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paper tissues, paper towels,
disposable nappy liners,
cigarettes, rags or materials.
(Toilet paper is OK.)
... Car engine oil, cooking oil or
... Vegetable matter and food
scraps, i.e. coffee grounds.
... Acids, pesticides, medicines,
paint thinners or other material
that will kill the bacteria in the
'Unsuitable' cleaning materials
Why systems fail
Septic systems tend to fail because
the disposal system has begun
to fail. This can be caused by an
excessive build up of sludge in the
tank carrying over to the disposal
field. If the tank is not pumped out
often enough, solids and fats can be
carried over into the soil of the field,
clogging it so the effluent cannot
Tree roots may also cause a
problem when the roots get into the
pipes, blocking them so the effluent
cannot pass all the way through
the disposal system. Vehicles may
fracture pipes, so again, effluent
cannot travel all the way through
them. If unsuitable cleaning
materials are put down the drains,
the useful bacteria may be killed.
The disposal field can flood if the
distribution box does not function
properly or shifts to sit at an angle.
Insufficiently treated wastewater can
affect water supplies, streams and
Surface water infiltration
A major reason for systems failing or
not performing well is the infiltration
of surface water. This water almost
always originates as rainwater
and may come from a water tank
overflow, a broken down-pipe, run-
off from roads or overland flows.
Problems may occur either from
direct wetting of the disposal field,
or from surface water entering the
septic tank or distribution box. Water
may enter the system by flowing
into gully traps, septic tanks or
distribution box lids that are too low
or not waterproof, or through vents
that are situated below ground level.
The result will be to saturate the
disposal field and prevent soakage
of wastewater. This will result in
wastewater or effluent lying on the
To protect your treatment and
disposal system from surface water
... Ensure all gully traps have
risers in place, above ground
... Place a riser on your septic
tank access and/or distribution
box to bring the top just above
ground level. This will not only
keep water out but will make
access for maintenance easier.
... Keep water tank overflows
away from your treatment
system or disposal field.
... Ensure that roof water from
overflowing gutters or broken
downpipes does not enter your
treatment system or disposal
... Divert or deflect any overland
flows or run-off away from your
treatment system or disposal
field with cut-off and/or
Protect the disposal field
Prevention is better and cheaper
than cure. The most common
problems with septic tanks occur in
the disposal fields.
To help preserve the field:
... Do not allow vehicles onto
... Do not cover the vents or
access to the septic tank or
... Do not grow deep rooted trees
or shrubs over soakage
trenches or pipes.
... Use only 'enviro friendly'
products which are not high in
sodium, as sodium rich
products make the clay soils
of Waiheke lose their absorption
... If you have a distribution box,
alternate the flow to the
trenches, as recommended by
... Keep a register of any service
or pumpout carried out on your
Rainwater collection dos/dont's
Aids to obtain clean roof water:
... Keep roof catchment area clean
and clear of moss, lichen,
debris and leaves.
... Cut back trees and branches
that overhang roofs; obtain
resource consent if necessary.
... Regular inspections, and - if
necessary - cleaning of gutters.
... Clean gutter and tank inlets and
screens once every three to
... Disinfect the supply, if tank
contamination is apparent.
... Inspect tanks annually and
clean them out if necessary.
... Test the water periodically and
treat if infected.
... Close off tank inlets when
pohutukawa trees are in bloom,
as their flowers will discolour
Design features that help obtain
... A clean, impervious roof made
of non-toxic materials.
... The absence of lead flashings
or lead based paints.
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