Septic systems treat and purify home wastewater in areas without central sewerage. They are based on nature and technology and have three key elements: a septic tank, a drain field, and soil.
Wastewater from the house enters the septic tank. Then it separates into three different levels – light solids on top (scum), wastewater in the middle (effluent), and heavy solids on the bottom (sludge).
The effluent leaves the tank to enter the drain field, where it’s additionally treated. After the treatment, the soil absorbs the purified wastewater and safely returns it into the groundwater.
Failure of a septic system is a disruption of this process. Different factors can cause it, but whatever the reason, it is a potential health hazard for people, animals, and the environment.
Why do septic systems fail?
Failure of your septic system means it’s not processing sewage like it was initially designed to do. Improperly disposed sewage can cause damage to your home and has a detrimental impact on the surrounding environment. Such an impact is freshwater source contamination that affects the health of all living organisms.
The two most common reasons for septic system failure are improper design or installation and poor maintenance or neglect.
Improper installation or design
A septic system must be adequately designed and properly installed. The two crucial things to consider are the space and the surrounding soil. Other factors, such as proper elevation of the components or the underground water table level, are essential in designing a functional septic system.
In general, sandy soils absorb more wastewater than clay and require less space for a drain field. Suppose a septic tank is installed on a slope without proper leveling of the components. In that case, it will result in a hydraulic problem.
Improper design and installation of such a system will undoubtedly result in septic failure.
Poor maintenance or neglect
Another main reason for septic system failure is poor maintenance or neglect. Two typical causes are excessive water use and when you have your septic tank pumped irregularly.
It would be best to pump your septic tanks once every 3 to 5 years as a rule of the thumb. You should combine this process with a thorough inspection of the sanitary tee or effluent filter. If you fail to do so, sludge can build up and clog the entire drainage system, resulting in septic system failure.
Excess use of water
Most septic systems are designed with the size of the house and the number of living people in mind. The wastewater flow rate is usually calculated by adding 60 gallons of water per person or 120 gallons per bedroom.
Excess wastewater can be caused by an increased number of people in the house, for example, guests. Another reason could be a new home appliance such as a dishwasher or a washing machine.
Heavy rainfall can also affect the septic system by filling the drain field and not allowing it to absorb the wastewater coming from the tank. If you use more water than what your septic system was designed to handle, you might notice wet spots on the ground in the yard or untreated sewage coming back up the drain lines.
Other factors may also cause a septic system failure.
- Tree roots intervening with the area
- Excess use of chemicals in the wastewater
- Building too close or on top of the system.
What to do if your home floods due to septic system failures?
Improper maintenance and design are the two most common reasons for septic system failure. They can lead to the accumulation of solid particles, clogged pipes, or even returning wastewater in the drains and flooding of the drain field.
You should call a professional to evaluate the situation and give further instructions if you notice returning water in the house or wet spots in your backyard.
Meanwhile, conserve water by reducing the usage of toilets, showers, and home appliances. If possible, do not use the septic system at all. Refrain from opening the septic tank or digging around it since it can cause further damage and pollute the groundwater.
Check for compromised electrical connections and devices due to the flood and avoid contact. Restrict access to the compromised area to keep away animals and people.
If there is water inside your house, clean it without throwing it back to the toilets or sinks since this only returns it to the overflowing septic system. It is best to leave the professionals to clean it because the sewage may be harmful to you and require special protective equipment.
In all cases, do call a professional company immediately and do not wait for the problem to go away on its own. Delaying a necessary repair can have detrimental effects on you and your surroundings.
Whom to contact for information or problems with your septic system?
In case of septic system failure or other occurring problems, use online search engines to find contacts of a local septic system service provider or installer, onsite wastewater treatment regulatory agency, or health department.
In such cases, it is crucial to react immediately. Septic system failure presents public and environmental hazards. That is why you need to recognize the symptoms of a failing septic system so you can take action accordingly.
Start looking for a local septic system provider if you notice any of the following:
- The water drains slowly
- Wastewater and sewage comes back up the drains
- There is a wet spot and foul odors in your backyard
- The grass around the septic tank and the drain field is growing more than the rest
- The problems occur or increase during rainy days
- If you need to pump out the tank more frequently than suggested.
Any of the above can mean that your septic tank is failing, and you need to take precautions immediately. It is essential to know how to recognize septic tank failure in the early stages so you can react on time.
If you live in Woodinville, you can contact us for more information on septic systems or onsite evaluation.