Maintenance

What is a Septic System?
 
How do You Take Care of Your Onsite System?
 
Do I Need to Add Anything to my Septic System to Keep it Working Properly?
 
What Type of Toilet Paper is Best for Septic Tanks?
 
What are the “do’s and don'ts” for Septic System Maintenance?
 
What Items Should Not be Flushed Down the Drain or Toilet?
 
What Do You Charge for Digging?
 
How often should I pump out my septic tank?
 
Would You Have a Record of the Last Time my Tank was Pumped?
 
I Know Nothing About Septic Systems, How do you Locate my Septic Tank?
 
I’ve recently detected an odor in my home, what could be causing this?
 
How Long Does it Take to Pump Out my Septic Tank?
 
What Exactly Does the Baffle do?
 
What Rules and Regulations Govern Septic Systems?
 
Can I Plant or Build Anything on Top of my Septic System?
 

Inspection

When Should Septic Systems be Inspected?
 
Should I Pump my Tank Before I Put my House up for Sale?
 
How Safe are Dyes and Tracers?
 
Who initiates Inspections?
 
What if There is a Problem with my System?
 
What is the Homeowner's Role in the Inspection Process?
 
How Do I Know if my Septic System is Failing?
 
The home I’m thinking of buying is only 3 years old, should I have the system inspected?
 
Why do You Need to Order a Utility Mark-out?
 

Repairs

Are septic installers certified or licensed?
 
Do I need to obtain a permit to repair my septic systems?
 
How soon can work begin?
 

Installations & Replacements

After the installation, will your company reseed the work site?
 
What type of sand do you use?
 
How long will it take to have a septic system installed?
 
What type of guarantee does CJS offer?
 
How do I know how large my tank is?
 
I’ve recently detected an odor in my home, what could be causing that?
 
How do You Locate my Septic Tank?
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Maintenance

What is a Septic System?

A septic system is a highly efficient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment system. Because septic systems treat and dispose of household wastewater onsite, they are often more economical than centralized sewer systems in rural areas where lot sizes are larger and houses are spaced widely apart. Septic systems are also simple in design, which make them generally less expensive to install and maintain. And, by using natural processes to treat the wastewater onsite, usually in a homeowner's backyard, septic systems do not require the installation of miles of sewer lines, making them less disruptive to the environment.

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How do you take care of your onsite system?

Your onsite treatment system represents a significant investment, which you will want to protect. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" was never more true than it is with onsite system care. With proper operation and regular maintenance, your system will function much better and last longer.
 
In addition, hazardous household chemicals like paints, varnishes, waste oils, and pesticides pollute the groundwater and should never be disposed of through a septic system. They can also kill the microorganisms in the system that break down the waste.
 
By educating everyone in your household about what is and is not good for septic systems, they can begin to develop good maintenance habits.
 
In a typical household, most of the water used indoors is used in the bathroom and there are a lot of little things that can be done to conserve water there.
 
For example, try to avoid letting water run while washing hands and brushing teeth. Avoid taking long showers and install water-saving features in faucets and shower heads. These devices can reduce water use by up to 50 percent. Low-flush toilets use one to two gallons per flush compared to the three to five gallons used by conventional toilets. Even using a toilet dam or putting a container filled with rocks in the toilet tank can reduce water use by 25 percent.
 
It is also important to avoid overtaxing your system by using a lot of water in a short time period, or by allowing too much outside water to reach the drainage field. Try to space out activities requiring heavy water use (like laundry) over several days. Also, divert roof drains, surface water, and sump pumps away from the drainage field.

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Do I need to add anything to my septic system to keep it working properly?

While many products on the market claim to help septic systems work better, the truth is there is no magic potion to cure an ailing system. In fact, most engineers and sanitation professionals believe that commercial septic system additives are, at best, useless; and at worst, potentially harmful to a system.
 
There are two types of septic system additives: biological (like bacteria, enzymes, and yeast) and chemical. Most biological additives are harmless, but some chemical additives can potentially harm the soil in the drainage field and contaminate the groundwater.
 
While there has not been extensive study on the effectiveness of these products, the general consensus among septic system experts is that septic system additives are unnecessary.
 
Yeasts, bacteria, enzymes and chemicals are sold with claim of helping septic systems, but the opposite is true. There is no specific scientific evidence that proves additivies are effective. In fact, some additives allow the solids in an overloaded tank to be re-suspended and clog the drainage lines.
Additives, although cheaper in price, are not a proper alternative to routine maintenance by a licensed septic contractor. What you save in the short run will be far overshadowed by potential replacement costs after years of improper maintenance and use of additives.
 
Commercial biological additives are not necessary for restarting decomposition after pumping becuase the sludge residue contains active microorganisms.
 
Two distinct categories of additives: 1) chemical includes inorganic and organic compounds 2) biological – includes yeast, bacteria and enzymes. There are appromiately 1,200 additive products on the market today, many of which contain enzymes that can be purchased through septic tank pumpers, discount stores and chemical companies.
Contrary to popular belief, yeast, dead chickens, possums or raw hamburger do not need to be added to a septic tank.

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What type of toilet paper is best for septic tanks?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to sacrifice personal comfort to protect your septic tank. There are many types of toilet paper on the market that are perfectly safe for septic systems.
 
According to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a nonprofit organization that tests products relating to health and the environment, the thickness and color of toilet tissue does not necessarily affect its biodegradability.
 
NSF subjects the toilet papers it certifies to rigorous testing, and the brands that pass carry the NSF mark stating that they are safe for use with septic systems. However, there probably are many brands without the NSF mark that are also safe. In general, most toilet papers that are septic friendly will bear some sort of marking.

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What are the “do’s and dont’s” for Septic System Maintenance?

See above

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What items should not be flushed down the drain or toilet?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to sacrifice personal comfort to protect your septic tank. There are many types of toilet paper on the market that are perfectly safe for septic systems.
 
According to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a nonprofit organization that tests products relating to health and the environment, the thickness and color of toilet tissue does not necessarily affect its biodegradability.
 
NSF subjects the toilet papers it certifies to rigorous testing, and the brands that pass carry the NSF mark stating that they are safe for use with septic systems. However, there probably are many brands without the NSF mark that are also safe. In general, most toilet papers that are septic friendly will bear some sort of marking.

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Do you charge for digging?

If our service tech is able to open a tank with little or no time, there is no digging charge. If there is a charge applied for digging, we will recommend you hire us to build up the tank’s access for future savings and convenience. Not all companies offer digging.

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How often should I pump out my septic tank?

There is a reference chart on this site. Generally, every two to three years is considered good service. This will vary with the size and usage of the tank. Just make sure the large opening (approximately 24”-30” in diameter) is used every time for thorough service.

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Would you have a record of the last time my tank was pumped?

Absolutely. We can also tell you where it is, how it looked, which tech was there and how you paid. We might even have your dog’s name.

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I know nothing about septic systems, how do you locate my septic tank?

There are several ways. Most of the time we just know. If you service several systems a day you develop a sense of where installers put tanks. We also have notes on the several thousands of systems we’ve serviced. In a pinch, we follow the pipe from the building with a snake, probing rod or electronic “flushable transmitter. We’ll find it. 

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I’ve recently detected an odor in my home, what could be causing this?

Probably not the septic system. All fixtures have water “traps”. Traps hold water, which prevents sewer gas from getting into your home from the tank. Odors are difficult to troubleshoot. They sometimes are the result of disconnected pipes, seldom used fixtures (dry water traps), open windows and, occasionally, bird’s nests in the roof vents.

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How long does it take to pump out my septic tank?

If it is located and exposed, within 10 to 15 minutes, the whole process may run one hour.
If your system shows signs of failure, is in coarse, sandy soils, or is within 100 feet of a lakeshore or stream, plan to have your system replaced. In the interim, reduce your waste load, do not use a garbage disposal, and if necessary, consider a portable restroom.

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What exactly does the baffle do?

The liquid in the tank settles into three distinct layers. The bottom layer is sludge, which accumulates between services. The middle level is the clearest effluent, which is directed to the drainage system. The top layer is scum, which is where the bacteria works to break down solids into sludge. The baffle prevents the scum layer from leaving the tank through the outgoing line, which is also located near the top of the tank.

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What rules and regulations govern septic systems?  (EPA, local municipalities….)

Some municipalities have septic maintenance ordinances. Usually requires pumping every 2-4 years. Septic owners are encouraged to pump systems and conduct mini inspections at the same time every 2-4 years depending on size of family and usage.

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Can I plant or build anything on top of my septic system?

(Alterations to septic system require permits for local administrative authorities and health departments)
 
What can be planted over or near a drainage field? The best covering for your drainage field is grass because it helps to remove water and nutrients from the soil and helps to prevent soil erosion. Some people may choose to landscape their drainage field because of limited space or because they think it is an eyesore. The challenge is to find plants that will meet your landscaping needs but not clog the drain pipes.
 
  • The deep roots of some vegetables may damage the drainage field pipes as can digging and rototilling the soil to prepare it for planting vegetables – hand cultivate only!
  • Parts of the system may only be six inches under the surface. Adding two or three inches of topsoil to the drainage field should be fine but more than that could prohibit the exchange of air and water, decreasing the drainage field’s ability to treat wastewater
  • Plants should be low in maintenance and water needs and should be shallow rooted 
  • Base your plant selection on the amount of sunlight the area receives and the flowers needed.
  • For wildflower seeds, remove grass in small areas (six inches in diameter) and sow the seeds in those areas. Keep the grass out of the area until the seed has germinated and is large enough to compete with the grass.
  • No trees or shrubs planted within 25 feet of the drainage field
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Inspection

When should septic systems be inspected?

Conventional septic tank/soil absorption systems are the most common type of onsite system serving individuals in the U.S. It is in the homeowners' interest to have their septic systems inspected regularly, even when regulations do not require it. Septic systems serving restaurants or other businesses or institutions must be inspected more frequently than residential systems because they usually treat wastewater that is higher in strength and volume.
 
It is especially important for homeowners to schedule annual inspections for new septic systems and systems that are new to them as users to monitor how quickly the layers of sludge and scum accumulate in the septic tank with normal use. If sludge scum layers are allowed to become thick, solid materials may flow from the septic tank into the soil absorption field, clogging the pipes and soil and causing the system to fail. Annual inspections help homeowners estimate precisely how often they need to have their septic tank pumped out to avoid this problem.
 
Inspections can also uncover any cracks, flaws, or other problems with the system, and they can help homeowners find out if they are using their systems wisely. For example, inspections can reveal if food scraps, or other inappropriate items, are being washed down the drain regularly, or if too much water is being used, which can overburden systems.

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Should I pump my tank before I put my house up for sale?

Tanks should be pumped regularly, but not specifically for a transaction.
Pumping within 30 days of a Buyers Inspection is prohibited in NJDEP Inspection protocol.

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How safe are dyes and tracers?

The use of dye is not a preferred method to evaluate the condition of a septic system. Dyes and tracers are often used to locate leaks and to determine whether the drainfield is clogged and if the system has contaminated nearby wells, other potable water sources, or surface waters.
 
One drawback to this method is that some dyes are thought to be carcinogenic and may contaminate nearby water sources. Dyes sometimes do not become visible for hours or days or may not appear at all, even in systems that are malfunctioning. Improper testing with dye may cause hydraulic overloading and can potentially harm drainage systems.

Who initiates Inspections?

If your community has some type of program in place for managing onsite systems, you may be contacted by a health official or management program employee to schedule an inspection of your system. Otherwise, it usually is up to homeowners to initiate system inspections. Contact your local health department for information about inspections in your area.

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What if there is a problem with my system?

Call Central Jersey Septic for an evaluation of your system to uncover the reason for malfunction. CJS will be able to quickly detect the problem and offer suggested solutions in fixing it. It is recommended that you let a trained technician perform repairs and diagnostics, but if you do wish to examine it prior to that point, please exercise caution when working near the opened septic system. Toxic and explosive gases present are hazardous. Never enter a septic system!
 
The failing system could be a result of neglecting to have your system pumped. To solve this, simply have Your septic system pumped but remain weary as this is usually only a temporary solution for a much larger problem at hand.
 
Conserve Water in Your Home. This is particularly effective if your septic system has not failed completely, yet. It can help lessen the problem for a short time until you are able to have the situation corrected by a trusted septic system professional.
 
Fence off the Area. If effluent is seeping to the surface, prevent people and pets from coming I to contact with it.
 
Contact Central Jersey Septic at the first sign of a problem to avoid long term damage of your system or to begin the process in designing a new system immediately to make sure that your home’s onsite waste system is not out of order for a lengthy amount of time.

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What is the homeowner's role in the inspection process?

Suppose you contacted your local health department, found the right people to inspect your system, and scheduled an appointment—now is your role in the inspection over? Not if you're smart. Your continued involvement will help ensure that everything goes smoothly and that you benefit as much as possible from the process.

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How do I know if my septic system is failing?

  • Sewage Odor in the house or yard
  • Standing Water over the tank or leach field (ground wet or mushy)
  • Slow draining sinks and toilets
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing
  • Plumbing Back ups
  • Grass growing faster and greener in one particular area of the yard, especially during the extreme parts of summer or winter – excess algae or plant growth
  • Tests showing the presence of bacteria in well water
None of these warning signs can be considered a sure indication that a system has failed, but the appearance of one or more of them should prompt homeowners to have their systems inspected. Septic system failures also can occur without any of these warning signals. For this reason, a yearly inspection of your septic system is recommended and even required by some communities.

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The home I’m thinking of buying is only 3 years old, should I have the system inspected?

Usually, unless there is a very recent service receipt with a clean bill of health for drainage area, and a very accurate “as built” plan of the system. Buyers get a great overview of not only the system’s condition, but also location, during an inspection. Septic tanks should be serviced within three years anyway, so a thorough look at that time would be a good idea.

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Why do you need to order a utility mark-out?

State Law! Any contractor, who intends to dig, must notify N.J. One-Call five days prior to starting. This law was enacted a few years ago to protect the growing volume of underground utilities in our state. All reputable contractors will insist on compliance with the law.

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Repairs

Are septic installers certified or licensed?

CJS is a Registered NJ Contractor but unfortunately, NJ does not provide a specific certification opportunity for septic technicians. Therefore, all CJS field techs are sent to complete the Onlot Wastewater Treatment certification courses provided by Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA). Our coordinator has also completed OSHA’s 10 hour Construction Safety Course and attends symposiums at Rutgers University on alternative designs and recommended installation practices. Only CJS trained personnel install the components of our systems. We are committed to continued education of our staff, utilization new technologies and techniques, and the highest installation standard in our service area.

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT CONTRACTORS AND THE CONTRACTORS’ REGISTRATION ACT, CONTACT THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS AT 1-888-656-6225.

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Do I need to obtain a permit to repair my septic systems?

In most municipalities, yes. If you would like CJS to obtain the permit, we can do so. Permits are intended to assure that the person making the repair is experience and understands the correct procedures and processes. Laws are also in place to protect the environment, the homeowner and the surrounding community. Some very minor repairs do not require permit in some towns. However, if you suspect a permit should be required for you repair, you are probably correct.

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How soon can work begin?

Upon receipt of a signed proposal, CJS will obtain a utility mark-out, which takes 4 business days, at no additional cost to you. Other variables include: weather, availability of the health department inspector and contractor’s schedule.  CJS stays current and will always make room for emergencies.

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Installations & Replacements

After the installation, will your company reseed the work site?

CJS can reseed the area, at an additional cost.  We recommend clients consider their own landscaper whenever convenient.

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What type of sand do you use?

Generally, the highest quality Select K4 sand we are aware of, or as specified if different.  We continually consult with design engineers for their preferred sources of septic sand.

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How long will it take to have a septic system installed?

For over 80% of our complete system installations, it takes 2-3 days pending weather conditions.  Small repairs are usually completed in one day or less.

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What type of guarantee does CJS offer?

We guarantee the following on each of our projects:
  • The system will be installed exactly as your plan (engineer) specifies.
  • The select fill and washed stone will be of the highest quality. (This may be evident on some projects when comparing prices).
  • Final approval of the work will be confirmed by your Health Department Official.
  • We will respond immediately (same day) to troubleshoot any future problems.
  • If a problem is related to the installation, we will correct it at our expense.
Septic owners should be wary of "unconditional" guarantees. Properly installed septic systems can fail if abused. Our first commitment is a high quality installation. Secondly, we thoroughly inform our customers of septic do’s and don’ts. Finally, Central Jersey is the area’s most reputable septic maintenance company. Our database will automatically send a reminder when you are due for preventative servicing! This combination has been very effective for our clients.

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How do I know how large my tank is?

If your seller or builder did not leave you an “as built” plan, you may request one from you health department (you will need your lot and block number). An “as-built” plan is provided by the installer, which contains actual dimensions to key septic components. CJS has an extensive file of “as-built” septic plans; you may want to check with us first.
 
None of these warning signs can be considered a sure indication that a system has failed, but the appearance of one or more of them should prompt homeowners to have their systems inspected. Septic system failures also can occur without any of these warning signals. For this reason, a yearly inspection of your septic system is recommended and even required by some communities. 

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I’ve recently detected an odor in my home, what could be causing that?

Probably not the septic system. All fixtures have water “traps”. Traps hold water, which prevents sewer gas from getting into your home from the tank. Odors are difficult to troubleshoot. They sometimes are the result of disconnected pipes, seldom used fixtures (dry water traps), open windows and, occasionally, bird’s nests in the roof vents.

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How do you locate my septic tank? I have no idea where it is.

There are several ways. Most of the time we just know. If you service several systems a day you develop a sense of where installers put tanks. We also have notes on the several thousands of systems we’ve serviced. In a pinch, we follow the pipe from the building with a snake, probing rod or electronic “flushable transmitter. We’ll find it.

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