Unfortunately, the answer to this commonly asked question is yes. Vast amounts of rain can have a negative impact and lead to septic tank problems. In fact, when the ground becomes overly saturated due to heavy rainfall, even the smallest shower can slow down or back up your septic system. Rain is not always the culprit. A water hose left running or a busted water main can cause ground saturation and lead to septic tank problems.
What Causes This Problem?
To understand why this happens, you must understand how a septic tank works. As household waste and wastewater enter the septic tank, the particles begin to separate. The heavy solids sink to the bottom forming the sludge layer. Oils, fats and proteins form the scum layer at the top while grey wastewater, or effluent, resides in the middle. The effluent is diverted into the leach field — a circuit of perforated pipes resting on a bed of gravel — where it is absorbed into the ground. When the ground becomes saturated (or gets to the point when it cannot absorb any more water) the effluent has nowhere to go. This will cause your drains to slow down significantly or stop draining altogether.
What Can You Do?
The best course of action is to reduce water usage within the household since any water going down the drain ends up in the septic tank. Following the steps below will help you to ride out the storm.
- Flush toilets only when necessary. Purchase a portable potty and dispose waste responsibly.
- Order takeout to prevent dirty dishes/running the dishwasher.
- Avoid doing copious amounts of laundry.
- Take shorter showers. Shower at a friend’s house if possible.
- Wait it out. Once the rain stops, the water table will begin to drop.
These seem like drastic measures but sometimes they are the only options. If the ground becomes overly saturated, the effluent will not drain from the septic tank. It is as simple as that. Once the water table subsides and the drain field dries out, your septic system should begin to function normally.
What Not to Do
A common mistake many homeowners make when their septic system fails during heavy rainfall is to call a plumbing contractor and have their septic system pumped during the storm. Now, it is a good idea to schedule a septic tank pumping for after the storm—and about every three years to maintain and prolong the life of your system. However, pumping your septic tank during the rain when the ground is over saturated is a bad idea. For one, it will only provide temporary relief as the ground water will just seep back in over a couple of days, if you’re lucky. In addition, and most importantly, because the weight of the saturated soil around your tank is greater than the pressure inside an empty tank, it could crack or worse, collapse under the added stress.
For answers to your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today.
Image Source: Flickr