Maintaining your septic tank system

If you have a septic tank system on your property, you are responsible for looking after it.

Regular checks and maintenance will keep your system working properly.

Read below to find out how to care for your system.

You must make sure:

Find a licensed plumber and drainer on the Plumbers and Drainers Licensing Board website.

You should do all of the following:

  • Regularly maintain the land application area - cut and remove any overgrown grass.
  • Get your septic tank cleaned out by a listed waste handler every three to five years to prevent build-up:
  • Build a diversion drain up-slope to prevent stormwater entering the land application area.
  • Ensure your septic tank is well sealed - this will stop rodents and mosquitoes from entering.
  • Save water - the less water you use, the drier the land application area will be.
  • Check your household products are suitable for your septic tank:
    • use biodegradable liquid detergents with low phosphorous and sodium
    • minimise the use of household chemicals
  • Get your grease trap cleaned out (if installed) every three months.
  • Know the location and layout of your septic tank and land.
  • Keep a record of pumping, inspections and other maintenance.

Use water efficiently

Reducing your water use will help keep your septic tank working for longer.

Systems don’t cope well with large amounts of water such as:

  • consecutive showers or
  • loads of washing carried out in a short period.

Try to spread these out throughout the day and week.

Never do any of the following:

  • let livestock graze on the land application area - this can lead to compaction and collapse of the area
  • put bleach, disinfectants, whiteners, nappy soakers or spot removers into your septic tank via the sink, washing machine or toilet:
    • dispose of them on an unused area of your garden, away from any land application area
  • put rubbish in the system such as nappies, sanitary pads and condoms:
    • put them into the rubbish bin in a sealed plastic bag
  • put fats and oils down the drain
  • put food waste in the system
  • install or use a garbage grinder or spa bath if your system is not designed for it.

Over time, your system may not work properly.

Common signs includes foul smells or surface discharges from the septic tank or land application area.

Find out how to check and clean your septic tank.

If you sell or lease your property, you should:

  • tell the new owner or tenant about the septic tank system and
  • explain their responsibilities.

You should give them a manual that covers the following:

  • system operation and capabilities
  • operating requirements:
    • system capacity
    • managing the hydraulic load
    • what to avoid
  • troubleshooting and signs of system failure such as:
    • odours
    • surface ponding of wastewater
  • maintenance and servicing requirements
  • managing health risks
  • occupational health and safety, first aid and chemical handling
  • warranty and service life
  • emergency contacts.


Ballina Shire Council, NSW (2017), fact sheet 1 - Management of your septic tank, BSC website, accessed November 2020.

Ballina Shire Council, NSW (2017), fact sheet 6 - OSSM roles and responsibilities, BSC website, accessed November 2020.

Ballina Shire Council, NSW (2017), fact sheet 16 - Selling or buying a property with an on-site sewage management system, BSC website, accessed November 2020.

Last updated: 01 December 2020

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