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New Septic Tank Law Takes Effect in May

SOMERS, N.Y. - Most homes in Somers and North Salem use a septic system to eliminate waste. A new state law requires owners of septic systems to have the system professionally pumped out at least once every five years, and to hold onto the certificate of proof for at least six years thereafter.

Although septic tanks rely on naturally occurring bacteria to break down waste, some material does not respond to bacteria and forms a layer of sludge. In addition, light solids, such as fat and grease float to the top of the tank, forming a layer of scum. This is why septic tanks need to be pumped out on a regular basis.

The National Small Flows Clearinghouse suggests certain items are more apt than others to clog a septic drain field and strongly recommends the following items should never be flushed down drains: coffee grinds, dental floss, disposable diapers, kitty litter, sanitary napkins, tampons, cigarette butts, condoms, fat, grease, oil, paper towels, handi-wipes, paints, thinners, varnishes, waste oil, photographic solutions and pesticides.

Some of the warning signs of a failing septic system include slow draining sinks and toilets, gurgling sounds in the plumbing, plumbing backups, sewage odors in the house or yard, wet ground and/or spots of greener grass. System failure may occur without warnings, however, so regular pumping is a necessary safeguard.

Malfunctioning septic systems can endanger health and property. Repairs to a failing system can be expensive so the wisest approach is to provide preventive maintenance.

The new septic tank law goes into effect May 1.

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