen reducing septic system.

What you can do...

  • Pump out your tank every two to three years.  If the tank gets too full, sludge particles will flush out of the tank and clog the drain lines, and leach out into surface water. The EPA recommends tanks be pumped before sludge and scum accumulations exceed 30% of the tank volume.

  • Do not add starter enzymes or yeast to your system. Additives have not been scientifically proven to improve the performance of your system.

  • Do not pour fats and oils, antibacterial or antiseptic products, chlorine bleach, solvents, chemicals, pesticides, paint thinner, or auto products down the drain.  These substances can kill the good bacteria that make the system function.

  • Do not put trash in the toilet such as paper towels, tissues, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, or condoms. These items do not break down quickly and can fill the septic tank.

  • Direct downspout discharges and runoff away from the septic field to avoid saturating the drain field area with excess water.

  • Do not overload the system—this is the primary cause of system failures. Early morning and bedtime are peak use times in the bathroom. Run dishwashers and washing machines at other times of the day. Try not to do more than one load of laundry each day.

  • Dense grass cover and other shallow-rooted plants are beneficial over a drain field, however, do not plant trees near a drain field because large plant roots can clog or break the pipes.

  • Avoid compacting the soil over a drain field to ensure proper percolation of effluent.

  • Use biodegradable laundry detergent.


Learn More ...   

Anatomy of a Septic Tank Video

Septic Tank Do's and Don'ts

How to Care for your Septic Tank

Bay Restoration Fund Grants available from the Anne Arundel County Health Department

     Anne Arundel County Well and Septic Information:    410-222-7393         

     A basic video on Septic Systems

     Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009 - Senate Bill 554