Knowing that your septic system is failing can be very stressful. There is the expense of pumping out the tank frequently, and the daunting task of finding a professional who can repair it for an affordable price.
*Never work near or on the tank without a professional present. Septic tanks emit deadly gases and can also potentially collapse due to corrosion.*
So what is the first step?
1. Have your tank pumped out.
While the tank is being pumped out, keep an eye on the outlet pipe. Watch to see if the sewage running back into the tank from the absorption bed is clear or black. If it is relatively clear, that could be good news because the absorption bed may have just started to fail and can be easily rectified. But if the water coming back is black, then the pipes are probably starting to fill up with solids and the sewage isn’t being treated at all. Also take note of how long the sewage runs back into the tank because that could also determine how bad the system is backing up, or if the main pipe is blocked. Some systems though are arranged so the bed is significantly lower then the tank and it will never back up into the tank but will start to come out onto the surface.
2. Have a professional actually find the reason your septic system failed.
An unfortunate practice in the septic system industry is for “professionals” to simply walk into the yard and proclaim that it has failed beyond repair and you need a completely new system. This is a poor business practice and the proper procedure should be to find the exact reason why your septic system is no longer working.
If the cause of a failure isn’t identified then it will simply cause a brand new system to fail in the same way.
Things the professional should be looking at are:
-pH of the tank effluent.
-sewer camera the main pipe and header/distribution box to check for blockages or crushed pipes.
-determine how compacted the soil is above the trenches.
-uncover some of the pipes to determine if the whole system has failed or just a portion.
-request water usage information from the owner.
-check to make sure sump pump discharge isn’t entering the septic tank.
-request info about harsh chemical use within the residence.
3. Correct the cause of failure.
After performing a detailed assessment of the system and determining the main cause of failure, a long term, affordable solution can be put together.
If the system failed by too much water use; rejuvenate the absorption bed and reduce water use by installing more efficient toilets, shower heads, and taps.
If the system failed by harsh chemicals; rejuvenate the bed and switch to more environmentally friendly products such as oxygen bleach, liquid laundry soap, pH neutral cleaners, …
If the system failed by lack of oxygen penetrating the soil to feed the bacteria; install a SoilAir™ unit to pump air directly into the absorption bed or install a new system that reduces the amount of soil above the trenches and takes into consideration how the oxygen will passively move through the system.
If the system failed by a crushed pipe or tree roots; replace the pipe or use RootX to remove the roots if they haven’t completely taken over.
If the system failed by a faulty tank; replace the tank, or if the outlet/inlet baffles replace them if it is safe to do so.
Having the system professionally assessed and repaired accordingly can potentially save you thousands of dollars because you can be rest assured that your system from then on has the potential to work longer then the average.
4. Maintain the system following a repair or new installation.
Have the tank checked and pumped on a regular basis to prevent increased amounts of solids from entering the absorption bed.
Have an inspection port installed near the header or distribution box so you can easily check to see if the septic system is backing up again.
Add a good bacteria septic tank additive such as Bio-Desolve to increase the efficiency of your system.
I hope this article has helped you with deciding what you are going to do about your failing septic system.