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Septic System Failure: recognizing the signs

Problem: soil failure

Q. how do I know soil is failing in my drain field?

A. Pumpers often observe water falling back into septic tanks from the field as the level is pumped down. this is an important sign of soil failure. It is obvious that the problem does not originate in the tank, but in the drainfield. puddles of water appearing on the surface of the drain field are a good indication that the soil is flooded and the drain field is failing.

It is not always easy to diagnose the cause of backups. A recent issue of the epa newsletter pipeline lists signs of failure as "slowly draining sinks and toilets, gurgling sounds in the plumbing, plumbing backups, sewage odours in the house, or tests showing the presence of bacteria in well water."

Problem: clay soil and sodium

The presence of sodium in wastewater can turn clay bearing soil into hardpan, which will not allow water to pass through it.

Q. How can I tell if I have clay soil?
A. Clay soils are made up of tiny particles that cling together and subsequently cling well to water. To help determine how much of your soil is clay you can simply take a handful of your soil and try to squeeze it together. Once squeezed, release your fingers and see if the soil is still in a ball. the more clay it has, the more solid and less-brittle it will appear. 

click here for detailed information on the effects of sodium on clay soils.

Problem: grease and sludge

A tar-like layer called the biomat forms near the surface and around the inner walls of the drain field. This biomat is made up of organic material which is home to billions of microbes and naturally ocurring bacteria. When the biomat grows too dense it can form a waterproof barrier and prevent wastewater from being absorbed into the soil.

When soil absorption stops, soils flood. water backs up into the tank and into household plumbing.

This is often the first sign of soil failure in your septic system.

Septic Drainer helps solve two key problems which result in septic system failure...

1. It releases sodium bonded clay and reopens soil, restoring passage of air and water through the drain field soil.

2. It disperses greases and scums, and penetrates the biomat which clogs soil passages.

Problem: broken or crushed drain pipes

Some homes are built on small lots where there is not enough room to properly install an on-site septic system. it is never recommended to install tanks, drainpipe, or drain fields under an area where vehicles travel. the weight of vehicle traffic can compress soil, and crush plastic, or, in older systems, clay drain pipes.

Problem: waste solids escaping septic tank

All septic tanks must have waste solids removed by licensed pumping service companies every 3 - 5 years depending on use.

When solids build up through neglect, or overuse, they can overflow into the drain field system, and clog drain pipes and soil. when this condition is present, it is often possible to restore normal functioning by having the pipes cleaned with high pressure streams of water. this is commonly known as hydro-jet cleaning, and it can be performed by most licensed septic system maintenance companies. once the hydro-jetting is done, have the tank pumped, then apply a full shock treatment (16 litres) of Septic Drainer directly to the drain field.

Pproblem: root intrusion

It is never a good idea to plant trees, or shrubs near, or over a drain field. You will notice that shrubbery near your drain field is larger and more robust than similar plants in other areas farther away. This is due to the additional moisture and nutrients the plants near the drain field are able to reach by extending their roots into drain field soil, and eventually into drain pipes.

Root intrusion can be remedied in 2 ways: mechanical removal with a rotating rooter machine, or chemical removal using one of several root killers commonly found on hardware and plumbing store shelves.

Septic Drainer is the choice of Professionals