Causes of Septic Problems

Find out the causes of septic system problems, and learn what you can do to avoid them.

In This Article:

What goes wrong

Around the House

Building another absorption field is sometimes the only cure for septic fields that have lost their efficiency. Resting a field for a year can restore it to near original capacity. Having two fields can extend the life of a septic system, and is often the best approach in areas where the ground contains a significant amount of clay.

Septic tanks, by their nature, accumulate solid material over time. About 50 percent of this material will decompose, thanks to the bacteria that are naturally present in all septic systems. The rest has to be pumped out on a regular basis. If too much of it accumulates, it can cause several problems.

First, the solids take up too much space in the tank, which greatly reduces the tank's treatment volume. In other words, it can't hold household wastewater long enough to adequately treat it. As a result, the tank has to release partially treated wastewater into the septic field. Over time, these wastes can clog the field and reduce its disposal capacity. In other words, the field simply won't work as well.

Solids can also reach the outlet level and flow into the leaching bed, where they plug the pipes or the bed. The result: a clogged septic field. If the tank's baffles are working properly, they'll prevent this, but baffles can disintegrate or collapse, especially in older tanks that have seen many years of service.

Both scenarios can be hazardous to the environment and your health, as they can contaminate drinking water supplies. They can also have a significant effect on your property values. Finally, they can create a big hole in your wallet, as repairing a septic system can mean digging out the old system and relocating the drain field. Depending on where you live, you might be required to replace the entire system and any damaged landscape.

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