how to maintain a mound septic system

How to Maintain a Mound Septic System: A Comprehensive Guide

As a handyman, I’ve seen my fair share of septic system issues.

Trust me when I say that knowing how to maintain a mound septic system is crucial to prevent expensive repairs and potential environmental hazards.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of mound septic system maintenance, so you can keep your system running smoothly and efficiently for years to come.

Understanding Mound Septic Systems

Basic components and their functions

Mound septic systems consist of three main components:

  1. Septic tank: This underground tank collects and holds wastewater, allowing solids to settle and separate from the liquid.
  2. Dosing chamber: This chamber stores the liquid effluent from the septic tank and uses a pump to dose the mound.
  3. Mound: The mound is a constructed, elevated sand and soil structure that filters the effluent as it percolates into the ground.
How to maintain a mound septic system - Avoid flushing items non-biodegradable items
Concrete Septic holding tanks for a mound system

How mound systems differ from conventional septic systems

Unlike conventional septic systems, mound systems are designed to handle specific site conditions, such as high water tables or shallow bedrock. The mound provides extra filtration and treatment for the effluent, making it more suitable for challenging locations.

Regular Inspections

Importance of routine inspections

Routine inspections are a critical element in how to maintain a mound septic system. They ensure your mound septic system functions properly.

Identifying and addressing problems early can save you time, money, and headaches down the road. It is a key factor in how to maintain a mound septic system.

Inspection frequency

It’s recommended to inspect your mound septic system at least once a year. However, if you notice any issues, such as slow drains or unusual odors, schedule an inspection sooner.

Routine inspections for mound septic systems are typically performed by licensed septic system professionals, also known as septic system inspectors or septic system maintenance providers. These professionals are trained and experienced in diagnosing and maintaining septic systems, ensuring they function properly and adhere to local regulations.

During a routine inspection, the septic system professional will typically perform the following tasks:

  1. Inspect the septic tank: The inspector will check the tank for structural integrity, corrosion, leaks, and proper functioning of the inlet and outlet baffles or tees. They may also measure the scum and sludge layers to determine if a pump-out is necessary.
  2. Evaluate the pump and dosing chamber: The professional will examine the pump and dosing chamber for proper operation, signs of wear, and any debris that could interfere with the system’s function.
  3. Assess the mound: The inspector will evaluate the mound’s surface for signs of erosion, saturation, settling, or other issues that may indicate system failure or the need for maintenance. They may also check the distribution system, including the distribution box and any lateral lines, to ensure even distribution of effluent across the mound.
  4. Review the system’s records: The professional will review the system’s maintenance records to ensure it has been properly maintained and serviced according to local regulations and manufacturer recommendations. They may also provide guidance on when the next inspection or maintenance activity should be performed.
  5. Test alarms and controls: If the mound septic system is equipped with alarms, control panels, or monitoring devices, the inspector will test these components to ensure they are functioning properly.
  6. Provide recommendations: Based on their findings, the septic system professional may recommend necessary repairs, adjustments, or maintenance activities to ensure the system continues to function efficiently and safely.

Routine inspections are crucial in identifying potential problems early, helping to prevent system failures and costly repairs. The frequency of inspections may vary depending on local regulations, system size, and usage, but a general rule of thumb is to have the system inspected every 1-3 years or as recommended by the system’s manufacturer or local health department.

Pump-Outs and Maintenance

When to schedule pump-outs

Pump-outs are necessary to remove accumulated solids from the septic tank. Schedule a pump-out when the tank is about one-third full of solids, or approximately every 3-5 years.

Pump-out frequency

The pump-out frequency depends on factors such as household size, water usage, and tank capacity. Monitor your tank’s sludge levels during inspections to determine when a pump-out is needed.

Additional maintenance tasks

In addition to pump-outs, perform these maintenance tasks in relation to how to maintain a mound septic system:

  1. Cleaning filters: Clean or replace filters as needed to prevent clogs and ensure proper effluent flow.
  2. Checking and repairing any leaks or damage: Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage to your system.

Best Practices for Mound Septic System Care

Water usage and conservation

Proper water usage and conservation are crucial for the health of your mound septic system. Here are some tips:

  1. Efficient fixtures and appliances: Install low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads to reduce water use.
  2. Spreading out water use: Spread out laundry loads and avoid running multiple water-intensive appliances simultaneously.

Proper waste disposal

Proper waste disposal is essential to prevent clogs and system damage:

  1. Items to avoid flushing or draining: Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items, such as wipes, diapers, or grease.
  2. Managing household chemicals and cleaners: Limit the use of harsh chemicals and cleaners, as they can disrupt the septic tank’s bacterial balance.

Landscaping and surface maintenance

Mound septic system landscaping and surface maintenance tips include:

  1. Maintaining adequate vegetation: Planting grass on the mound helps prevent erosion and absorbs excess moisture. Avoid planting trees or shrubs with deep roots, as they can damage the system.
  2. Preventing compaction: Avoid driving or parking vehicles on the mound, as this can cause soil compaction and damage the system.
  3. Diverting surface water: Ensure downspouts and runoff from rain and snowmelt are directed away from the mound to prevent saturation.
  4. Avoiding heavy objects or structures: Do not place heavy objects, such as sheds or decks, on the mound, as they can cause damage or hinder access for maintenance.

Recognizing Signs of Trouble

Common signs of mound septic system issues

Keep an eye out for these signs of trouble:

  1. Sewage odors: Unusual odors near the mound or septic tank may indicate a problem with the system.
  2. Wet spots or pooling water: Saturated areas around the mound can indicate a failing system or excessive water use.
  3. Slow drains or backups: Slow drains, gurgling sounds, or wastewater backups may indicate a clog or system issue.

Troubleshooting tips

If you notice any signs of trouble, try these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Check for clogs: Inspect and clear any clogs in drains or the septic tank’s inlet and outlet pipes.
  2. Examine the pump and dosing chamber: Ensure the pump is functioning properly and the chamber is free of debris.
  3. Inspect the mound: Look for signs of erosion, settling, or saturation, and address any issues promptly.

When to Call a Professional

It’s important to know when to call a professional for assistance:

  1. Persistent or recurring issues: If problems persist or recur despite your efforts to fix them, consult a professional.
  2. Inability to diagnose or fix the problem: If you’re unable to diagnose or resolve the issue yourself, seek professional help.
  3. Major repairs or replacements: For extensive repairs or system replacements, always enlist the expertise of a professional.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a mound septic system requires regular inspections, pump-outs, and proper care. By following the tips and best practices outlined in this guide, you can keep your system running efficiently and protect your investment. As a handyman, I can assure you that a well-maintained mound septic system will save you from expensive repairs and potential environmental hazards in the long run.


National Environmental Services Center (2002). A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems: Mound Systems. West Virginia University. Retrieved from

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