How they work and the crucial maintenance tasks required.
Join more than 100,000 members today and you’ll get:
Many homes, especially those in rural areas, are not able to connect to a town sewage system. These properties have their own on-site disposal systems. The most common form of on-site disposal system is a septic tank.
How do they work?
Wastewater, from the kitchen, laundry and bathroom, discharges into a septic tank buried on the property. The heavier solids settle to the bottom of the tank, while fats float to the top. The remaining liquid flows out of the tank and discharges into a soakage area (either a dispersal or evaporation field).
Modern septic systems may have pumps, pressurized disposal with multiple chambers and filters. Speak to the manufacturer of your system to get an understanding of how your particular system works. The information given here applies mostly to older style systems.
Don’t go into a septic tank!
Your septic tank contains toxic gases that could kill you if you breathe them in. Never enter the septic tank yourself, and never leave the lid open.
A poorly maintained septic tank will become a serious health hazard, spreading disease and contaminating water sources. Septic tanks need regular maintenance, some of which you can do yourself and some of which you’ll need professional help with.
Learn about your particular system and keep a maintenance record. Include drawings of the system, mapping out its exact location. Your local council may be able to provide you with some of these details.
Newer systems often include a maintenance contract in their price. It is worth considering buying a maintenance contract for older systems.
Tanks generally need pumping (cleaning out) every 3-5 years to remove sludge and sediment.
The frequency depends on:
You’ll need a professional to do the pumping. Look under Septic Tanks, Water Treatment, or Water & Wastewater Services in the Yellow Pages.
Tanks need to be inspected regularly. You’ll need a professional to do this for you.
Look under Septic Tanks, Water Treatment, or Water & Wastewater Services in the Yellow Pages.
Protect the soakage treatment area so that the effluent leaving the tank has best conditions to disperse or evaporate. Don’t let vehicles onto the area, nor anything else that might break up the surface (such as animals or, in winter, children running around).
The best way to keep maintenance to a minimum is not to overload your tank with too much wastewater.
Most of your wastewater comes from your washing machine, toilet and bathroom.
What you put into your septic tank will determine how much maintenance it needs.
To keep it working effectively:
Blockages are usually a sign that the sewage disposal system either requires maintenance or repair. Blockages can be either between the house and septic tank or between the tank and the soakage area.
Older systems may have trouble coping with the amount of water modern living produces. This is particularly the case if you have extended your home and added bathrooms, for example, without expanding the on-site disposal system.
You can try to reduce the amount of water you are putting into the system. If this doesn’t solve the problem you may need to consider a larger system. Contact your local council for advice on this.
Whether you're planning to build your own home or renovate an existing one, we've got you covered with a wide range of articles covering the whole process.
Renovating and altering houses is a favourite pastime for many New Zealanders. Our articles take a look at what's involved when you undertake a renovation project.
Regular maintenance is needed to ensure your house holds its value and remains safe and comfortable to live in.
Thanks for requesting to reset your password. We've sent you an email with instructions on what you need to do. If you haven't received the email within the next five minutes please call us on 0800 266 786.
Sorry, the information you are trying to access is available to paying members only. Your membership helps us deliver our services and advocate for a fair deal for all New Zealand consumers.
Not a member yet? Avoid expensive mistakes and join more than 80,000 other savvy consumers making smart decisions.