With the spring season finally here, it’s time for Muskoka cottagers to start the process of opening their cottages for the summertime. This means getting supplies together, cleaning, dusting, and airing out your cottage, fixing anything that was damaged over the harsh winter, and perhaps most importantly, preparing and maintaining your cottage’s septic system for the months ahead. Getting all the maintenance and preparation out of the way will ensure that you (hopefully) won’t have to think about your septic system for the rest of the season. If you’re unsure of what steps to take in opening and preparing your septic system for the summertime, here’s what you need to know.

How to recognize that you should pump your septic system

If you’ve never had your septic system pumped or have limited experience in doing so, it can be difficult to know exactly when to go about emptying it. It’s recommended that your septic system be pumped every three to five years, though this can depend on the amount of people spending time at your cottage or the usage. The first sign that you should pump your septic system is if it’s been a while or if you can’t pinpoint the last time it was done – it might be a good idea to have it pumped just to err on the side of caution. Another more obvious sign is if there’s a pronounced odour on your property – it could be a sign that sewage has backed up into your pipes. Less obvious signs like slower drainage and gurgling sounds emitting from drains can also signal that your system needs to be pumped.

Check your septic tank filter

A functioning filter is an important part of a healthy septic system, making it important that you check the status of the filter prior to opening your septic tank for the season. Your filter can become clogged with scum and debris from a long winter, with snowfall and snowmelt contributing to the buildup. A clogged filter can disrupt every aspect of your septic system, making it critical that you check and clean/change your filter to ensure that the system functions as it should. If you aren’t sure how to locate and clean your filter, follow these instructions.

Check your yard for pooling and standing water

One of the most common causes of a flooded yard or large pools of standing water on your property is a flooded septic system. This is usually caused by the septic system’s drain field becoming flooded. Keep an eye on your yard throughout the early part of the spring season, as it’ll help you catch problems before they can escalate into more serious ones by knowing to pump your tank if your yard floods.

Check your sump pit pump

If your household waste goes into a sump pit first before being pumped to your septic system, check your sump pit pump for proper operation when you open your cottage. If you have to have it replaced, make sure that the pump is designed for solid waste and not grey water (water from showers and sinks). Additionally, you should choose an ejector rather than a grinder pump so that the waste is properly broken down once it gets to your septic system. Your septic is designed to handle solid and liquid waste, rather than all liquid waste as you would get with a grinder pump.

Redirect your gutters away from your septic system

With more seasonal rain on the way and without proactive redirecting, your gutters will be directing water directly into your drain field and other parts of your septic system. Redirecting your gutters early in the season ensures that your gutters won’t be feeding directly into your septic system, instead carrying water and debris away from your cottage’s vital systems.

Watch your water usage

Finally, it’s always a good idea to watch your water usage throughout the cottage season. If you anticipate that your cottage will be hosting many guests, it may be a good idea to pump your septic tank just to be on the safe side. Using too much water can very easily throw off the balance of microorganisms within your septic tank, reducing their effectiveness and creating problems for your cottage and septic system. Remember not to flush objects that may harm the septic system or disrupt the microorganisms within – things like food waste and grease especially should not make its way into your septic tank. Bacon grease or grease from roasts should be thrown in the garbage or better yet – used as firestarter.

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