A Homeowner’s Quick Guide to Septic Tank Problems and Solutions

When you have a septic tank it’s easy to forget it’s there, and just to carry on as normal – that’s what is so great about them. However, it is worth taking note of what could potentially go wrong so that you’re not caught out if there is an issue.

There is little that can go wrong with the septic tank itself; it may suffer structural damage, or begin to deteriorate over time but the majority of problems with septic tanks occur with the plumbing and the soakaway system.

All septic tanks and soakaway systems will eventually have problems.

Septic Tank Blockages

The most common problem with a septic tank is the most common problem with any plumbing or drainage system: a blockage. A blockage in the pipe between your home and the septic tank can usually be cleared fairly easily with plumbing equipment. Sometimes you may find that a blockage is caused by tree roots entering drainage pipes. This can be harder to clear, but a professional will know the best way to go about resolving the issue.

Septic Tank Overflow

If there has been a period of exceptionally wet weather you may find that your septic tank begins to overflow, with septic tank effluent appearing at ground level or backing up the pipes of your system. It is worth noting that any septic tank whose effluent finds its way into ditches or streams – however this may occur – must be replaced with a sewage treatment plant by January 2020 – or before this date, at point of sale if the property is sold.

Soakaway Problems

Sometimes the soil surrounding the soakaway can become clogged. If sludge and scum is not removed periodically from the tank – we recommend every 3 years or so – they can accumulate and be transported to the soakaway. This transportation of solids from the septic tank is the most common type of failure with this type of system. If a regular maintenance schedule is not adhered to, the perforated distribution drain pipe or the pores in the earth walls of the soakaway can easily become clogged.

If you have a malfunctioning soakaway, you may notice unpleasant odours, persistent wet spots or excessive green growth in any areas of the system. You may also notice that your waste plumbing becomes slow and sluggish over time, and your system may begin to back up into your bath or shower. If there is a problem with your soakaway, these problems will persist even if your septic tank is pumped and cleaned, or has been recently.

Septic Tank Maintenance

One worryingly common cause of problems with septic tanks is that they are often not emptied as often as they should be. A septic tank can only hold one year worth of sludge and must be emptied every twelve months. Another issue that often does not occur to people is the problem of more people using the system. You may have purchased a house which previously had only one or two people living in it and you are a family or four or five people, you may find that the existing system – especially the soakaway – cannot cope with the extra daily flow.

When we think about home improvements, septic system maintenance is not our typical first choice. In fact, the septic system often goes unnoticed. Many homeowners fail to realize how important its upkeep is. So long as it does not cause any problems, we tend to carry on as normal. However, at some point, we need to take preventative measures in order to keep our septic tanks normal and functional.

Septic tank problems can really be a handful. That’s why it is worth noting of the probable issues to arise as early as possible. This way, we can properly address matters before they get worse. Septic tank problems may be due to structural damage as it deteriorates over time. Mostly, septic problems occur with the plumbing and drainage system.

Eventually, septic systems will have problems especially when not handled with proper care. To give you a heads-up, in this guide, we will be looking at the different septic tank problems, what causes them and what to do about them.

Clogged Septic Tank

Septic tank blockage is one of the most common problems in most septic systems. This obstruction in the pipelines is usually caused by a buildup of pressure between the foreign object and the pipe. Sometimes, imperfections such as intrusions in the pipe system can cause blockage as well.

To undo this damage, you may need to have it properly inspected first. From there, you will get to know what has caused the blockage. If the problem is mechanical, it can be easily fixed by the right plumbing equipment. However, if you assessed that the problem is not mechanical, you may consider adding bacteria to the system. Septic systems need a certain level of bacteria present in order to function properly.

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Allow some time for the bacteria to settle and do its job. A few days to a few weeks will do. The time for the treatment to take effect depends on how much sludge your septic system contains. If your septic system is already worn out and have ever since been neglected, the treatment could take effect in around three weeks. Do note that bacteria multiply rapidly and digest every organic material inside your tank. Bacterial treatments maintain the balance in your septic systems. They are completely safe compared to harsh chemicals.

No matter how serious the blockage is, do not get tempted to use chemical agents as they would only worsen the problem. Chemicals would only free up sludge and go further into your system.

Overflowing Septic Tank

A septic tank tends to overflow when solid wastes settle to the bottom of the bank and liquid wastes and effluent pass into the the drainage fields. High water consumption can be one of the culprits. We need to avoid to reduce our water consumption to avoid this problem.

Inadequate maintenance also results to an overflowing tank. Normally, a household of four need to have their tanks pumped out at least once every three to five years.

An overflowing tank is also caused by deficiency of naturally occuring bacteria. Without these bacteria, wastes won’t break down and would quickly result to build-up and blockage faster than usual.

It can also be caused by design flaws in your piping system. You may notice your drain fields to be soaked when this is the issue. Clogged and damaged pipes cause tanks to overflow.

Drain Field Problems

When your tank is not regularly pumped out, sludge and scum can accumulate and transported to the drain field. They solidify along the lines and stops your drain field from working. Once this happens, the results are irreversible and could lead into a total septic system failure.

The soil surrounding the pipes can get clogged and cause a lot of problems. The lower layer of scum reduces the amount of effluent inside your tank, forcing the sludge and scum to rise up over the outlet which can really turn out bad for your septic system.

When this happens, you may notice foul smelling odors, soaked spots and excessive growth of grass around your drain field. Your system will then begin to back up and your plumbing becomes slow over time. It gets serious that even pumping your tank won’t be able to resolve this issue.

Preventative measures must be done accordingly if you want to protect your drain field.

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