Septic Systems

Do you know where the water you use for showers, laundry and washing dishes goes?
Wastewater leaves your home or business in one of two ways:
1. Through the sanitary sewer system or,
2. To a privately owned septic system on your property.

It's important to know where your water goes. Check your Gwinnett County Water Bill. If you are assessed a "sewer-use" charge, then your home discharges to the sanitary sewer system where wastewater is collected and then treated offsite at a wastewater treatment facility. If you have a $0.00 sewer-use charge, you probably use a septic tank to handle your wastewater.

Septic systems collect the wastewater from your home or business in a large tank buried underground. Solids sink to the bottom of the tank, things like oil and grease float to the top, and the liquid wastewater exits the tank into the drainfield. From there, the wastewater seeps into the surrounding soil. The soil acts as a filter to break down remaining solids and kill bacteria and pathogens. It's your own personal wastewater treatment system!

When they're installed, used and maintained properly, septic tanks are safe and efficient for wastewater management. When they aren't, however, it can get a little messy. Failing septic systems can lead to costly sewage clogs and backups, and can contaminate nearby waterbodies and drinking water supplies.


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Here are some important things to remember if you have a septic system:

  • Conserve water! Using less water can improve the function of the septic system. Wastewater needs to stay in the septic tank long enough for solids to settle out. If there's too much water for the tank to handle, solids can end up in the drain field, which can leads to clogs and backups.  Take shorter showers, install high efficiency toilets, and only wash full loads of laundry.
  • Your toilet is not a trash can! Never flush wipes, diapers, feminine products, or anything other than toilet paper. Use the garbage disposal sparingly to prevent the accumulation of solids in the septic tank. And, never pour harsh chemicals or fats and grease down the drain.
  • Protect your drain field! Never park vehicles over the septic system, and remove woody vegetation with roots that could obstruct the drain field.
  • Have your septic system inspected and maintained by a professional on a regular basis. Have the septic tank pumped out as needed (frequency depends on things like how much water is used and size of the household). Identify and repair issues before there is a septic emergency!
DID YOU KNOW? You may be eligible for a stormwater utility fee credit if you maintain your septic system regularly. Check out the Stormwater Utility & Credit Application page for more information, or give us a call at 770.497.5311.

Georgia Department of Environmental Health
Homeowner's Guide to Septic System Maintenance