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updated: 10/2/2013 11:19 AM

Be aware--your septic system needs care

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Dave Hass

DUPAGE COUNTY--Winter is not far off and the DuPage County Health Department is encouraging homeowners to take action while the weather is still good to ensure their septic systems are functioning properly. Proper septic system care and maintenance is vital to protecting public health and preserving valuable water resources.

Failure to maintain and service a home's septic system can lead to system back-ups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways and risks to public health and the environment. Many septic system failures occur during the winter holiday season, so homeowners should get their septic systems inspected now.

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Homeowners can do their part by following these tips from the Health Department:

• Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.

• Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system's pipes and drain field.

• Ask guests to only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.

• Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn't been pumped recently. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system's drain field, where the vehicle's weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

For more information, follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.dupagehealth.org.

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