A new septic system may cost as much as $17,000.00. There are new regulations being passed by the State Health Department which will increase the cost dramatically. If you are considering replacing your old system, now may be the best time to act. Call your local septic system installer or your local county health department for details. (*Some areas may offer low interest loans to individuals needing to repair or replace their septic system.)
There are a number of advantages to newer septic systems. One obvious advantage of a new system, properly installed and maintained, is peace of mind. Some older systems still in use are no longer permitted under current Health Department regulations. If in doubt contact your local county health department. Another major advantage of newer systems is the use of PVC lines and other modern plumbing techniques which greatly reduce the risk of system backups if the system is properly maintained. Installation of new systems generally means easier access for pump outs with lids initially placed at or above ground level. This eliminates the need to dig up the lawn. New systems have secondary treatment systems to further treat the water before it gets discharged. Older systems were frequently routed directly from the tank into a tile which discharged into a stream, ditch or creek. That practice is no longer allowed under Health Department regulations since it is detrimental to public health and the environment. Not everyone needs to have a new system installed. Your septic system can last many years if properly installed and maintained.
During an inspection, our service provider will try to determine the following
The type of system. (Septic tank, aeration system, etc.)
- The capacity of the tank in gallons
- Was the liquid in the tank at the proper level?
- Was there any surface discharge observed or effluent noticed on the ground?
- Did water enter the tank from the house? (Need to have access to running water in the house to check this.)
- Was the outlet tee in place?
- Did the tank appear to be in good working condition?
- Does the tank have lids and risers and are they in good condition?
- Did the level of solids in the tank warrant pumping?
- Was the system working properly as observed?
Our service provider will make note of any repairs made or needed as observed.
*Septic systems are subterranean , therefore, it is impossible to determine their overall condition. Also, when no water is entering the field lines, i.e., if the house is vacant, a determination of their status is difficult. No prediction can be made as to when or if a system might fail.
Our inspection reports comment on the performance of the system on the day of the inspection, and are in no way intended to be a warranty.
Performance can be altered by factors such as excessive rainfall, heavy water usage, use of a garbage disposal, faulty plumbing, neglect or physical damage to the system. All tanks require pumping maintenance at regular intervals.
We can do inspections. Depending on the county you are in, the health department may need to do the inspection for the sale or purchase of real estate. *Check first with your local county health department for regulations concerning inspections. The septic tank will need to be pumped at the time of the inspection in order to be as thorough as possible. We cannot guarantee that a septic system will not fail. Due to the subterranean nature of septic systems it is impossible to determine their overall condition. No prediction can be made as to when or if a system might fail. We can comment on the performance of the system on the day of inspection, but this is in no way intended to be a guarantee that the system will not fail. Performance can be altered by factors such as excessive rainfall, heavy water usage, use of a garbage disposal or lack of maintenance. Other performance altering factors include vacancy of the home, faulty plumbing, neglect or physical damage to the system. We do suggest that any blueprints of the system be obtained from the health department if possible.
It depends. Check with your local county health department concerning regulations governing septic tank pumping as related to selling and purchasing of a home. Some counties require documentation showing that a septic tank has been pumped out by a licensed septage hauler within a reasonable amount of time prior to the sale or purchase of a property. If too much time has passed or no proof is found, you may be required to have the tank pumped in order to complete the sale or purchase of the real estate. Such regulations help insure that the septic system is functioning properly and is not creating a nuisance condition. This also gives the potential buyers of the property an accurate date to use in determining when to schedule their routine pumping every 3 to 5 years.
It can be very harmful. We recommend all roof and surface water be routed away from your septic system. Excess water can hinder performance by flooding the secondary treatment system. Install gutters, make changes to your landscaping and install down spouts connected into tiles to channel the surface water away.
No. A sump pump is installed to pump out any water that has entered a basement before it starts flooding the basement floor. Since good septic tank maintenance requires not overloading your septic system, you would want to avoid running excessive amounts of water through the system. The water flow from a sump pump should go out of the house through a discharge pipe that carries the water far away from the house to a field tile or storm sewer. Do not discharge the water onto a septic system drain field.
We recommended that your water softener not be hooked into the septic system. This has the potential to be very harmful to your system. Excessive water softener salt will kill the bacteria that is essential for maintaining an efficient system. If your water softener is hooked into the septic system, we recommend having a plumber reroute the backwash water. In the mean time, take the following precautions to reduce possible damage to the septic tank and biomat. (The biomat is the layer that forms at the bottom of the gravel bed or distribution field made up of anaerobic bacteria and its by-product, a black slimy substance that protects the bacteria from oxygen).
- Have your water tested for hardness so you can set controls to the lowest backwash frequency needed and don’t use too much salt (*First, check with your local county health departmentconcerning regulations for water softeners. Most health departments do not require water softener hook up)
- In areas with extremely hard water, using a separate drywell to receive water softener backwash is recommended when regulations require softener hook up
- Watch for leaky faucets, toilets or improperly working water softeners and fix as soon as possible
SAFETY 1ST: As with any odor you are unsure of, take appropriate measures to insure your safety in case of propane or gas leaks. Once you have eliminated the possibility of a propane or gas leak, you should have the septic system pumped if it has not been done recently. If odor is still a problem, check for a broken or leaking line coming from your house to your septic tank. Breakage and leaks most often occur with older lines made from materials such as steel or cast iron pipe. Breakage is most often caused by freezing and thawing, wet to dry conditions or settling of ground. Doing a dye test can be useful in determining if you have a broken or leaking line.(*Be sure to use dye made especially for use with plumbing fixtures and be careful not to overflow a lower drain or toilet when doing a dye test.) Introduce the dye with a substantial amount of water down the toilet or bathtub, then check your sump basin for signs of the dye. It may be necessary to plug the line at the septic tank in order to build pressure on the line. If you determine that the line is broken, it must be dug up and replaced with PVC line. Be sure to replace the entire line, being certain the new line runs through the basement wall and through the wall of the septic tank. Replacing only the bad section of line would only set you up for further problems. Odor from your sump pump could also indicate a high water condition with your septic tank. You may have water from the leach field and septic tank escaping and seeping up through the stone around the sewer pipe causing it to back up into the sump pump. One option to help with this situation may be to buy around six bags of sodium bentonite to mix with the ground around the sewer pipe. Sodium bentonite expands when wet and can potentially absorb several times its dry mass in water. This will basically plug off the water. You can usually purchase sodium bentonite from a feed dealer for around $7.00 a bag. Ask your service provider for further information on how to deal with a high water condition.
There are a number of potential causes for sewer odor inside your house. BE SAFE:
Turn off gas and propane sources and get out of the house immediately if there is any possibility of a leak. Do not stay in the house unless and until the problem is found and adequate measures have been taken to ensure your safety. After eliminating gas or propane leaks or any outside source (trash, manure, etc.) as the cause, there are several other possible sources to investigate. Check that the seal around your toilet is not broken. If it is, call a plumber to repair or replace the seal. Make sure there are no broken pipes in your crawl space or basement. Traps for sinks, bathtubs, toilets and drains should contain water. You may need to run several gallons of water down drains and toilets to refill the traps. If you have done any recent plumbing updates or changes, be certain that you have capped off the old lines. Check your vent pipe for obstructions such as bird nests, dead animals or debris. If you have a sump pump, check the basin for odor. If still unsure of the source, call a plumber or other professional as needed for assistance.
Yes, but it could also be from another source. First of all, determine if the source is on your property. Going upwind from your house can help determine this. If the source of the odor is on your property, check for possible propane or gas leaks and take appropriate safety measures if such a leak is the cause. Once you eliminate the possibility of a propane or gas leak, you can move on to the septic system as a potential source. Have the tank pumped if you notice sewage in the yard or it has been 3 to 5 years since you’ve had it pumped out. You could also try having your vent pipe on top of your house extended. If you still have an odor problem, you can try adding bacteria to the tank or call a plumber to check your lines for plugs, breakage or leaks.
A high water condition means that the water is not leaving your tank as fast as it is entering. The water level in the tank should be at the bottom of your outlet line. There are several conditions that can result in high water and your options for solving the problem depend on the cause. If you don’t practice good maintenance with an adequate pumping routine, then you should call and schedule an appointment. If, after having the system pumped, the problem remains, it may be due to poor soil conditions or a build up of solids from poor system maintenance. One option may be to add bacteria to your leach field lines. Doing this can dissolve tiny blockages in the pores of the soil. Excess water from roof run off not directed away from the drain field area can also be problematic. Install gutters and down spouts connected to tiles and make landscape changes as necessary to channel water away from the septic system. Contact an installer for more information on causes and solutions for high water conditions.
Yes. The process of deterioration happens to concrete tanks. Gases build up in the septic tank as a result of the decomposition of waste inside the tank. More solids present in the tank will mean more gases present in the tank, resulting in more rapid deterioration. Over a period of years, the gases inside the tank slowly start to eat away at the surface of the concrete. This process occurs above the water line in the tank and will affect the top of the tank. Concrete below the water level is usually not affected. As the process takes it course, the surface areas of the concrete become rough and start to crumble away. Slowly, larger pieces begin to break away. Eventually, the rebar or steel inside the concrete, once used for strength, will rust away. As the process continues, the concrete loses its strength. At some point, as the concrete weakens, the lids will collapse if not repaired or replaced. Pumping removes the waste in the tank which reduces the amount of gases in the tank. This means that more frequent pumping can greatly slow down, but not eliminate, the deterioration process of the septic tank. Over time, some deterioration of the tank is inevitable.
No. However, if we pump your septic tank and suspect a clogged line from your house to your septic tank or your septic tank to the drain field, we can put suction on the line. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to remove the clog, since any number of obstructions could be present, including items wrongly flushed down the toilet or tree roots in your outlet line. Frequently, however, putting vacuum on a line will clear out the clog. For older systems with lines made from materials such as steel or cast iron pipe it is a good idea and often necessary to replace these lines with PVC lines. For clogged drains not pertaining to the septic system, we recommend calling a plumber or jet rod service. Since we maintain a commitment to give our customers cost effective service, it would not be cost efficient for us to utilize a vacuum truck to work on a drain line unless we are pumping the septic tank.
Slow and backed up drains may or may not be a sign of a full septic tank. First of all, make sure it is not simply a clogged drain. Perhaps the easiest way to determine this is by checking other plumbing fixtures in your home. If there is only one fixture draining slowly or not draining, you can be fairly certain you are dealing with a clogged drain. On the other hand, if all drains are slow or waste is backing up into the lowest plumbing fixture in your home, suspect the septic system.
Not all septic systems will have effluent filters on them. Effluent filters are designed to prevent solids from leaving the septic tank. This can greatly extend the life of the drain field. The filter fits into a tee baffle which should already be attached to the outlet pipe of your septic tank. Sometimes tee baffles will break or rust away and need to be replaced. Use of effluent filters will require maintenance cleaning. The filter should be cleaned every three to six months. To clean the filter, you will need to remove it from the tee baffle and hose it down, then install the filter back into the tee baffle. If you prefer, we can do the maintenance cleaning of the effluent filter on a regular schedule for a moderate cost.
It is possible, under certain circumstances. If you have a concrete tank that has been in place for a number of years, it is unlikely that you will have this problem. However, certain conditions and locations increase the possibility that a septic tank might “float” to the top of the ground. Be mindful if you are in an area with high water, such as near a lake or pond. Newly installed tanks are a concern due to the loose ground around the tank. Sandy ground might also allow a tank to “float” up and plastic tanks are more susceptible. In the nearly forty years we have been in business, we have rarely seen this problem. If you have a plastic tank or you are concerned that your tank might “float” up, we suggest running 500 to 1000 gallons (for a 1500 gallon tank) of water into the system after having it pumped.
Yes. Flushing unused medications down the toilet can kill the bacteria in the septic system. Contact your local county health department to see if they offer programs to collect and dispose of unused medications. Flushing unused medications down the toilet may also increase the risk of drinking water contamination. To limit the possible harm to the septic system and possible contamination of drinking water, it is best to prevent medications from entering the septic system. Since human waste can contain certain levels of medications, it would be difficult to prevent all meds from entering the septic system. If someone in the home is using a lot of prescription medications, (especially with individuals on chemotherapy regimens) the use of bacterial additives may be helpful in maintaining sufficient bacteria in the septic system.
Yes, but worst of all, it will hurt your environment. According to the U.S. Census, at least 10 percent of onsite septic systems fail. State agencies report that these failing systems are the third most common source of groundwater contamination. Failing septic systems due to lack of, or improper maintenance may result in waste ending up in waterways, or your well, yard or house. It could even end up in someone else’s drinking water. It is not a pleasant scenario, and one that can be avoided with an adequately sized, well maintained, properly working septic system.
When Mike’s Sanitation is called to pump a septic tank, it is our goal to provide this service as quickly and efficiently as possible. One of the highest compliments a customer can pay us is to say “I couldn’t even tell you had been here”. Our customers appreciate not having ruts dug into their yard, or messes left at the pumping site. There are still a couple of ways to tell that we have been there. If nobody was home, our driver would have left a bill or note in a door if possible or you should find a flag stuck in the ground close to the septic tank. Sometimes these notes may blow away or go unfound.
A quick look inside the septic tank should confirm that it has been pumped. The tank will contain liquid only or an extremely small amount of solids depending on how soon you check it after it’s been pumped. We can also look at our records to see which day we pumped the tank.
The septic tank will resume normal water level soon after being pumped. The purpose for having your tank pumped is to remove sludge that will, if not routinely removed, ultimately lead to system failure. As soon as you flush a toilet, take a shower or do laundry, you are again sending water into the septic tank. It is normal to see water in the tank. However, the water level must be at or below the bottom of your outlet line. If the water level is above the outlet line, there is a problem with the system. If this is the case, call your service provider for assistance.
Not usually. However, there are exceptions. Once again, following a suitable pumping schedule can make the difference. You may need to take off work or arrange for a friend or relative to be present at the time of the pumping if you are having difficulties with your system. On the other hand, a well maintained system with lids easily accessible and requiring only a routine pump out, should not require your presence at the time of service. When you call to schedule your septic tank pumping, it will help us determine whether you need to be present at the time of service, if you inform us of any of the following circumstances:
Problems such as system backups, gurgling sounds in the plumbing, slow draining sinks and toilets, foul odor (*BE SAFE: If unsure of the source of odor, always check for possible gas or propane leaks 1stand take appropriate safety precautions), black or gray water standing in your yard or discharging from your outlet tile into a creek or ditch.
- The presence of a pet. (We do ask that pets be contained during our time on your property, for their safety and ours.)
- Limited access to the septic tank. (Inside a fenced in area, locked gate, or under any structure such as a patio, deck or garage) This may or may not require your presence at the time of service and you may need to do some preparation in order for us to be able to access the tank.
- Systems that would require over 200’ of hose to reach the access lids. This may not require your presence at the time of service, but your septic tank pumping may need to be scheduled at a time when the ground is dry or frozen enough to drive across to reach the system.
Since we cannot always guarantee same day service, it is always better to schedule routine pump outs than wait until you are having problems with the system. Usually we can pump your septic tank within a day or so. Sometimes we can get to it the same day, if we have a truck available in your area with adequate room to hold the waste. Extreme weather conditions such as impassible roads due to snow or ice, may slightly delay service, however, this is rare. We make every attempt to pump your tank the same day if it is an emergency situation such as a system backup. However, if we have to make a special trip, an additional service charge will apply. We do not schedule septic tank pumping on weekends, but we will make every effort to accommodate your needs if you have an emergency situation. Be aware that an extra charge will apply for weekend and/or emergency service.
You would think that all septic companies would be pretty much the same, but that is not the case. Believe it or not, not all companies dispose of, or recycle the waste they haul according to EPA regulations. These illegally operating companies may charge a slightly lower rate for their services and make more profit, but they are breaking the regulations that were put in place to protect the public. Illegally disposed of waste is a threat to public health and safety through possible contamination of streams, lakes, wells and ground water. The general public has a responsibility to help protect themselves and others from these threats, yet these illegal practices by unprofessional, unethical, so called businessmen often go unreported and un investigated. To be a responsible consumer, when you have your septic system pumped, you should always ask the service provider how he plans to dispose of your waste. At Mike’s Sanitation, Inc. we own and operate our own EPA licensed sewage treatment facility, so our customers can rest assured about our disposal practices. You should also be sure to ask questions when getting a quote for having your system pumped. One tactic used by some septic pumping companies is to quote a price for pumping your tank, then only pump one compartment instead of the entire system. If you question them, you may be told that there are solids only in the first compartment, so you don’t need the entire system pumped out. They often charge extra for pumping the remaining compartments. Don’t be mislead, insist on having the entire system pumped out and make sure the price they quote includes all compartments. Some companies may not remove enough of the solids from the tank. Removing the solids requires more time and effort than simply removing the water. Some companies and service people may not have adequate equipment to properly remove the solids. After the tank is pumped, it is normal for there to be a couple of inches of water and sludge left in the bottom of the tank to build up the bacteria. There should, however, not be more than a couple of inches left in the tank.
No. Let’s say you have your septic tank pumped every 3 years at a cost of approximately $200.00 per pump out. This breaks down to about 18 cents per day to maintain and prolong the life of your septic system. In most cases that is less than a penny a flush. That doesn’t include water from your showers, washing machine, dishwasher and sinks that may also be entering your septic system. Compare this to the average cost of having a new septic system installed. A new system and installation can cost upwards of $17,000.00. Even with a new system, it is still necessary to schedule regular maintenance pumping to avoid system failure. What happens if you don’t get a regular oil change for your vehicle? It is common sense to do routine maintenance on your vehicle. This same common sense needs to be applied in maintaining your septic system. For less than the cost of your homemade cup of coffee in the morning, you can help ensure that your system will work properly and last as long as possible.
One instance in which the addition of bacterial additives might be helpful would be when there are significant amounts of medications entering the septic system through human waste. This would be rare, such as you might find with septic systems where one or more resident of the home is on a number of prescription medications or undergoing a chemotherapy regimen. (Never flush unused medications down the toilet. Unused pills and medications should not be disposed of in this way.) Contact your local county health department about programs to collect and dispose of unused medications. There may also be the rare instance when poor soil condition in your drain field might benefit from the addition of bacteria.
No. Actually, in 99% of septic tanks, adding bacteria is not necessary since bacteria occurs naturally in properly working and maintained systems. There are some exceptions, mainly due to the overuse of anti-bacterial soaps, disinfectants, laundry detergents, bleach and sanitizers. These products kill bacteria in the septic system, so we suggest limiting their use. We also suggest using phosphorus free laundry detergent. Bacterial additives are expensive and even when their addition may be helpful, it is important to be aware that adding bacteria does not mean the system can go indefinitely without being pumped out. Bacteria will not remove sludge and lint particles which will clog your drain field, therefore the tank must be pumped out periodically to prevent system failure. An honest service provider will advise you of any need for bacterial additives in your system. Bacterial additives do not have guarantees or warranties that cover replacement of your system if the product does not do what it promises and your system fails. You may be able to get the money you paid for their product returned, but that is of little consolation if you have to replace your septic system, since a new system can cost upwards of $17,000.00.
Your options depend on a number of factors. First of all, you should always have the septic system pumped out regularly. If you still have problems after having the system pumped out, have your septic professional check for trouble with the tank, the secondary treatment system, (i.e.: leach field, leach bed, sand filter, etc.) and the lines running to and from the system. A good service provider will often be able to determine problems while on site to pump your tank. Some problems, however, may not be visible or easy to determine due to the subterranean nature of septic systems. Problems can range from a clogged line, to a broken down tile or you might have an overstressed system due to inadequate size or improper design for your needs. Deterioration of some tanks can also occur. There are any number of problems that can cause system distress and it is best to contact a professional to determine your next course of action. Don’t wait until you have an emergency situation to get help. Call your service provider at the first sign of system distress. Please don’t wait until 3:00 P.M. on Friday to call.
Signs of system distress include:
Gurgling sounds in your plumbing Toilets and sinks draining slowly
Black or gray water coming from your home’s outlet tile discharging into a creek or ditchCertain areas of the yard are wet, possibly with standing black or gray water
Foul sewage odors noticed in the house or outside *BE SAFE: If odor is present you should immediately take appropriate safety measures to eliminate propane or gas leaks as the cause
Yes. If you have a system that is failing, an improperly working leach field or drainage area, a smaller than standard system or a system overstressed by the use of a garbage disposal, it may be necessary to have the system pumped more frequently. High water conditions may also mean more frequent pumping, at least until the problem causing the high water is resolved. How often your septic system needs to be pumped depends on the situation. If your system is too small for your needs it would be advisable to have the system replaced. Many states are becoming more stringent in their regulations governing permissible systems. To obtain information on regulations governing septic systems, contact your local county health department.
Generally speaking, for a 1500 gallon septic tank with a properly working leach field, it is recommended to have the system pumped out every 3 to 5 years. This can vary depending on factors such as:
- The size of your household
- Do you use a garbage disposal?
- Does your laundry water go through your system?
- Is there adequate bacteria in your system to aid in the digestion of organic solids?
- Do you want your system to last and work effectively as long as possible?
As the septic tank is used, sludge continues to accumulate in the bottom of the septic tank. Generally speaking, properly designed tanks have enough space for three to five years safe accumulation of sludge. When the sludge level increases beyond this point, sewage has less time to settle properly before leaving the tank. As the sludge level increases, more solids escape into the filter bed or leach bed area. If sludge accumulates too long, no settling occurs before the sewage escapes directly to the absorption area. When this happens your system will become faulty and needs to be replaced. To prevent this, the tank must be pumped out periodically.
Maintaining your septic system requires regularly scheduled pump outs and satisfactory bacteria presence to aid in the digestion of organic solids. Neglecting proper maintenance will result in system distress and ultimately, system failure.
M S I Environmental uses a lid and riser system which utilizes a combination of concrete lids and high quality plastic dual wall riser tube. There are numerous advantages to the use of this combination including:
There are infinite variable heights which can be obtained with high quality plastic dual wall riser tube by simply cutting to the desired height.
High quality plastic dual wall riser tube will resist gases which might otherwise lead to deterioration or corrosion providing long term durability.
Due to its rugged, durable yet lightweight nature, high quality plastic dual wall riser is easy to move and install.
Combined with concrete lids, the riser system is durable enough to drive over with a lawn mower and heavy enough to keep children from gaining access.
High quality plastic dual wall riser tube is very cost efficient as well as versatile.
M S I uses 18″ diameter riser tube which works well for septic maintenance and access for repairs to the inlet and/or outlet of the septic tank.
Concrete lids are rebar reinforced as well as durable and when combined with high quality plastic dual wall riser tube and flexible rubber sealant, the riser system will last for many years under normal conditions and can be specifically fitted to be practical, non-obstructive and convenient.
All joints are sealed with a high quality rubber sealant which provides permanently flexible watertight joints. This high quality flexible sealant does adhere to plastic as well as concrete. The sealed joints will not shrink, harden or oxidize upon aging and is durable through a wide range of temperature fluctuations.
M S I’s riser system can be installed to bring the access to the septic system to a level flush with the ground for easy access as well as not disrupting mowing or other lawn maintenance.
Lids and risers bring access to the tank up to or just above ground level depending on your preference. In most areas, regulations require risers on septic systems in order to pass inspection. Check with your local county health department concerning regulations in your area. Having lids and risers installed is well worth the initial cost involved since it will eliminate the time and expense of having someone locate and dig up the access to the tank for future pump outs. In our area, frozen or extremely hard ground can make pump outs very difficult and sometimes impossible, if you don’t have lids at or above ground level. This means pumping the system will have to wait until weather and ground conditions permit. In problem situations where you need a pump out immediately, who has time to wait for weather or ground conditions to improve in order to get the tank pumped out? Pumping some systems requires the use of a backhoe to gain access to the tank. This can quickly become very expensive and leave your lawn a mess. Since most people like to keep a well manicured lawn, with minimum upkeep, lids can be installed at ground level so there will be no need to trim around them. You can simply mow over them. Mike’s Sanitation carries lids and risers to fit most septic systems. Many times we can install them immediately after we pump your septic tank.
Most newer septic systems have access lids that are visible at or just above ground level. Some older systems can be located by finding an area of the yard that grows faster and is greener than the rest of the yard or possibly an area with less growth. If there is no visible sign of where the tank is located, you can contact your local county health department. Depending on when the system was installed the health department may have a permit on record which should include a diagram showing the location of the system. If no such record exists, you have several other options for attempting to locate the system. One option is to locate the place where your sanitary line exits your house. There is usually a cleanout visible close to the house foundation. Using a tile probe, poke around in the ground to find the sanitary line. Once located, follow the sanitary line out from that spot until you find the septic tank. If you still can’t find the tank, you can call a septic system installer for additional tips. If your septic tank does not have access lids at or above ground level, we strongly suggest having them installed.
The septic system is basically an on-site sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground. A properly working system will treat the wastewater coming from the house and distribute the resulting cleaner water safely back into the environment. A failing system, however, can harm the environment by polluting waterways and wells or contaminating the ground surface.