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Medications May Cause More Frequent Septic Tank Cleaning in Northern Virginia

While normal use of many medications including over the counter drugs will not harm your septic system, some antibiotics and certain strong medications such as those used in chemotherapy can affect the operation of your system, and increase the need for septic tank cleaning in Northern Virginia. This is because the human body does not completely metabolize medications, so they enter septic systems through our body wastes. Certain medications may cause premature failure of your septic system.

According to experts, high concentrations of antibiotics or chemotherapy chemicals can kill or retard the growth of the bacteria in your septic tank and soil treatment area (i.e. the drainfield or mound). These bacteria are necessary for proper operation of your system because they digest some of the organic matter entering the tank. They reduce the amount of solids in the tank and reduce the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of the effluent—the water leaving the tank to the soil treatment area. If the tank bacteria are destroyed, solids accumulate in the tank much faster and can create problems in the soil treatment area.

What Can You Do?

  1. Don’t flush leftover medications into your septic system. Not only could this cause problems with your septic system, those medications could contaminate groundwater. Instead, ask your pharmacist if they will dispose of the medication for you if you return it to them.
  2. Minimize the use of antibacterial soap, cleaners and bleach, as these products further stress the bacteria in the system.
  3. Increase the maintenance of your septic tank system if you are taking certain strong medications, such as chemotherapy drugs. Your tank may have to be pumped and cleaned more often to remove solids that are accumulating rapidly due to the loss of beneficial bacteria.
  4. If your septic tank gets too toxic, it may be necessary to use your tank as a holding tank during a prescribed treatment.
  5. Fill the septic tank with clean water after pumping to dilute the concentrations of the medicines at the restart of the system.
  6. Certain design changes may be necessary to protect your drain field, and may include adding an effluent screen to the outlet of the septic tank, to limit solids exiting the tank. The effluent screen will need to be cleaned frequently if the septic tank is upset. An alarm is a critical part of an effluent filter installation as it will indicate when the filter needs to be cleaned. An effluent screen is particularly helpful if you expect a lot of hair loss; preventing hair from being washed into the septic system. It can remain suspended in the wastewater and get carried to the drain field, where it could plug the soil and cause drain field failure.

If you are concerned about how your medicines may be affecting your septic tank cleaning schedule in Northern Virginia, please contact Soils and Environmental Services, Inc. (SES) The experts at SES can monitor your system and take samples of BOD or TSS (total suspended solids) and recommend a management plan. Based in Warrenton, Virginia, SES has provided expert septic system inspections, service, maintenance and repairs to Northern Virginia systems since 1987.

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