Real Talk: The Wells and Septics of Orange – How They Work

What is in the ground at your house? If you live in Orange you definitely have a septic system, everyone does. {{more}} Thirty percent of the homeowners in Connecticut have a septic system or an “on-site subsurface sewage disposal system,” as it is referred to. On your property there is a designated area, designed when the lot was approved to build on. The set up allows for the settling of solids and provides the initial treatment of the sewage. In other words, the waste material is broken down by bacterial action and filters into the ground. Gravity assists the flow of the “effluent” to the leaching system. The leaching fields are usually stone filled trenches but there are many types of systems.

If your home was built in the 1950s it is slightly different than those built in the 1990s but they all are maintained the same way. You can go to town hall and ask to see a picture of where your system is or what it looks like. You may wind up with a pencil drawing from the time a certificate of occupancy was given 50 or 60 years ago or an engineered design showing the specific size of your leaching fields, if it is newer.

In the case of a newer system there will also be a “reserve” designated for a new system in the event the present one fails years and years from now. This word “fails” has many distinct meanings and can be detected by septic company inspectors when they open the system to clean it, or small signs to the homeowner. We will get back to this subject later in this article.

A septic is not something to fear but to be educated about. In this manner you can learn to take care of it and try to prevent problems. When I am selling a home I counsel my buyers coming into Orange on what they are about to buy, one of the aspects being the septic. I tell them that they will not have city sewers as we move through the counseling session. With each home I show them, I review the location and size of the system with them, noting the care that has been recorded in the past. A three bedroom home should have a 1,000 gallon tank, for example, and a four bedroom home should have a 1,250 gallon tank. This is not always the case and many homes have smaller systems and others have redone their systems to add additions or because of problems.

You should be able to trace your property’s information through the town building department, make sure your records are accurate with them. Then, you must take care of your septic. You can go on the internet for specifics. It is recommended that you use liquid detergents that will not harden in the ground, toilet paper that is thin instead of bulky and never to throw anything down the drains or toilets that will compromise the natural bacteria in the system, like turpentine or chemicals. There is only so much a homeowner can do, and the most important thing is to have your tank cleaned religiously, every year if it is old. Never drive your car over it, and if you are considering a new deck or shed, you must consult with the town concerning the amount of distance you must leave from all your leaching fields.

If you see a patch of lush grass over the tank or a puddle of consistent water over it, maybe even with an odor, this means you probably have a problem. The leaching fields could be saturated and you need to call a septic company to investigate. There have been times when the cleaner comes to pump the system and finds the tank is cracked. To replace that tank will cost about $3,500 to install a new tank.

The main thing is to keep your system cleaned and be educated about this aspect of your property, The CT DPH website will give you local health department information about your septic and your well That site is

Speaking of wells, this is another item in your home that needs maintenance, but this one can have a safety issue. You must periodically check your well water. You can buy a kit to sanitize the sample and bring to a local laboratory.

A cracked well cover can add contaminants and even dog fecal matter with rain water can get into a well head and contaminate the drinking water. Many homeowners have well softening systems, but if the brine salt is hard or the filter is not changed then the calcium level builds up and can damage your pipes and compromise your drinking water. Check on “backwash” set ups that eliminate the waste from the well softeners, they should not go into the septic, as they have hard minerals that can damage the system.

Test to see if your water is hard and then do not forget to do the normal maintenance of adding salt to the softener, as it depletes its supply monthly. If you find your pressure is getting lower at the faucets check the filter and the air level inside your tank, a simple appointment with a local well company can remedy most issues.

Well water should taste great, be free of contaminants and abundant. Water testing now has become more involved and many tests show

radon in the water. You should test for this also, because if you are showering and the water has radon in it, you are breathing that in every day.

There is a solution for each problem with the well and the septic, many are not costly if maintained on time.

This important obligation on your part as a homeowner is easy to forget because it is not visible for the most part.

If you need more information on these issues you can e mail me