Homeowners with Septic Systems Are Encouraged by County DPS to Follow Best-Practice Operation and Maintenance Guidelines as ‘Septic Smart Week’ Approaches

by MCS Staff

Per Montgomery County: The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) is reminding homeowners with septic systems about the importance of proper maintenance as the County recognizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 10th anniversary of “Septic Smart Week” from Sept. 19-23.

A properly installed and operated septic system treats wastewater from a home (toilets, sinks, showers, baths, washing machines and dishwashing machines) and returns it to the groundwater.

According to DPS Well and Septic Manager Heidi Benham, there are approximately 19,000 septic systems in Montgomery County. She said the County’s septic permit records date to as early as 1948, and most are available electronically. Ms. Benham said it is critical for property owners with septic systems to be proactive about maintaining those operations.

“We recommended having your septic tank pumped by a licensed professional every two to five years depending on usage and the number of people living in your home,” said Ms. Benham. “As a property owner, maintaining and caring for your septic system is one of the most important things you can do. Homeowners should educate themselves about their septic system to protect not only their property, but the environment. DPS is here to answer questions and provide educational materials, including septic permit records for your property, if you should need them.”

One of the resources on the DPS website is a brochure titled, “A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.” The guide includes information about how a septic system works and how to find its location on your property. A guide also has a checklist to properly maintaining a septic system. Tips in the guide include:

  • Have the system inspected and pumped out by a licensed contractor every two to five years.
  • Use water efficiently to avoid over taxing the system.
  • Do not pour grease, fats or harmful chemicals down the drain.
  • Do not flush non-water-soluble items down the toilet.
  • Do not use a garbage disposal.
  • Do not drive or park over the soil treatment area, and only plant grass over it.
  • Always direct roof and surface drainage away from the system.

The EPA website features additional resources for homeowners about the proper care of septic systems, in English and Spanish, as well as educational videos.

The DPS homeowner’s guide for septic systems also includes information about how to recognize signs of trouble. Those could include:

  • Wastewater backing up or gurgling into household drains.
  • A strong odor around the septic tank.
  • Bright green spongy grass appearing on the drain field.
  • Sewage on the ground or backing up into the house.
  • The system gets waterlogged after heavy rains.

Ms. Benham said homeowners should report a septic system failure or problems to the Well and Septic section of DPS by calling 240-777-0311.

A septic system permit is required to ensure any septic system installed in Montgomery County meets all current County and State standards relative to minimum setbacks associated with the protection of all residents and the environment. This includes the replacement of failing systems.

Visit the DPS website for more information about septic systems and other online services including how to apply for, and pay for, permits; schedule inspections; check the status of a permit; request records; file a property complaint; and schedule a design consultation.


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