Why Septic Systems Fail
Most septic systems fail because of inappropriate design or poor maintenance. Some soil-based systems (those with a drain field) are installed at sites with inadequate or inappropriate soils, excessive slopes, or high ground water tables. These conditions can cause hydraulic failures and contamination of nearby water sources.
Failure to perform routine maintenance, such as pumping the septic tank generally at least every three to five years, can cause solids in the tank to migrate into the drain field and clog the system.
Avoid Common Culprits to System Failure
Proper care and maintenance of your septic system is critical to ensuring your system’s proper function. In addition to proper care, there are other common activities that we should be mindful of in our daily lives.
Take care when using your garbage disposal. While convenient, frequent use of garbage disposals significantly increases the accumulation of sludge and scum in septic tanks and can result in the need for more frequent pumping.
Household Chemicals and Toxics
Oil-based paints, solvents, and large volumes of toxic cleaners should not be put down the drain or flushed. Remember that your septic system contains a living collection of organisms that digest and treat waste.
Major Leaks and High Water Demand Appliances
Some appliances, water softeners, and toilets unnecessarily pump water into septic systems. Outdated and inefficient systems can send hundreds of gallons of water to septic tanks, causing agitation of solids and excess flow to drainfields. This can be prevented through proactive maintenance such as fixing leaks (especially leaky old toilets) and updating/replacing old appliances or water treatment systems with newer water efficient models. Another solution is to check with a licensed plumbing professional about alternative routing for high water demand appliances.
Hot tubs may be a great way to relax, but when it comes to emptying them, your septic system should be avoided. Emptying a hot tub into your septic system stirs the solids in the tank, pushing them into the drainfield, causing it to clog and fail. Drain cooled hot tub water onto turf or landscaped areas far away from your septic tank and drainfield, and in accordance with local regulations. Use the same caution when draining swimming pools.
Improper Design or Installation
The proper design and installation of a septic system is essential for it to correctly function. A home’s groundwater table, soil composition, and a properly leveled drainfield are just a few factors to ensure a well-functioning septic system.
Whom to Contact if You Have Problems with Your Septic System
Contact a local septic system service provider, your local municipal sewage enforcement officer, health department, or other onsite wastewater treatment regulatory agency.