Is Your Septic System Taking on or Holding Water?

The septic system consists of 3 parts – the septic tank, distribution box, and leach field or absorption field. The main function of septic systems is to treat and dispose of waste coming from wastewater pipes in the house. Whenever you turn on a faucet, do your laundry, take a bath, flush a toilet, etc., waste and water are deposited to the septic tank. Some solid wastes settle at the bottom while some may float. In this process wastewater travels from the drain to the septic tank, passes thru the pipes and finally to the leach field. As more water is added to the septic tank, the same amount is pushed out to the leach field. If your system is taking on too much water, or holding without passing what is currently contained, read on on what might be happening and what you can do about it.

A septic system is said to be working properly if it is able to dispose of waste and keep nearby wells and other groundwater sources from contamination. If the septic tank is no longer draining or can no longer accept water, it is an obvious sign that the system is failing. This can be shown by sewage backup or sewage overflowing on to the surface. The presence of puddles in the drain field area (even without any significant hint of rain) also tells that the septic system cannot hold or accept water any longer. The leach field cannot hold the volume of water which results to septic tank effluent being pushed up to the ground surface.

Floods or heavy rainstorms are the most popular reasons why septic systems fail to drain properly. During these situations, the leach field cannot accumulate excessive water which causes the septic system to backup or become sluggish. It is not advisable to have the systems pumped during a flood. Mud and silt may enter the tank while pumping and these materials may end up to the leach field. Pumping the system out during a flood may also damage the inlet and outlet pipes because the tank would try to float out of the ground, or worse – it may cause the tank to collapse. When flooding occurs, it is always not safe to drink well water until it is actually tested or purified.

Blockage or clogging is another cause why a septic system cannot take or hold water. Solid wastes that are not digested properly may block the pipes leading to the leach field. Oil and grease can also cause clogging in the system. Leach fields become clogged by solid wastes which were not digested properly.
Reducing the use of water helps restore the septic system into its normal condition. Conserving water also means reducing the load that goes into the leach field. When flooding occurs, it is suggested to stop the use of water immediately.

Applying additives to the septic tank or leach field may also help restore the bacteria in the system. Bacteria are essential to the septic system because they are the ones responsible for breaking down sewage. Without them, solids may block the pipes and soil absorption stops which causes flood and water backup into the tank.

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