If your home isn't connected to city sewers, then your septic tank is the most important part of your plumbing system. Septic tanks are responsible for safely processing all of the wastewater you produce. When your septic system stops working properly, all the wastewater in your home has nowhere to go. That means it comes back to you-untreated and unsafe.
Septic tank failure is a very serious (and often very expensive) problem. You never want to deal with it-trust us. Luckily, if you make sure to avoid the following problems, you won't have to! These are the four primary reasons why septic tanks fail, and how you can avoid them.
Lack of Maintenance
Your septic system works by transferring all the wastewater you produce into the septic tank. Inside the tank, heavy contaminants separate from the water and settle on the bottom as sludge. Light pollutants like oil and grease float to the surface of the wastewater as scum. The septic tank only pumps the water into the drainfield after the sludge and scum separate out. The scum and sludge stay inside the tank, so they can't contaminate the groundwater.
Some of the sludge and scum inside the tank breaks down naturally over time, but not all of it. You need to pump your septic tank out at least once every 3 years to remove built-up sludge and scum. If you don't, the sludge and scum will continue to build up inside the tank. Eventually, they'll take up too much space or even start draining out into the soil along with the processed water. When that happens, it won't be long until the tank stops working altogether.
Excessive Water Use
The main disadvantage of septic tanks are their limited capacity. A septic tank can only manage to process a certain quantity of wastewater at a time. Your home's septic tank was designed to handle a specific flow rate of water, based on your home's size. Usually, your septic tank should discharge wastewater at the same rate as or faster than it takes on water. When it has to take on too much water it can't do that, and you have a problem.
When your septic system takes on too much water, the tank fills up before it can empty out again. The excess water can't enter the full tank, so it has to go somewhere else. Usually, this "somewhere else" is right back to you, either through your pipes or out onto your lawn. If your septic tank can't handle your water use, it's usually because it's simply too small for your needs. It's also possible that drainage or runoff entered the septic tank from outside and overloaded the system.
Several things can seriously damage a septic system. Septic systems have four main components: the pipe connected to your home, the tank itself, the drainfield, and the soil surrounding it. If something happens to any one of these four components, the septic system could be compromised. Different kinds of damage affect the septic system in different ways. Often, damage that seems minor at first builds into something more serious over time.
Tree roots are a particularly common source of septic system damage. Occasionally, tree roots can grow down into the septic system. They can dislocate or puncture the pipes, or even break into the tank itself. Roots could also clog drain lines even if they don't directly damage the pipe and tank. Paving or driving on the drainfield can also seriously hurt the septic system by crushing components or compacting soil. In general, you should avoid straining the drainfield around the septic system if possible.
Even if your tank is sized correctly, it won't work properly if it wasn't also installed correctly. Septic systems must be buried at a specific depth in a specific kind of soil. In fact, the soil in your drainfield is one of the most important parts of the entire system. It's responsible for absorbing, treating, and ultimately dispersing wastewater safely. If the soil in your drainfield isn't suited for septic use, then it won't do its job properly.
If drainfield soil is too wet, then it won't be able to treat sewage properly before discharging it. Instead, sewage will reach groundwater while it's still contaminated. If there's not enough soil beneath the bottom of the drainfield trench (vertical separation distance), then your drainfield won't be able to absorb all the sewage. Every other component of the system must be installed carefully, too. When the drain line or distribution box aren't level, they may not work properly. If you're worried that your septic system wasn't installed properly, call a pro to come have a look.
If you're ever worried about your septic system, remember that you can always call The Pink Plumber for help. Our experts can inspect your system, diagnose any problems, and solve them quickly and effectively. Whatever your septic tank problem, just call The Pink Plumber and we'll bring you a solution.