Septic Tank: 7 Ways to Tell When There is a Problem

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Contractor pumping a septic tank

Septic tanks must be properly maintained to ensure backups or hazardous accidents don’t happen. When household waste water drains into a septic tank, solids settle to the bottom and a liquid scum floats on top. Bacteria digest the waste and break it down, and excess water soaks into the gravel-filled drainage area around the tank, known as the “leach field.” Over time, however, the level of the tank’s solid contents rises, and if the tank isn’t pumped, when it’s over full the waste backs up in the pipes into your home.

Some of the signs that a tank is over full are due to the waste filling the septic lines. Your septic tank may require pumping if:

  • Waste water drains slowly down household drains. All or most of the drains are affected by an over full septic tank. If only one drain is slow to empty, that drain may have a separate blockage.
  • The sewer waste backs up in bathrooms. Sewer waste can appear in the shower and tub drains as well as in toilets.
  • Septic pipes are leaking. The pressure created by backed up waste in the septic lines can cause the pipes to leak.
  • The leach field area in the yard is soggy. Water waste from the tank should evaporate or be taken up by grass roots. Soggy patches and pools mean that the water that is leaving the septic tank is not absorbing into the ground.
  • You can smell a sewer odor. The odor of sewage isn’t easy to mistake. If your bathrooms or yard smell like a sewer, it means the tank can’t hold any more waste.
  • The grass over the leach field grows faster than the rest of your lawn and it’s greener. Septic tank contents are nutritious to plants, so grass grows very well when it’s fertilized by septic waste overflow.
  • The depth of the sludge layer is one third the depth of the liquid layer, or deeper. The best way to tell if your tank needs pumping is to ask a professional contractor to inspect it. He’ll measure how deep the solid and liquid levels are and pump the tank before it overflows.

Septic tanks don’t require much in the way of maintenance, providing you cover the basics. Most septic tanks need to be pumped every three to five years, but they should be inspected every year or so to make sure that they’re working properly. Ask a qualified professional to inspect your tank, and he or she can estimate how often it should be pumped.

For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today.

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