Keep your septic system healthy during the holidays

Media release - 21 December 2018

With Christmas just around the corner, now is the time to ensure that your septic system is operating properly prior to the holiday season and influx of visitors.

The septic system is designed to remove solids from the wastewater and dispose of the effluent below ground to protect public health and the environment.

To keep your septic system in top shape, Kempsey Shire Council advises property owners to:

  • Read the SepticSafe guide and perform the simple 20-minute septic check-up to help identify potential problems. The easy to follow septic guide - (PDF - 942 KB) - is a valuable resource for homeowners unsure of their septic system operation.
  • Have the septic tank pumped out if there is excessive sludge or the tank level is too high. Migration of solids into the trench area can occur, potentially clogging the trenches and costing more to have repaired.

Maintain your trench area:

  • Ensure the absorption trench area is in a satisfactory condition. Trenches that are already soggy may be failing and require upgrading. Sunken or damaged trenches should be filled with a sandy topsoil to reduce the chance of effluent ponding on the surface. Vehicles and cattle should be kept away from disposal areas.
  • Keep the grass short (less than 10cm) to promote evapotranspiration (ET).
  • Ensure larger trees do not shade the trenches for extended periods during the day, as this will reduce the effectiveness of ET for optimum trench operation.
  • Ensure stormwater is not directed over the absorption trenches as even minor rainfalls can oversaturate the absorption area causing overflows. You should also avoid watering the lawn over the absorption trench area.
  • Ensure the diversion drain/swale/earth bund integrity. This should be a small ridge about 10-15cm high that is longer than and upslope from the trenches. Water should not pond here but be diverted around the trench area.

Plan for your visitors:

  • Extended stays are more likely to cause issues due to higher wastewater generation over a longer period.
  • Ensure visitors know not to flush wipes, nappies, and feminine hygiene products.
  • To reduce wastewater production while visitors are staying:
    • Have all washing completed prior to their arrival and postpone washing until after they leave or spread full loads throughout the days.
    • Minimise washing by air drying and re-using bath towels between uses.
    • Use the half-flush option in the toilet or reduce flushing for urine only.
    • Reduce shower durations and swap to a low-flow shower head.
    • Fix leaking taps or replace with low-flow alternatives.

Council’s Environmental Health Officer, Cameron Hill, said septic systems will usually recover after the visitors have left and water use has reduced.

“Hopefully after employing these measures, your septic system will survive the holiday period and will continue to operate effectively into the future,” he said.

For more information go to Council’s website - - or contact Council on 6566 3200

Spetic tank and trench landscapePlan for visitors and keep your septic system in top shape this holiday season