A few years ago, friends purchased an older home in the country. It had been vacant for a couple of months. When they ran their first load of laundry, the waste water backed up through the pipes and flooded a portion of the lower level of the home. Upon further examination, the “septic system” was nothing more than a buried 55-gallon drum, with a tile drain running somewhere into the neighboring woodlands.

I hear stories like this frequently from rural residents. The story that worries me most is when someone tells me they never “had” to pump their septic system. That tells me either the system is hooked up to a tile drain and is pouring into a stream, or the tank is beginning to fill up with solids that are settling out, and that sometime in the next few years, that person may need to replace the entire tank and field system.

Jeff Burbrink is an educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or jburbrink@purdue.edu.

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