As part of the Lake Monroe Community Action Initiative, Friends of Lake Monroe offered a septic system maintenance cost-share program in the spring of 2022 to help offset the cost of septic tank pumping or installing a septic tank riser. Eligible households were reimbursed for half the cost of one or both services, with a household limit of $100 for one service or $150 for both. While this program is not currently available, septic system maintenance remains a key issue for protecting Lake Monroe. Details about the Spring 2022 Septic Cost-Share Program are available below.
“I found out it is not wise to put bleach or anti-bacterials down your drains or toilet. It kills the bacteria & prevents the septic from doing its job! I am guilty of doing this. We definitely need to protect the lake for our great grandchildren & future generations. Thanks Friends of Lake Monroe!” – Edna DePierre
FAILING SEPTIC SYSTEMS POLLUTE OUR LAKES AND STREAMS
Failing septic systems are one source of bacteria and nutrient pollution in the creeks and streams feeding Lake Monroe. You can help by making sure your system is properly maintained.
- Pump your septic tank every 3 years. This provides an opportunity for inspection, takes care of the solids that gradually accumulate in the tank, and gives your septic field a short rest. In our region, septic tank pumping is typically between $150-$250. Prices vary depending on how accessible the tank is, the condition of the tank, and how far the pumper has to travel to dispose of the contents at a wastewater treatment plant.
- Make your tank accessible with a septic system riser. This concrete or plastic pipe connects to the pump-out opening of your septic tank and extends to ground level. Septic tank risers have lids that anyone can remove to easily inspect or pump your septic tank without digging up your yard. It also provides a permanent reminder of where your septic tank is located.
- Think at the sink. The best way to keep your septic system working for as long as possible is to minimize what you put down the drain. Limit use of your garbage disposal and avoid pouring fats, grease, solids, and harsh chemicals down the drain.
- Don’t overload the commode. Make sure no wipes, sanitary napkins, tampons, or other trash goes down your toilet. Even if it says “flushable,” keep it out of your septic system. Stick with the 3 P’s – pee, poop, and [toilet] paper.
- Don’t strain your drain. Try to stagger your use of water-heavy activities like laundry, showers, and running the dishwasher.
- Shield your field. Do you know where your drain field is? Keep your vehicles off it and avoid planting trees there.
Clear Choices Clean Water has great information about caring for your septic system and why this is such an important issue in Indiana. https://indiana.clearchoicescleanwater.org/pledges/septic/septic-impacts/
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a great program called “Septic Smart” with resources such as flyers to post in your rental property, detailed explanations of septic system operation, and guidance on what to do if your septic system fails. https://www.epa.gov/septic
WHAT IS A SEPTIC SYSTEM?
Septic systems consist of a septic tank and a drain field (also known as a septic field). Wastewater from sinks, toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines flows into your septic tank. Bacteria in the tank digest the organic matter in the wastewater, providing the first level of treatment. There are baffles in the tank that direct solids to the bottom and grease the top. This allows the middle liquid portion to flow into the drain field. The drain field consists of narrow perforated “finger” pipes where the water slowly trickles out. Bacteria in the gravel and soil around the pipes provide additional treatment as the water flows through and down into the ground. Septic systems are a way to treat wastewater on-site instead of sending it through a system of pipes to a wastewater treatment plant.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A SEPTIC SYSTEM?
Check your property records to see if a septic system map was included with your home documents when you purchased the property. Another way to tell is to check your utility bill. If you are on a sewer system, you should be receiving a monthly bill for sewer service. This might be a standalone bill or it might be combined with your water bill. If you are not paying for sewer service, you probably have a septic system somewhere on your property.
HOW DO I LOCATE MY SEPTIC TANK?
Review your property records to see if you have a map of your septic system. If not, contact your county health department and ask them to pull your file. For newer homes, there should be a map of your septic system on file. For older homes, there may not be documentation available. You may need to hire a septic system professional to locate your tank. Once you locate your septic tank, mark the exact spot so you can find it again. Even better, install a permanent septic tank riser.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF A SEPTIC TANK RISER?
Septic tank risers are concrete or plastic pipes that connect to the pump-out opening of your septic tank and extend to ground level. Septic tank risers have lids that anyone can remove to easily inspect or pump your septic tank without digging up your yard. It also provides a permanent reminder of where your septic tank is located.
HOW DO I LOCATE MY DRAIN FIELD?
Drain fields are typically located adjacent to septic tanks. They may have visibly greener or taller grass, particularly during dry periods. If no map of your septic system is available, a septic system professional can locate your drain field. Once you locate your drain field, record or mark the location so you can find it again. It is important to protect the drain field and the pipes it contains. Never drive over or park on the drain field as it can crush the pipes. Avoid planting trees as their roots can clog the pipes. Divert rainwater away from the drain field so it doesn’t become flooded
HOW CAN I FIND A CONTRACTOR?
The Monroe County Health Department maintains two lists of contractors:
- Septic system pumpers and haulers who can clean and inspect your septic tank – https://www.co.monroe.in.us/egov/documents/1615905855_69143.pdf
- Septic system installers who can install and repair septic systems – https://www.co.monroe.in.us/egov/documents/1620916495_91362.pdf
HOW DID THE SEPTIC SYSTEM MAINTENANCE COST-SHARE PROGRAM WORK?
Friends of Lake Monroe offered a septic system maintenance cost-share program from March 31 – July 31, 2022 with funding from the Community Foundation of Bloomington-Monroe County. This program provided a reimbursement to help offset the cost of septic tank pumping or installing a septic tank riser. Eligible households were reimbursed for half the cost of one or both services, with a household limit of $100 for one service or $150 for both.
- To be eligible for cost-share, the property had to be located in Monroe County and in the Lake Monroe Watershed. (Want to know if you’re in the watershed? Check out our interactive watershed map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/edit?mid=1zwSSxP2cFqcLPyPq0uBGcimiXrKnZyMS&usp=sharing)
- The program reimbursed up to 50% of the total cost of pumping a septic system and/or installing a septic riser with a limit of $100 for either service or $150 for both services per homesite.
- The cost-share program was available from March 31, 2022 to July 31, 2022.
- Friends of Lake Monroe and the Monroe County Health Department hosted a one-hour Septic Maintenance and Care Workshop on March 31. Click here to view the recording.
- Residents could submit an application online using a Google form or they could call and apply by phone.
- Vouchers were issued on a first come, first served basis by the application date.
- Vouchers had an expiration date 60 days after the issuance date. Extensions were available on request.
- It was the homeowner’s responsibility to hire a septic system contractor or company to pump the septic system or install a septic system riser. A list of approved companies and contractors is available on the Monroe County Health Department website here https://www.co.monroe.in.us/egov/documents/1615905855_69143.pdf
- Applicants were responsible for all upfront costs. It was the applicant’s responsibility to negotiate any delay in payment with their contractor/company.
- Applicants had to submit their voucher and receipt to Friends of Lake Monroe for reimbursement. Submissions could be done by postal mail or e-mail.
- Homeowners received a completion letter and payment approximately 10 days after submitting their documents.
SEPTIC PROGRAM TESTIMONIALS
“I am grateful to Friends of Lake Monroe for promoting the importance of septic system maintenance. Having your septic tank pumped every 3 to 5 years is such a small task that not only protects the functioning of a septic system but helps keep Lake Monroe clean, safe, and beautiful.” – Shawn Wilson
“Never having owned a home with a septic system, I found the Septic Care Workshop presentation by the Friends of Lake Monroe to be quite useful. It gave me a great understanding of the septic system and some good “do’s and don’ts” to help maintain septic quality. Their website also had several useful links with great information. Being located close to Lake Monroe, we use the lake often for recreation and certainly want the water quality in the lake to be as good as it can be. The efforts of the Friends of Lake Monroe can only help in improving and maintaining the lake’s water quality.” – Tom Cynkar
“Being a caver in and around southern Indiana for half of my life, I intimately understand the importance of septic system maintenance. Many issues go unnoticed above ground until it is too late to quickly fix. Keeping one’s septic system pumped and properly maintained is one way to ensure it is in good working condition to prevent environmental problems that are not only costly to the landowner, but costly to so many others too. This cost-share program is a fantastic way to educate landowners with septic systems and provide a boost to those who have been holding off having theirs pumped and inspected.” – Danyele Green
“I love this program. There are no excuses for not maintaining your septic especially with the vouchers that Lake Monroe Watershed Management Plan provides. Delaying having your septic maintained will only cost more in the future; not just to the homeowner but to our beautiful lake.” – Carrie Willison