The Truth About Mulch and Septic Systems

mulch and septic system, drainfield mulchYour septic system’s drainfield requires special care. Most homeowners know, for instance, not to plant deep-root trees and shrubs in the drainfield. But you might not know that mulching can also be a problem. Most experts say that laying mulch on a septic system drainfield is not a good idea.

Mulch and Septic Systems Are not an Ideal Combination

Next to planting deep-rooted plants, mulch is the least septic-friendly landscaping practice. As a general rule, you should avoid mulching directly over the drainfield. Mulch inhibits the treatment system’s oxygen flow that’s needed for the filtration of effluent. When there isn’t sufficient oxygen, the bacteria cannot break down solid waste. This can lead to a backup requiring a septic tank pumping.

Mulching Around the Foundation

In no way are we suggesting that you avoid mulching altogether. We actually recommend mulching around the perimeter of your home. The mulch absorbs moisture that would otherwise make its way into your foundation, leading to erosion of the concrete.

It’s when you mulch directly over the septic system’s drainfield that the problem arises. The extra moisture retention strains the system, especially after a rain spell. Mulch absorbs the rainwater, which then has to be filtered through the drainfield. This is the same reason why homeowners are advised to avoid doing loads of laundry back-to-back. The excess water taxes the system too much at one time.

Improving Drainfield Aesthetics

You can improve the drainfield’s appearance without mulch. You can plant grass and other shallow-root vegetation over the field. This is also functionally beneficial as it improves oxygen exchange and prevents the build-up of excess soil moisture.

We Service Your Septic System

We recommend an OSS inspection as part of a 2020 initiative. The same goes for grease trap cleaning for business owners. Call Lil John Sanitary Services if you have been holding off regular pumping and/or inspections. Remember, be mindful that mulching and septic systems don’t go hand-in-hand.

Residential Septic System Maintenance

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Recognizing a Grease Trap Emergency

grease trap emergency

All grease traps need to be pumped out eventually, no exceptions. However, what separates routine maintenance from an emergency? With the latter, when is a situation so urgent that it needs emergency grease trap service?

Grease Trap Is Overflowing

If the grease trap is overflowing, that is an emergency that requires priority servicing. Overflowing grease can seep onto the floors and walls, creating an environmental hazard. You’ll need to have the grease trap pumped ASAP. Fortunately, this can be prevented easily with routine scheduled maintenance.

We recommend a cleaning every three months. Aside from being a preventive measure, it also ensures that you’ll remain within municipal compliance. Most cities impose fines for failure to maintain the grease trap.

Clogged Grease Trap

Before a grease trap overflows, it may exhibit signs of being clogged. Much like a household sink, your commercial sink may drain more slowly, or water may pool without fully going down.

A clog also puts the facility at risk of a grease trap fire. As a safety precaution, refrain from using any heating-related appliances and do not use the water until emergency services arrive.

Foul Odors

A bad smell from the direction of the grease trap doesn’t necessarily mandate an urgent response. However, if the odor is bad enough, it can spread to the dining area and offend patrons. It can also affect employees and possibly make them sick, hampering their performance.

The smell of old grease and food scraps, by the way, doesn’t smell like freshly prepared food. Some have described the smell as noxious.

Avoid Emergency Grease Trap Servicing

Requesting an impromptu grease trap pumping is never desirable and can hurt business operations. Grease Trap care is part of our Septic tank pumping and OSS inspections. Avoid emergency grease trap servicing altogether by calling Lil John Sanitary Service.

Commercial Grease Trap Maintenance

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

What to Do with That Leftover Turkey Grease

turkey grease, leftover grease

Cooking that turkey for a Thanksgiving feast is sure to leave behind a pan-full of grease. As tempting as it might be, dumping the leftover turkey grease down the drain is a no-no and a septic tank destroyer. Besides proper disposal, here are some other ways to use the leftover turkey grease.

Reuse the Grease

You can save the fat and reuse it for future cooking. Strain and store the grease in a container and store in the fridge. You can reuse the grease for adding flavor to other dishes. You can reuse the oil from most animal and vegetable fats.

Feed Your Pets

Grease in moderation is safe for pets. You can add a few drops to dog or cat nibble for a bit of natural flavoring. Your four-legged companion will surely appreciate it.

Feed the Birds

Birds can also feed on grease and animal fat. Store the grease in the fridge until it solidifies. Roll the fat in bird seed and add it to a bird feeder. The grease provides additional calories, which birds especially need in winter.

Dispose of it the Right Way

If you decide to dispose of the grease, then do it the proper way. Pour the grease into a seal-tight container and throw in the waste bin. Some homeowners pour the grease down the drain or even the toilet. This can be catastrophic if the grease solidifies in the septic tank, leading to solid globs that clog the system.

This is why restaurants have grease traps. The trap prevents the oil from entering and hardening in the pipes.

Uses for Cooking Grease Are Diverse

Whatever you do with the grease, do not dump it down the drain. This will accelerate the need for a septic tank pumping. Call Lil John Sanitary Services for your next inspection. Alternative uses for leftover turkey grease are far better than chucking the oil in the sink.

Septic Tank Pumping and Maintenance

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Four Common Portable Restroom Myths Debunked

portable restroom myths, portable restroom

There are a lot of negative connotations about portable johns. Most people won’t even use them unless nature is really calling. We want to dispel some of these portable restroom myths because there are so many half-truths out there.

Myth #1: Portable Restrooms Are Unsanitary

Portable restrooms can certainly be unsanitary if they’re not cleaned according to standards at recommended intervals. They require regular pumping, much like a grease trap or septic tank. If maintained properly with regular cleanings, they are just as sanitary as the toilet in your own home. Most units also come with an attached hand sanitizer dispenser inside.

Myth #2: Portable Restrooms Smell Like Poo

Like the first myth, portable restrooms can indeed smell like excrement if they’re not well-maintained. Once again, as long as they’re cleaned and pumped out at regular intervals, odors are mostly a non-issue. Most modern units are also properly ventilated. If you’re still worried about the smell, you can place fragrance sticks inside.

Myth #3: Portable Restrooms Are Only for Work Sites and Events

Another common myth is that portable toilet rental is limited to construction sites and outdoor festivals. In reality, their use is far more versatile. They’re also suitable for luxury events like weddings, galas, and black-tie parties. Some businesses also rent portable toilets while the public restroom is under repair.

Myth #4: You Only Need One or Two Portable Restrooms

Some people think you are covered as long as you have one or two portable toilets available. Do you think one or two is enough for, say, 300 guests? As a rule of thumb, have one restroom for every 100 people.

Don’t Fall for Portable Restroom Myths

Many people refrain from using a portable toilet due to preconceived notions. Do you need to rent a few portable toilet units? Don’t let these portable restroom myths prevent you from picking up the phone and calling Lil John Sanitary Services.

Portable Restroom Rental

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Household Cleaners and Septic Tanks: What Homeowners Need to Know

household cleaners, septic tanks

Fun fact: septic tanks are teeming with bacteria. The bacteria are necessary for the breakdown of solid waste; otherwise, a backup will quickly occur. Unbeknownst to most homeowners, though, household cleaners may disrupt the bacteria. Here’s some more helpful info about the negative relationship between household cleaners and septic tanks.

Which Household Cleaners Are Safe for Septic Tanks?

Always read the label of a store-bought cleaner. Look for labels that indicate the product is “septic-safe” or “septic-friendly.” You are not, however, limited to these labels. Other safe alternatives include cleaners with the labels:

  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Phosphate-free
  • Biodegradable
  • All-natural

Aim for cleaners that use 100% bio-based active ingredients. This includes natural products, such as citrus or pine oil. You can also use water-based cleaners that list water as the first ingredient. This is a contrast to acid-based cleaners that contain harsh solvents. Additional acceptable and inexpensive options include baking soda and vinegar, both of which are probably already in your kitchen pantry.

Household Cleaners to Avoid

Limit the use of chemical-based cleaners and even some disinfectants, such as anti-bacterial soap. Bleach and ammonia-based cleaners are also fine in moderation. If you require a lot of bleach for cleaning, then we suggest Borax as an alternative.

Cleaners to avoid completely include store-bought drain cleaners and anything containing sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, or sulfuric acid. These are germ killers and badly disrupt the bacteria in the septic tank. The consequence? More frequent septic pumping will be necessary because fewer bacteria are available to break down the solids.

We Keep Your Septic System in Working Order

An OSS inspection will reveal whether pumping your tanks is in order. For businesses, we perform grease trap cleaning. Call Lil John Sanitary Services for all septic system and grease trap maintenance. Household cleaners and septic tanks have a complex relationship that homeowners must watch carefully.

Residential Septic Pumping and Maintenance

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Grease Trap Requirements for Bellingham Food Establishments

grease trap requirements, grease trap

Anyone in a food-related industry should assume that their business will require a grease trap. This is mostly true, but it’s a bit more complex than that. We explain the grease trap requirements for small business owners as outlined under Seattle law.

Does My Business Require a Grease Trap?

Most establishments that serve food or beverages will require a grease trap. However, there are some exceptions, which we will explore.

If you run a yogurt shop, for instance, it may not require a grease trap if the yogurt is fat-free and the treat is served in disposable cups and utensils. Likewise, an ice cream shop will not require a grease trap unless the food is made on-site. For a café, you will not need a grease trap unless the menu includes espresso coffee.

For the aforementioned establishments, keep in mind that if you serve additional items, such as baked goods, then you will need a grease trap.

Grease Trap Requirements Under Bellingham Law

Ultimately, Bellingham Public Utilities have the final say regarding whether your business requires a grease trap. If one is required, you will need to install one as you apply for a plumbing permit. Refer to the city’s Uniform Plumbing Code regarding size and fitting requirements.

Bellingham law also recommends the 25% rule regarding grease trap maintenance. That is, you should schedule a cleaning once fat and oil fill up 25% of the holding tank.

What are the consequences of not installing a grease trap? The Bellingham / Whatcom County Public Health Department can close down your business until you comply.

We Clean Commercial Grease Traps

Grease trap cleaning is in no way a DIY endeavor. Call Lil John Sanitary Services for grease trap servicing and maintenance of additional on-site systems, such as portable toilets and septic tanks. Grease trap requirements are quite stringent; be sure you are following regulations to the letter.

Grease Trap Cleaning for Bellingham Food Services

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Summer Septic System Care: The Best Maintenance Tips for the Hottest Season

septic system care, summer septic maintenance

Septic system issues tend to arise more frequently in the summer. This is due to common hot weather activities, such as outdoor barbecues, increased showers, etc. Learn the ins and outs of summer septic system care and why it’s crucial during this time of year.

Be Mindful of What Goes Down the Drain

This applies year-round but is especially important in the summer due to increased activities. More everyday items are used, such as cooking oils, disposable wipes, paper towels, and condoms. These items belong in the trash and not down the toilet or drain. Toilet paper is the only manmade substance that should go down the toilet.

Schedule a Septic Pumping

Arrange for a septic pumping BEFORE a large social gathering. This is especially the case if it has been more than three years since the last pumping. This maintenance process greatly reduces the likelihood of a system failure at the most inopportune moment.

If you are hosting a party for a large number of guests, you may also want to consider renting a portable toilet or two. This will certainly take some of the pressure off the septic system.

Landscape the Right Way

Many homeowners renovate their landscape during summer. Grass is actually a great cover for drainfields. The same goes for shallow-root plants. Be sure, though, to add a riser if you don’t already have one. Otherwise, a technician will have to dig up the ground to access the opening. Avoid planting trees, shrubs, and vegetable-producing plants. These have deep root systems that can damage the septic pipes.

Leave Summer Septic System Care to Us

With the increased activity at home, summer is the ideal time to schedule an OSS inspection. Call Lil John Sanitary Service for periodic maintenance. Summer septic system care is a must if you plan to hosg large gatherings and open your restroom to guests.

Summer Septic System Maintenance

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme.

Septic System Flooding: How Does This Affect Your System and Drain Field?

septic flooding, drain field flooding

Aside from hot weather, summer also sees its fair share of storms. Many homeowners know septic system flooding is a serious issue. However, they don’t understand why and how to minimize the damage. We’ll examine some of the ramifications of flooding and explain how you can be proactive.

The Consequences of Septic System Flooding

When the drain field is exposed to standing water, it can become waterlogged. The consequences of this could include having wastewater back up into your toilet or sink. This can pose a serious sanitation issue and health hazard. 

The flood actually seldom damages the septic system itself. However, any openings may allow floodwater and accompanying debris to enter. Areas the floodwater can enter through include the tank cover and the manhole cover, as well as the inlet and outlet pipes. The debris and silt that get in may cause solid waste in the tank to rise and plug the outlet and inlet pipes.

What Homeowners Can Do

If the drain field is flooded, you may not even be able to run your sink or flush your toilet. The best solution is to limit water usage as much as possible. As soon as the water recedes, arrange for an OSS inspection to evaluate for potential backups. The system may require a septic tank pumping

During this time, don’t place excess weight over the drain field. This compacts the soil, making it harder for the system to expel effluent. Don’t drive a vehicle or place heavy machinery over the area. You shouldn’t be doing this ever but it’s especially a no-no during a flood.

We Inspect Septic Systems Post-Flood

We service residential septic systems and commercial grease traps throughout the Bellingham area. Call Lil John Sanitary Services after a storm that results in puddling water over the drain field. Septic system flooding requires professional inspection.

Summer Septic System Inspections

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme

Portable Toilet Decoration Tips for a Wedding

portable toilet decoration, portable toilet

We admit that portable toilets can be an eyesore. They are units people associate with industrial sites and work zones. Nevertheless, they are a requirement for lavish events like outdoor weddings. Portable toilet decoration is one way to keep the units from being an overt visual distraction.

Be Mindful of Location

Decorations are not just about adding décor. Placement is also a part of strategic decorating. Keep portable toilets away from the areas where people will congregate. Sure, guests may have to walk a bit further to answer nature’s call, but it’ll keep the venue looking nice. It’s also a nonissue if indoor restrooms are nearby. If an indoor venue exists, then consider placement in the back of the building.

Portable Toilet Decoration Ideas

You can attach balloons, ribbons, and flowers to the portable toilet’s exterior. Do the same for handwashing stations. You can also create an elegant pathway leading to restrooms. If the celebration is going to extend to the night hours, add light scones to create a beautiful light display.

Another idea is to add a refreshments table near the portable wash stations. This can be a table with complimentary items, such as moist towelettes, mints, perfume, and hand sanitizer.

Decorate the Inside

The interior of a portable toilet can be unpleasant, especially to the nose after multiple uses. Consider adding a scented flameless candle and perhaps a towel basket and flowers. Occupants won’t appreciate having to set personal items on the porta-potty floor. So, add suction hooks so occupants can hang a coat or purse. 

We Provide Portable Toilet Rental

Are you tying the knot soon? Call Lil John Sanitary Services for porta-potty rentals. This is a part of our bigger service that also includes septic tank pumping and OSS inspections. Portable toilet decoration helps the units match their lavish surroundings.

Portable Toilet Rentals for all Occasions

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme.

Septic Tank and Holding Tank: What’s the Difference?

Home Septic Tank Pumping

Homeowners often use the terms septic tank and holding tank interchangeably. The two, though, are actually two entirely different mechanisms. People often call us to say they need to pump out their holding tanks. What they mean is they need a septic tank pumping.

What Is a Septic Tank?

Homes not connected to the municipal sewer line have a septic system. The septic tank collects all the waste and wastewater that flows out of the home. It doesn’t just hold waste, though. It also separates heavy solids from light solids; the latter floats to the top while the heavy solids sink to the bottom. In the center lies water that exits out the outlet pipe and into the drain field.

What Is a Holding Tank?

A holding tank also stores household wastewater. The main difference is that holding tanks do not have an outlet pipe. The waste remains inside until pumped out. Holding tanks are rare these days and are often in homes near bodies of water. Homes near lakes and rivers often lack soil suitable to act as a drain field. 

Pumping Intervals for Septic Tanks and Holding Tanks

Since holding tanks cannot remove waste on their own, they require more frequent pumping. Of course, this depends on how much water a household uses. The average household with a holding tank may require a pump every two to five months. Septic tanks, on the other hand, only require pumping every two to three years. Again, the interval may be shorter or longer depending on water usage.

We Take Care of Your Septic Tank

Our OSS inspections cover residential septic systems. For businesses, we perform grease trap cleaning. Call Lil John Sanitary Services for a cleaning or checkup. We’ll know what you mean whether you say you need a septic tank or holding tank pumping.

Home Septic Tank Pumping

Serving Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, Deming, Lummi Island, Nooksack, Blaine, Whatcom & Skagit Counties, Maple Falls, Bow Birch Bay, Custer, and Acme