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Environmental Health

Director: Jennifer Johnson


SepticSmart Week
(September 18th-22nd)
Helpful tips for your septic system

On Monday, September 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – in conjunction with federal, state and local government and private sector partners – will kick off its fifth annual SepticSmart Week (September 18th-22nd) to encourage American homeowners and communities to properly maintain their septic systems.

More than 26 million homes in the United States – or one in five households – depend on septic systems to treat wastewater. Skagit County Department of Public Health tracks the status of more than 18,000 on-site sewage systems (OSS). If not maintained, failing septic systems can contaminate groundwater and harm the environment by releasing bacteria, viruses, and household toxics to local waterways. Proper septic system maintenance protects public health and the environment and saves the homeowner money through avoided costly repairs.

Protect It and Inspect It!
Homeowners that have simple gravity On-Site Sewage Systems (OSS), which includes a tank to clarify household sewage and a gravity drainfield, are required to have their system inspected every three years by a qualified professional. With proper training you may be able to inspect your own gravity system in lieu of hiring a professional inspector.  For more details, please call Skagit County Department of Public Health at 360-416-1500.

OSS with more complex components must have an inspection by a qualified professional annually.

Tanks should be pumped only when the inspection determines necessity.


Think at the Sink:
Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain.  These can clog your system’s pipes and drainfield.  Instead, scrape your pots, pans, and plates into your garbage.

Don’t Overload the Commode:
Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there – only #1, #2, and TP.  Other items such as coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes (including “flushable” wipes), feminine hygiene products, harsh chemicals, cigarette butts, and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.



Don’t Strain your Drain: Be water-efficient and spread out water use.  Fix plumbing leaks; install faucet aerators and use water-efficient laundry and dishwashers.  Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day; limit laundry to one to two loads per day.  Too much water at once can overload and flood your system.



Shield Your Field:
Remind guests not to park or drive on your system’s drainfield; avoid allowing livestock to graze on your drainfield.  Heavy use could damage buried pipes or compact the soil and disrupt flow and treatment of effluent. Reserve your drainfield for growing low-profile, shallow-rooted plants.



Consider a Service Contract:
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The relatively modest cost of ensuring your septic system is regularly and properly maintained by a certified professional will not only prevent much more costly repairs, it will ensure that public health, the environment and your property values are protected.
Questions to ask a potential service provider:

  • What services are included in the base price?
  • What services are available for an additional fee?
  • What is the hourly rate for performing additional services?
  • When does an additional charge begin to accrue?
  • How will you contact me for approval of additional service and fees?
  • When is payment due for services performed?
  • How will you notify me when the service is due?
  • How will you notify me when someone will arrive to conduct the service?
  • What happens if I hear an alarm?  What is the charge for the service call?

Contact Skagit County Department of Public Health (360-416-1500) for additional information about your on-site sewage system (OSS) and for a list of certified Operations and Maintenance providers!




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On Site Sewage System Summary Report

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