Diagnosing Septic Tank Problems

By on November 30, 2012

It’s easy to take our septic tank for granted. All our waste from sinks, toilets and showers disappears down the drain and we don’t see what goes on in the pipes and the septic tank underground outside our house. The efficiency of a septic tank is usually only fully appreciated when something goes wrong with it. Here are a few of the common problems people have with their septic tanks and what the problems might indicate.

What Toilets Can Tell You
If toilets are flushing slowly in the house, not flushing at all or overflowing, it may be a symptom of a problem with your sewage system. Usually it means that a pipe is blocked, preventing waste water from reaching the septic tank and even pushing waste water back up into the house. As such, sewage in the house necessitates an inspection of the septic tank. If the water level has fallen lower than the entry point, this indicates that a pipe is blocked between the house and the tank. A plumber should be able to clear the pipe for you. If the water level is higher, however, there may be a problem with your septic tank or your drain field, which will require professional attention.

Problems with The Drain Field
If the drain field on your property gives off a foul odour or seems excessively wet, it’s a good idea to get your septic tank pumped and reduce water use for a short period as both of these measures will help dispel the odour. However, this may signify drain field failure, in which case you’ll probably have to replace your drain field. Drain fields fail when septic tanks haven’t been pumped frequently enough as solid waste from the waste water will get into the drain field, contaminating it, causing the bad odour and making it unfit for draining further water back into the soil. However, if you do need to replace the drain field, the tank itself may be in fine, working order, so you won’t have to replace it.

Maintaining Your Septic Tank
In order to keep your septic tank and sewage system in good working order, it’s necessary to inspect your tank once every three years and have it pumped about once every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house and how much water you use.

Trust me – it’s in your interest to look after your septic system because the day something goes wrong and you end up with pungent sewage bubbling up on your lawn, you’ll wish you had!

This article was written by plumber Keith Cagney who has years of experience dealing with septic tanks.

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