Why Septic Systems Fail

Why Do Septic Systems Fail?

These are some of the main reasons for system failure:
Lack of septic system maintenance

Missing outlet baffle

Improper septic tank and septic system construction


Most of the above issues can be caught in time other than original construction problems, that may need more than just maintenance and may likely require repair or replacement. In most cases maintenance, due to lack knowledge will cause premature failure which allows solids to carry over into the drainage area blocking up the laterals. The other common cause is usually due to the outlet baffle being gone allowing for a good portion of the solids to go directly to the laterals causing the same issue. Understanding know that solid carry over is the likely the cause of premature system failure and knowing that a filter installed w/a maintenance plan along with scheduled pump outs can help increase the life of a system that the question should be;

When can I have one installed and how much will it cost me?

Company & property owner benefits due to the regular maintenance program that would be set up and will help insure that the system will last longer.

What Makes a Septic System Fail

Two primary types of septic system failures: hydraulic failure and phosphorous treatment failure.

Hydraulic failure occurs when the soil cannot handle the volume of wastewater and, as a result, sewage back flows in to the house or surfaces on the ground.

Caused by:
Failure to pump out the tank: Wastewater will back up in to the house or break out on to the ground when sludge and scum from an overfull tank flows in the leach field and clogs the soil.

Poorly sited or built systems: When the septic system is sited in or too close to the high water table, or is constructed with improper fill, saturated soil can cause wastewater to back up or break out. This is particularly likely to occur in the spring when the water table is high.

Tree and bush roots: tree and bush roots over a leach field can break or block pipes and interfere with the distribution system. Phosphorous treatment failure occurs when coarse, sandy soils allow phosphorous to pass untreated through to the ground water. In this case, all pipes and pumps are working properly and there is no apparent evidence of a malfunction. The problem lies in the inability of surrounding soils to absorb and treat the phosphorous.

6 Signs of a Failing Septic System

Sewage Odor in the house or yard

Standing Water over the tank or leach field (ground wet or mushy)

Slow draining sinks and toilets

Gurgling sounds in the plumbing

Plumbing Back ups

Grass growing faster and greener in one particular area of the yard, especially during the extreme parts of summer or winter – excess algae or plant growth

None of these warning signs can be considered a sure indication that a system has failed, but the appearance of one or more of them should prompt homeowners to have their systems inspected. Septic system failures also can occur without any of these warning signals. For this reason, a yearly inspection of your septic system is recommended and even required by some communities.

What Do You Do if Your Septic System Fails

Call Premier Pumping Service for an evaluation of your system to uncover the reason for malfunction. Premier Pumping Service will be able to quickly detect the problem and offer suggested solutions in fixing it. It is recommended that you let a trained technician perform repairs and diagnostics, but if you do wish to examine it prior to that point, please exercise caution when working near the opened septic system. Toxic and explosive gases are present and hazardous. Never enter a septic tank!

A failing system could be a result of neglecting to have your system pumped. To solve this, simply have your septic system pumped but remain weary as this is usually only a temporary solution for a much larger problem at hand if your system has been long overdue for service. Harmful solids accumulation can be prevented by pumping your system regularly.

Conserve Water in Your Home. This is particularly effective if your septic system has not failed completely, yet. It can help lessen the problem for a short time until you are able to have the situation corrected by a trusted septic system professional.

Fence off the Area. If effluent is seeping to the surface, prevent people and pets from coming I to contact with it. Contact Premier Pumping Service at the first sign of a problem to avoid long term damage of your system or to begin the process in designing a new system immediately to make sure that your home’s on site waste system is not out of order for a lengthy amount of time.

Inspect Your System Annually

Inspecting your septic system annually is a good way to monitor your system’s health. Inspections can reveal problems before they become serious, and by checking the levels of sludge and scum in your tank, you can get a more accurate idea of how often it should be pumped.

Protect Your System

Finally, it is important to protect your septic system from potential damage. Planting anything other than grass near your septic system, such as shrubs and trees, can cause damage. In addition, do not allow anyone to drive or operate heavy machinery over any part of the system. Also, do not build anything over the drainage field.

Many homeowners believe that once a septic system is installed, it will work forever without maintenance or repairs. This is not the case by any stretch of the imagination. Most septic systems, even with routine maintenance, will have an average lifetime of 40 years.

To help protect against premature failure, the homeowner can follow a few simple procedures that can help reduce sludge build-up, reduce water use, eliminate toxic waste, keep the system’s bacteria working properly and protect the leach field.

Don’t use a garbage disposal; it adds 50% more solids to your system.

Don’t pour automotive oil, cooking oil or grease down the drain

Don’t drive vehicles over the septic system or leach field

Don’t plant bushes or trees over the leach field

Don’t install a in-ground or above ground pool near the drainage field

Don’t dump recreational vehicle (RV) waste in to your tank. The system is designed for your residence flow and may not be able to handle the extra solids load. RV waste may also contain chemicals that are toxic or may hamper the biological activity in your system.

Don’t use too much water, especially during rainy, wet seasons when the ground is saturated

Don’t pour paint or paint thinner down your drain

Don’t ever connect rain gutters or storm drains to the septic system or allow surface water to drain in to it.

Don’t use drain cleaners and other toxic chemical products

Don’t use chemical or biological septic cleaners which can plug up your leach fields and ruin your system.

Don’t discharge water softener backwash in to the septic tank. The backwash brine contains high levels of chlorides that can destroy microorganisms

Don’t flush feminine hygiene products, cat litter, disposable diapers or other non-biodegradable products in to your system

Don’t flush medicines, particularly antibiotics

Don’t use products labeled antibacterial

Don’t Flush hair combings coffee grounds dental floss disposable diapers kitty litter feminine hygiene products cigarette butts contraceptives gauze bandages fat, grease, or oil paper towels

Don’t Flush paints varnishes thinners waste oils photographic solutions pesticides

Don’t ever enter a septic tank or breathe in the gases (people have died from gas asphyxiation)

Homeowners wanting to take good care of their septic systems should make note of the above items that should never be flushed down the drain or toilet. These items can overtax or destroy the biological digestion taking place within the system or clog pumps and pipes.

Do inspect your tank for signs of sludge buildup and make sure the baffles are in working order.

Do Pump you tank as needed (every 1-2 years for year round residences and 4-5 years for seasonal residences), and keep a written record (ask about our complimentary homeowners guide) for yourself or future owner.

Do Compost food garbage or put it in the trash

Do keep a grease can handy

Do Mark your septic system so you can protect it from vehicles and encroaching trees and shrubs

Do divert excess water like roof drains and surface water away from your system

Do Conserve water; install water-saving devices, such as front-loading washers low-flow faucets and shower heads and wash clothes and dishes only when you have a full load and avoid several loads in one day.

Do Use non-toxic cleaning products such as baking soda to scrub toilets or boiling water to drains.

Do plant shrubs, trees and grasses downhill from your system to act as a sponge (they will tie up excess nutrients and water as well as prevent soil erosion). Keep small trees and shrubs at least 10 feet away from your leach field and large trees at least 20 feet away.

Do spread out your laundry loads to even out your water use and avoid flushing your system

Do keep an “as built” drawing in a safe place for your records

Do prevent heavy vehicles or livestock from the area over and around your system. If necessary consider placing a fence or some other barricade around area to prevent damage. (field compaction)

Do contact Premier Pumping if your septic system shows signs of failure or if others in your immediate area are suffering from malfunctioning septic systems

Do use liquid detergents instead of powdered detergents

Although your septic tank absorption field generally does not require maintenance, you should adhere to the following rules to protect and prolong its functional life:
Do not drive over the absorption field with cars, trucks, or heavy equipment.

Do not plant trees or shrubbery in the absorption field area, the roots can get into the lines and plug them.

Do not cover the absorption field with hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt. Grass is the best cover, because it will help prevent erosion and help remove excess water.

Do divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways, and other areas away from the absorption field.

Other Septic Tank Cleaning / Maintenance Tips

Routine Septic System maintenance and inspections will extend the life of your septic system in Massachusetts. Keep in mind that the cost of a replacement system far exceeds the cost of regular maintenance (much like a vehicle) and can affect the resale of your property.

There is a reference chart on this site. Generally, every two to three years is considered good service. This will vary with the size and usage of the septic tank. Just make sure the large opening (approximately 24″;-30″ in diameter) is used every time for thorough service.

Install a riser on the main cover for easy access.

Fix all leaking toilets and sinks

Keep a record of all maintenance, inspections, and modifications to your system

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