Your home’s septic system is every bit as important as the other systems you have in your house such as your electrical system, heating & air conditioning systems, water treatment system etc. It is an investment that can add value to your home.

Many homeowners in Suffolk County do not know a lot about their septic system or cesspool. Most homeowners only think about their septic system or cesspool when there is a problem.  For example when there is a backup.  The following is a summary of things that every homeowner should know about where their wastewater goes and how you can take care of your septic system to keep it functioning better.

  1. Septic System - is a system that typically removes your untreated wastewater from your home. It should consist of a septic tank and a drainfield or a circular leaching pit. The septic tank traps most of the solids and the drainfield or leaching pit disperse the liquids (effluent) back into the ground.
  2. Cesspool - is a concrete lined hole that is outlawed in almost all other parts of the country. It is supposed to function as a drain field that slowly dissipates your home’s wastewater into the soil beneath your home. The reality is that they actually bring the wastewater closer to our groundwater and this nitrogen loaded wastewater is a primary cause of the algal blooms, fish kills and degraded water quality of our bays, estuaries and rivers. Many older homes on LI have block cesspools. These are very dangerous and can cause death if they collapse in your yard.
  3. Septic Tank - is a watertight concrete tank that traps most of the solids in wastewater (> 50%). The remaining “brown” water (effluent) flows by gravity out to your drainage field or circular leaching pit for further soil-based treatment. Every few years you should have your septic tank pumped (every 3-5 years is typical). The pumper brings your wastewater to a central wastewater treatment plant where it gets processed.  Septic tanks have been mandated in Suffolk County since 1972. Many older homes in Suffolk County do not have septic tanks so their untreated wastewater is going directly into a cesspool and ultimately into our groundwater.
  4. Sewer – A sewer is a pipe with raw sewage (untreated wastewater) that leads from your house to a centrally located wastewater treatment plant or small community wastewater treatment system. Homeowners who are hooked up to a sewer pay sewer taxes which pays for the construction and operation of the sewer treatment plant.
  5. I/A Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (I/A OWTS) - An I/A OWTS (also known as an innovative/advanced septic system) makes your home its own mini wastewater treatment plant by reducing solid waste, pathogens, and nitrogen. – These systems have been approved for use in Suffolk County in a new law (Article 19) that was passed in September 2016. In the future, all Suffolk County new home construction will have to either install an I/A OWTS or be hooked up to a central sewer line to stop polluting our ground and surface waters. Grant and low interest loan funding is becoming available in July 2017 for existing home upgrades to I/A OWTS as well. An I/A septic system can be installed for a fraction of the cost of running a sewer line and keeps you the homeowner in control of your wastewater treatment expenses.


  1. Inspect your septic tank annually. Generally, septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years. An inspection by a professional may show that you need to pump more or less often. Regular pumping ensures that solids will not flow from the septic tank into the drainfield or leaching pits. Wastewater solids can destroy the drainfield or leaching pits.
  2. Use less water (see Home Water Savings Makes Sense). Reducing the amount of wastewater entering your septic system may increase its life span, as excessive water is a major cause of system failure. Too much water from laundry, dishwasher, toilets, baths, and showers may not allow enough time for untreated wastewater (sludge and scum) to separate, causing solids to pass out of the tank and into the drainfield or leaching pit, ultimately clogging them up.
    To reduce household water use:

    • Limit the use of large water consuming appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines.
    • Use water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures (such as faucets, showerheads, and toilets).
    • Spread laundry over the entire week and avoid partial loads.
    • Fix all faucet and toilet leaks promptly.

  3. Direct water from downspouts and roofs away from the drainfield or leaching pits. Additional water from these sources may prevent your drainfield or leaching pit from working properly.
  4. Keep cars and trucks off the septic tank and drainfield areas. This prevents tanks & pipes from breaking and soil from becoming compacted. Compacted soils can't absorb water from the drainfield or leaching pits.
  5. Use phosphate-free detergent. Phosphorus is harmful to the environment especially around freshwater and surface waters, as it leads to depleted oxygen levels causing serious harm to fish and other aquatic organisms. The use of phosphate-free detergents, also helps prevent algae problems in nearby freshwater lakes and streams.
  6. Install risers for easier access. Risers from the tank lids to the soil surface make maintenance easier and can help keep your system safer.


  1. Don’t use garbage disposal systems or at least limit their use. A garbage disposal adds solids and grease to your system, which could lead to drainfield or leaching pits failure.
  2. Don't use septic tank additives or "miracle" system cleaners. Some of these chemicals can actually harm your on-site sewage system by allowing solids to flow into and clog the drainfield and leaching pits. These chemicals can also contaminate ground and surface water.
  3. Don't dispose of water from hot tubs into the on-site sewage system. Large volumes of water are harmful to the system, and the chlorine can destroy important bacteria in the system. Drain hot tubs onto the ground, away from the drainfield or leaching pits and not into a storm drain.
  4. Don't flush solid wastes into the septic system. These include diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, tampons, condoms and grease etc.
  5. Don't put strong chemicals, such as cleaning products or paints down the drain. Household chemicals, such as drain cleaners, paint thinners and floor cleaners, can destroy important bacteria in your septic tank and contaminate ground and surface water. Also, never pour unused paint into your septic system.
  6. Don't construct patios, carports or use landscaping plastic over the drainfield or leaching pits. Grass is the best cover for your septic tank, drainfield, and leaching pits. Soil compaction and paving prevents necessary oxygen from getting into the soil and reduces beneficial evapo-transpiration. This oxygen is needed by bacteria to break down and treat wastewater (sewage).

These tips have been brought to you by Roman Stone Construction Company, the exclusive Long Island Distributor for Norweco’s, Nitrogen Reducing Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems. Norweco’s I/A OWTS are approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. We manufacture our I/A OWTS in our Bay Shore plant providing long-term jobs for residents of Suffolk County. Roman Stone has been in our Bay Shore plant since 1962.

Please call us at #631-336-2420 x149 to learn more or email us at

Email Bob at roman Stone OWTS