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Septic Tank Problems

Having issues with your septic tank is one of the last things anyone wants to deal with. It is nasty, smelly, and gross in every way. Sometimes it is an easy fix and other times it is not. It is always a good idea to contact a professional for septic tank issues because your septic tank can be very dangerous with all the methane gasses coming from it. Good maintenance also plays a role in keeping your septic system healthy. The system should be pumped at least once every four or five years, drainfields should be replaced every twenty to twenty-five years, and sometimes there may be filters that need to be dealt with as well. Be sure to call a professional for your septic system maintenance.

Septic tanks can get very expensive to replace and when problems arise, the septic tank may not always be the issue but something else in the septic system. There are a few things to look for that will let you know that something is wrong with your septic system. You may have slow draining or gurgling sinks or tubs, sewage backup, a rotten egg smell coming from the septic tank, or wastewater or soft spots on the ground above the septic tank or drainfield. You may also notice green growth or dead spots on the ground over the septic tank, gurgling and other noises coming from the plumbing lines, foul odors inside as well as outside, or liquid in the septic tank that is higher than the inlet pipe.

Drainfield problems

Drainfield problems tend to mean excess water above ground that is causing a swamp on your property. During the lovely spring season, the amount of rain can cause your septic system to slow or even fail because the water table rises above the drainfield pipes which will stop absorption of waste water. This can be fixed by digging deeper drainage ditches near the drainfield, or the construction of subsurface drainage tiles that will discharge to a larger drainage system. Sometimes, the drainfield is just not big enough, for example when a home has been added onto. In an undersized or poorly constructed field, a clotting matt can form which will reduce its absorption. For a clogged field, just adding another field and alternating the use of them every year can fix the issue, or you can replace it with a bigger one more suited to the size of the home.

Sludge buildup

Sludge buildup can occur when the system has not been properly pumped and can be deemed the number one reason for septic tank backups. When the septic system is not properly pumped, solid wastes can build up causing many problems. The system needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, you also should be watching what goes into the system, and making sure it has the right septic system additives. If you do have a sludge buildup, you will need to have a professional clean your tank, apply septic tank treatments and possibly treat the drainfield as well because if solids passed though the tank, then this will cause a clotting matt to form in the field.

Broken drain lines

If you have an older concrete or steel septic tank, usually the first sign to failure is the lines or baffles needing to be replaced. Some would recommend that you replace concrete or steel septic tanks with a newer fiberglass septic tank and filter system. Concrete pipes and baffles can begin to deteriorate due to sulfuric acid eating away at them and rust eating away at the steel ones. This must be professionally fixed because the lines and baffles will need to be dug up. It would be best to find one that has camera equipment meant to find the underground septic tank and locate the broken lines. Also, contactors with digging equipment like a backhoe can use dye to locate the broken lines.

Tree roots in septic system

When tree roots become a problem in your septic system, you really have no other choice than to contact a professional. There are laws in place that control what kind of chemical substances can be used in the removal of roots. Digging up a tree or the roots may also need to be done as well, thus the need for a professional with the knowledge and experience to get the job done. Tree roots can get into cracks in the septic tank, around the tank covers and risers, and in the septic piping. When this happens, it can cause the system to slow or even stop and cause further damage. A professional will locate the problem and may use a combination of chemicals and root cutting or even tree removal to get rid of tree roots that are causing damage to your system.

Septic filters

Septic filters need to be cleaned regularly in the maintenance of your septic system or, just as in anything else, problems will occur. Effluent filters are great to have installed because they will help prevent solid material from the septic tank flowing into the drainfield, giving the field more of a chance to drain. These filters, however, will not get rid of preexisting biomat in the drainfield. Although clogged septic filters are a fairly common problem, it is easily fixed and not at a high expense either. Most of the newer septic tanks will have filters. You can have a professional clean the filter for you, or you can do it yourself. Just be sure to follow the instruction manual and do not use harsh chemicals as this can damage the bacteria that are working to break down waste in the septic tank.

Excess water in septic tank

Septic tanks are only meant to hold so much water inside them. Excess water in the tank can be caused by too much water usage in the home. Instead of the solid wastes getting broke down before passing into the distribution tubes leading to the drainfield, the excess water raises the water level in the tank causing the solid waste to pass through to the tubes. This will cause blockages which will lead to other problems. You can easily control this by controlling the amount of water that is going into the system. This means getting low-flow shower heads, shortening the length of showers, getting low-flow or dual-flow toilets, and maybe trying to spread out laundry day over multiple days instead of one.

Flush biodegradable material

Biodegradable material will degrade over time, whereas non-biodegradable material will never go away. When flushing or putting things down your drains, remember that when you flush these non-biodegradable materials they are taking up more and more space in your septic tank and will not go away naturally. With the rising water of the tank, these materials will make their way into the tubes causing blockages, or into the drainfield causing problems there. Even things that you would usually think would be okay to go down like kitchen wastes, such as grease and oil, and “flushable” items, such as tampons and paper towels, do not break down right and can cause problems. It is best to just stick with bodily wastes and toilet paper.

Too much detergent or harsh chemicals

You probably do not think about it too much, but when you use too much or the wrong kind of detergent, you can be causing problems in your septic system. There are phosphates in detergents that act like fertilizer and cause overgrowth of algae, which can plug up the septic system. It is best to use liquid or gel laundry and dish detergents because the powders tend to have the phosphates that cause the problems. Harsh chemicals going into your septic system can cause major problems not only for your septic system but for the environment as well. These harsh chemicals will kill off the bacteria in your septic tank that are working to break down the waste. They will also go through the distribution system and out into the surrounding soil which will pollute the environment.

Septic system causing indoor plumbing problems

Understanding how your septic system works, finding minor problems before they get worse, and general maintenance will help save your time and pocket by keeping you from having to do extensive and expensive repairs. Usually, signs that something is wrong with your septic system will start inside. Some things that will point to a problem with your septic system, such as clogs or a full tank, may be slow flushing toilets, gurgling or slow drainage, water back up in drains or sewage backup, and unpleasant odors like rotten egg smell. Check outside around the septic tank and drainfield to see if there are any problems there. You can also try to track down the blockage in your drains to see if it is in the house plumbing or septic system. And, as always, regular maintenance will help keep your system, inside and out, running smoothly.

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