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Bach owners warned to check septic tanks

MEDIA RELEASE

Bach owners warned to check septic tanks before holidays

For immediate release: Thursday 27 November 2003

Environment Bay of Plenty wants people with holiday homes to have their septic tanks checked before the holidays.

If they don’t, the systems can overload and put the environment at risk, says the regional council’s manager environmental planning John Whale.

Mr Whale says people need to maintain waste disposal systems regularly to ensure they work properly. It is especially critical when houses are not occupied for months and then used intensively for a short time. “Septic tank systems can break down when they’re suddenly put under that sort of pressure,” he says.

Thousands of households in the Bay of Plenty use septic tanks and soakage fields for waste disposal. When looked after, these generally work quite efficiently. “Unfortunately, though, many people install systems and then totally forget about them. They don’t seem to realise that septic tanks won’t work properly if they fill up with sludge. They can overflow if that happens.” It is even more serious when sewage escapes into streams and waterways.

When drainage fields become clogged or blocked, the warning signs are often obvious. People may find puddles of wastewater on the ground or smell sewage around the septic tank area. Drains and toilets may also drain more slowly. A failed septic tank system is a serious health and environmental hazard, Mr Whale warns.

Households can reduce sludge build-up by scraping dishes to remove fats and food before washing them. They should try to keep all solids out of the system and not have a garbage grinder.

Bacteria in the septic tank help break down the sludge as well. Because of this, it is best to buy biodegradable soaps and washing powders. Don’t overuse powerful bleaches and disinfectants or put chemicals or paint down the drain.

It is also important to conserve water, which flows into septic tanks. Mr Whale suggests installing water saving devices like dual-flush toilets, only washing clothes with a full load and taking showers instead of baths.

Septic tanks usually need to be cleaned out every three to five years, depending on the level of use.

Environment Bay of Plenty’s On-Site Effluent Treatment Plan sets the rules for septic tank standards and maintenance. A brochure with information about the plan can be viewed on www.envbop.govt.nz under Publications/Plans and Strategies/Plans.

ENDS

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