Getting to know your Septic System:

Do you know where your septic system components are location on your property?

Terrific – refer to the Safe Septic Guide section to properly maintain your system.

The septic system is a system that makes indoor plumbing at your house possible!  The system treats the wastewater generated from your bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry, disposing it into the ground (drain field).

Do you know the age of your septic system?

It is important to know the age of your system – the average life expectancy of a conventional septic system is 30-40 years at which point the soil in the drain field starts to lose the ability to provide adequate treatment. If your system is of that age, make sure you are strictly following the maintenance and upkeep guidelines. If your system exceeds this age, it’s time to discuss a new system or be prepared to move to sewer if it becomes available in your area soon.

The average life expectancy of a conventional septic system is 30-40 years. Since your system likely uses the soil as the filter and treatment process, eventually the process breaks down and the soil is no longer effective in treating the waste water.  There are several telling signs this is occurring – review the indications that your system is failing.

When did you last have your septic system pumped and inspected?

That is ideal!  Keeping your system in good repair to insure it is functioning properly and is remaining highly effective is the most important thing you can do.  Make sure you have a routine schedule and set a future maintenance appointment with a certified septic maintenance provider.

It’s past time to get this task on your to do list.  The primary cause for septic system failure is buildup of solids in the septic tank that will eventually migrate out and clog the absorption field resulting in premature failure. Make sure you have a routine schedule and set a future maintenance appointment with a certified septic maintenance provider.

What goes down your sink and toilet?

Perfect – even if you have a garbage disposal, limit the use and keep the system functioning as it should.  Review the list of Killers and Cloggers with any family members who may not know.

Not good – this habit could cost you. Certain items will ruin the balance of the necessary bacteria in your septic tank to provide treatment.  Items like household chemicals, oils, gasoline and paints. Items like diapers, cat litter, cigarette filters, grease and flushable wipes will clog a septic system and cause failure. This will cause a backup of sewage into the tank and eventually the house, resulting in slow house drains or not draining at all, offensive odors in the yard and water, and possibly tar colored, surfacing liquid in the yard. Review the list of Killers and Cloggers with any family members who may not know.

How is your property used – Personal only? Growing Family? Vacation or long term rental?

Septic systems are sized for the number of bedrooms, assuming a certain amount of wastewater per building occupant.  Keep your system properly maintained and you should be good to go through the systems useful life.

Septic systems are sized for the number of bedrooms, assuming a certain amount of wastewater per building occupant.  As your family grows and your children have children, you may be planning additions to your house that will require modifications and expansions to your septic system to maintain adequate treatment, protect your drinking water and the lake. 

Remember – the number of bathrooms is not the gauge to size your septic system, it’s the number of bedrooms/sleeping capacity that matters for the system size.  High capacity guest rentals could result in loading issues on system.  If your system is too small for the number of occupants you want or can handle, then improve your system to handle any long-term increases in use.

Safe Septic Guide

Watch for signs that your septic system is failing –

  • Sewage backup in drains or toilets
  • Slowly draining sinks, bathtubs, and toilets
  • Surfacing of wastewater, sometimes seen as standing water in the drain field
  • Bright green, spongy lush grass over septic system even during dry weather
  • High levels of nitrates or coliform bacteria in water wells, algae blooms in ponds, lakes, or small streams
  • Bad odors in and around the house and septic system

Why would my septic system fail

  • End of life span (estimated to be 30-40 years)
  • Improper maintenance by homeowner
  • Improper location
  • Poor original design
  • Poor construction and installation
  • Blockage caused by roots
  • Crushed distribution pipes from driving or parking vehicles on drain field
  • Soil saturated by high groundwater
  • Use of household toxics, household cleaners, garbage disposals, etc.
  • Water softener regeneration wastes
  • Overloading of the septic system
  • Use of septic additives like Rid X – never place septic tank additives or bio enzymes into your septic tank. The products claim to extend the life of your system by removing the solids, but they only move the solids into the absorption field, which will clog your field, resulting in failure.


  • Household Chemicals
  • Gasoline/Oil
  • Pesticides
  • Paints and Paint Thinners
  • Landscape Irrigation


  • Diapers
  • Cat Litter
  • Cigarette Filters
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Grease
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Flushable Wipes

Maintenance and Upkeep Programs

  • Have your septic tank pumped out and inspected (every three to five years)
  • Maintain the lawn area around and on the drain field annually to prevent vegetation with large roots from establishing
  • Maintain all septic system records including:
      • Local permits and approvals
      • Septic system installer and date of installation
      • Septic tank pumper and records of all pump outs
      • As-built drawings and engineer’s certification of installation
      • For enhanced treatment units, all maintenance service contracts

Florida Health provides a list of  certified and licensed septic contractors by County.  Simply follow the link below and select ‘Marion’ then ‘search’ to see the latest list:

Septic Maintenance Grants

Annually, the Marion County Office of the County Engineer (OCE) provides a program to award grants to any unincorporated Marion County resident or business that utilizes a septic system to handle onsite treatment and storage of sewage. The purpose of the grant is to assist owners of such systems with routine maintenance pump-out and inspection costs, as well as relief from permit fees.

This program is funded by an annual Run For The Springs 5K.  


Septic to Sewer Project

The petition responses for the North Shore Septic to Sewer Project are in and the initiative has been voted down.  The county has sought grant money to finalize the design aspect of the project so further updates may be provided in the future.  

Why do we need to move from septic to sewer?

  1. The lake has seen a 45% increase in nitrogen in the last 9 years
  2. There is nearly a continual algae bloom on the lake, even in the winter, and many lake residents and boaters have seen the rust-colored aftereffects of dead algae that exist constantly on the lake
  3. Last summer the algae toxins were so high the county issued a ‘no swimming’ order
  4. Septic systems (and in some cases the total lack thereof) are the number one contributor to the high nitrogen levels, far exceeding the impact of lawn fertilizer and cleared beaches. Moving to sewer systems would allow us to fall within the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nitrogen and phosphates, doing a large part in stopping the decline of Lake Weir.

Is Lake Weir really in that bad of shape?

Lake Weir was first identified on the impaired water bodies list in 1998.  The lake was verified as impaired for nutrients because of elevated annual average Trophic State Index (TSI) values, and was included on the Verified List of Impaired Waters for the Ocklawaha Basin adopted by Secretarial Order on August 28, 2002.  (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Nutrient TMDL for Lake WeirMarch 2017)  In 2020 Lake Weir was updated and confirmed in the United States Environmental Protection Agencies database of impaired lakes (EPA website).

 Are septic tanks really a primary contributor to our lake’s degradation?

Yes! As of 2016 there were 2,081 septic tanks in the 7,000 acre Lake Weir Watershed, several more as of today’s date. Lack of sewer infrastructure is cited as a primary cause of water quality degradation in almost every study or pollution reduction document associated with Lake Weir. Septic loads make up almost the entire reduction required to achieve water quality targets based on the proposed TMDL. (Lake Weir Management Plan Update and Summary 2016 MCBCC) Septic tanks have been cited as primary contributors to the degradation of lake waters all around Florida and eradication of septic has been the focus for this State of Florida Administration. 

Here are some links to just a few of those communities undertaking this conversion for the purpose of saving the water bodies in the area.