The key to septic failure prevention is good maintenance of your septic tank and plumbing system. With the help of a little do it yourself plumbing advice and consideration on what you actually throw down the kitchen sink and flush down the toilet. Failure of a septic system can result in sewage water backing up into the tank and even into your home’s plumbing.
Preventive Septic System Maintenance
As with many things it is better to avoid problems with a septic tank beforehand, rather then trying to fix things after the septic tanks fails. Depending on the size of your household, the sewer sludge will build up at the bottom of the septic tank. With too much sewage sludge in the septic system, the septic tank can eventually spill over into the “distribution box” and drain-field and rapidly clog the distribution lines. For more information on how to take good care of your septic system, then please read : Septic System: Maintenance of Septic Tank Systems first.
Where do Septic Systems Fail
Knowing where your septic tank and drainfield are located is a vital part in the maintenance of your septic system. If you don’t know where to find your septic tank, then read this first: How to find a septic tank and manhole cover first.
To determine where the septic system is failing excactly you will most likely have to take a look into your septic tank first, and check the level off the wastewater inside the tank. When you lift the lid of the septic tank and look down into the tank you should be able to see the septic inlet and outlet. Take a look at the septic tank's inlet pipe, is the waste water level at or above the inlet?
If the wastewater is AT the inlet level, then it will most likely be a blockage just before the septic tank or in the inlet fitting itself. You should be able to unblock the inlet by running a sewer snake or garden hose through the inlet of the septic tank.
If the water is ABOVE the inlet fitting, then your septic system is blocked downstream of the septic outlet, in the outlet fitting itself, or more likely further down stream in your leaching field or distribution box.
For more information on clogged septic tanks read: How to Unclog a Septic Tank
In case you have a clogged leaching field that is causing the septic system to fail, then the problem might only be temporary. If for some reason your system was more heavily used, by for instance over the weekend you had visiting relatives. Then the septic system may not be able to handle the large amount of sewage as fast as it normally would, and you may find that after a few days the drainfield will eventualy clear and your septic tank will empty as before.
Causes of Septic Tank Failure
A number of factors can cause an on-site septic system to fail, including the type of soil the septic tank is in, bad design and installation, and insufficient maintenance of the septic system. Statistics show that between 1 and 5 percent of all septic systems in the United States fails every year, but these percentages can be a lot higher in certain parts of the country.
Many commercial products claim to prevent roots from clogging pipes, but nothing takes the place of careful landscaping practices. To prevent septic system damage, do not place a leach field near trees and shrubs and plant only grass or shallow-rooted perennials and annuals around a septic system.
Flushing Foreign Objects Down the Drain
We have probably all had that sinking feeling when an object accidentally drops into the toilet. Once flushed, removing that toy truck can be costly and time consuming. For households with small children, prevent unwanted objects from going down the drain by installing toilet seat locks. Other notorious septic system cloggers include diapers, baby wipes, paper products other
than toilet paper, cat litter, cigarettes, coffee grounds, feminine products, etc. Purchase toilet paper labeled “Septic Safe.”
Grease in Kitchen Sink
Excess kitchen grease will congeal in the sewer line, causing blockages and backups. If you need more information on unclogging a kitchen sink or drain please read: How to unlog a blocked kitchen sink here.
Kitchen grease does not break down in the tank, it accumulates, filling the tank much quicker, and ultimately shortening the time until you have a full septic tank and it will need to get pumped. Dispose of kitchen grease in the trash rather than down the drain. The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of solids entering the tank. Whatever is put in, it will have to be pumped out!
Failure to Install According to Local Codes
Local codes and regulations ensure proper installation practices and protect public health. A poorly installed system will not work effectively and will fail early. A properly installed septic system will be designed according to your specific site conditions (soil types, bedrock, groundwater, slope).
Septic Systems Need To Get Regularly Checked and Pumped
Finally, have your septic system regularly checked and cleaned to ensure it's working efficiently. The newer styles of waste-water treatment systems nowadays have regular checks, and cleaning of the septic tank in the form of a maintenance contract, but for older septic tanks or traditional systems, you'll need to arrange the checks and septic cleaning yourself. In that case it is best to leave the septic pumping to the septic tank service professionals