There a lot of ways water is wasted in households — flushing toilets, running faucets, washing clothes and dishes and showering. How often do you think about where that water goes? While some households in Greene are on public sewer, the majority have septic systems. How much do you know about yours?

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures for areas without a centralized sewer system.

The Environmental Protection Agency created SepticSmart Week, Sept. 16-20 this year, to encourage homeowners and communities to care for and maintain septic systems.

Greg Wichelns at Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) said healthy septic systems are necessary for healthy waterways and drinking water.

“EPA has, at least in my opinion, a wonderful website, particularly under the ‘SepticSmart Homeowners’ section,” Wichelns said.

CSWCD services the counties of Greene, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Orange and Madison.

A typical septic system consists of three main parts: a septic tank, distribution box and drainfield, he said.

Homeowners that experience any problems with drainage should get their system inspected right away to protect their own drinking water—if on a well—or waterways from raw sewage. One reason behind drainfield issues is lack of pumping the system out.

“The Virginia Department of Health recommends that septic tanks be pumped every three-five years to prevent excessive buildup of solids in the tank,” according to the CSWCD literature.

“We here at the district do two different things in the world of septic systems,” he said. “We, of course, do water quality education across all spectrums of land uses and sources of pollution. And we do a septic cost-share program.”

Maintaining the system also saves homeowners money—the cost for a pumping is around $300 but the cost to replace the system can be up to $7,000.

“While we’re here and can offer advice, the Department of Health is still the expert, for sure,” he said. “We’re not septic experts by any means. We know enough to get people started and have resources.”

For those who know they have a septic system, but aren’t sure where, Wichelns recommends contacting a septic provider who will know how to locate it.

SepticSmart Week is the perfect time to think about your septic system before it becomes a problem. Visit for more information. CSWCD can be reached at (540) 948-7531.

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