Septic System: Nuts and Bolts

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Your Septic | Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind

Written by: Kathy Jonsrud | Wright County Coalition of Lakes Executive Committee & Sean Riley | Zoning Administrator, Wright County Planning and Zoning

septic basicsAlmost all of us with lake property in Wright County have an individual septic system or are part of a small communal septic. Both of these systems have been proven to be very effective in preserving water quality when property maintained. If you are like most homeowners, you probably never give much thought to what happens when waste goes down your drain.

Proper operation and maintenance of a septic system can have a significant impact on how well it works and how long it lasts. And of course, preventing groundwater pollution from a failing septic system is a priority for our lake community.

Wright County took steps over twenty years ago to address septic concerns. The regulations have specific requirements and a permitting process for those designing and installing systems. For lake property owners with existing individual systems, the regulations focus on two major components:

  • When a property is sold, or when a permit is obtained for lake property improvements, the septic must be professionally inspected to ensure adequate conformance. This is also required for the sale of any property in Wright County.
  • Septic tanks must be professionally inspected at least every three years. Solids must be removed from septic tanks to allow the system to function property.

inside septicWright County Planning and Zoning has a great deal of septic system information on their website, along with a list of septic system professionals

Septic Systems Demystified and Simple Maintenance Dos and Don’ts

For many of us, our lake home is our first experience with a septic system. There are two main parts in a basic septic system: the septic tank and the drainfield. The waste from our home goes into a septic tank. The floating particles form the “scum” layer in the tank and the solids settle out. The water then flows through the system baffles out to the drain field.

Most of the soil in Wright County is very effective at filtering the water that goes into the drain field. The water from the drain field seeps through the soil and goes back into the groundwater.

Septic System Dos and Don’ts


  • Do be mindful of water conservation. Toilets use 35% of our household water, washing clothes another 20%, and leaks account for 15%.
  • Do have your septic tank inspected at least every 3 years. Families living full-time should plan to pump their system at least every 3 years. Seasonal and small families may be able to pump less frequently.
  • Do keep a detailed record of repairs, pumping, inspections, and permits.
  • Do use liquid detergents and mild household chemicals. Powders may not completely dissolve. Use bleach and antimicrobial soaps sparingly to preserve the important biological balance in your system.
  • Do wipe dishes and cooking pans before washing or rinsing to reduce grease and food particles in your system. Use sink and shower strainers to reduce particulate matter from entering your system.
  • Do spread your laundry loads over the week. Many loads in one day can overwhelm your system and disturb the scum and solid waste layer in your tank.


  • Don’t go down a septic tank.
  • Don’t allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system.
  • Don’t plant anything over or near the drainfield except grass. Roots may clog and damage the drain lines. Never cover the drainfield with concrete or asphalt.
  • Don’t flush anything down the toilet except toilet paper. Feminine products, facial tissue, hygienic wipes, etc don’t dissolve and can adversely impact your system.
  • Don’t flush medications down the toilet. Wright County Sheriff’s office has a medication disposal service
  • Don’t use a garbage disposal. If you do use a disposal, plan on pumping each year.

Don’t use septic tank additives. Under normal operating conditions, these products do not help and some may even be harmful to your system.