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Frozen Septic Tank: Watch out for These Symptoms

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Anyone who deals with harsh winters and has a septic tank should know that when temperatures dip, conditions can lead to a frozen septic tank. If you’re encountering this problem for the first time and are not sure if weather is the culprit— there are a few tell-tale signs that may help you solve the mystery.

Symptoms Your Septic System Is Frozen

  • First up is the toilet. With a frozen system, the functionality of the toilet is removed and it won’t flush. Obviously, this is a problem.
  • None of the sinks in the home are going to drain. This includes the bathroom, kitchen, or a sink you may have in the garage. With a frozen septic tank, the drains are in essence “clogged” with ice.
  • The washing machine water line is not going to work. Bathtubs and showers (as well as the sinks) are not going to drain.

Situations that Cause a Frozen Septic Tank

While the following are not symptoms of a frozen system, they are some of the reasons that lead to the symptoms listed above. Check the area where your septic system is located to help avoid freezing and failed septic tanks:

  • Freezing will occur for homes with a septic system line in ground that is too shallow.
  • If the septic line is above or too close to the frost level for the ground, expect freezing.
  • Compacted soil covering a septic line can lead to freezing because this particular soil type allows freezing temperatures to go deeper into the ground. If your line is in this zone, it is prone to freezing.
  • Septic systems need to be insulated to help keep the lines warm. Insulation can include grass, vegetation and especially snow. An insulated line tends to stay warm and is better able to deal with freezing temperatures. If the insulation is too thin or non-existent, a failed septic system is probable.
  • When you’re in residence, the daily use of the septic system “heats” the septic line. If your home is a vacation or second home and no one is in residence, lack of or infrequent use means minimal heat resulting in another reason the system will freeze.
  • If you have a continuous water source feeding the line (such as a leaking faucet or condensation from a furnace draining into the system), ice can build up.
  • A septic line that isn’t pitched properly or a line that travels through low spots can freeze because water cannot exit the line.

If you’re in a situation where your septic system is frozen, hire a professional plumber to thaw it out. A professional has the experience, tools, knowledge, and know-how to fix the problem using safe and efficient techniques.

To answer your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today!

Image Source: Flickr

Avoid Septic Tank Problems

Friday, December 4th, 2015

With fall here and cold weather on the horizon, now is the ideal time to prevent septic tank problems this fall by having your home’s system inspected and readied. Be proactive and have a plumbing professional perform septic tank maintenance, and you will ensure that the system runs efficiently throughout the cold months.

Septic Tank Inspection

Fall is the ideal time to avoid septic tank problems by having a plumbing professional inspect the system. During inspection, a plumber will check the following:

  • Septic tank cover. The cover of the septic tank, which allows for access, can become buried in the yard. Prior to cold weather, it’s important to ensure that the cover is intact and secure. If the cover is at ground level, the plumbing professional will ensure its integrity and that it doesn’t move when stepped on. To avoid septic tank problems, the plumber will also make certain that there are no cracks in the cover.
  • Electrical and pumps. A plumbing professional will check that the entire system is performing at its optimum, including float switches, alarms and other components.
  • Filters. If the system has an effluent filter system, the plumbing professional will clean or replace it, depending on what is warranted. These filters prevent solids from reaching the treatment area of the system. The baffles will also be tested at this time.
  • Connections. A plumber will make sure that all of the household plumbing, including toilets, sinks, washing machine and dishwasher, are correctly and securely hooked up to the septic system and that all waste is safely being directed to the septic tank.

Measure Scum and Sludge Layers

Preventing septic tank problems also requires that scum and sludge layers are measured in the fall. A plumbing professional will visually inspect and use special tools to determine the extent of the scum and sludge layers. The results of this inspection will determine if the tank requires pumping. If the tank is one-third full, it should also be pumped.

Pump the System

It is often a good idea to have the system pumped in the fall. How often the septic system requires pumping depends on a variety of factors, including the number of people in the home and various uses of the septic system, such as if there is a garbage disposal in use and if the home has high-water-use appliances, like hot tubs.

To have the septic system flushed by a knowledgeable plumbing professional and for answers about the system, contact The Pink Plumber today.

5 Signs of a Failed Septic System

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

A failed septic system is one of the most unpleasant experiences for a homeowner. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell if your septic tank is failing until your home is hit with an overwhelming stink and some serious toilet problems. It’s best to catch the septic failure before that happens. These signs provide valuable clues – and can let you know that it’s time to call a professional.

1. Toilet Draining Problems

If your septic system is clogged or struggling, one of the first signs is a problem with toilet flushing. The water will suddenly flush much more slowly, and it may take multiple flushes to remove wastewater where once it took only one or two. If nothing else has changed, then the problem is probably your septic system. It sounds gross, but sometimes a bit of blackish sewage may even back up out of the drain. Other drains in your house will also be affected, like your shower and sink, but the toilet will probably be the most noticeable and reliable sign.

2. Sewer Gas Around the Drainage Area

Before a failed septic system causes serious odor problems, there is usually a pungent buildup. This typically occurs in the soil around the septic tank and drainage field (a.k.a. leach field), where sewage leaks out into the soil. If you notice a smell like human waste or decomposition in this area, your system has probably backed up or sprung a leak.

3. Healthy Plant Growth

This may seem odd, but it’s a very important clue: Septic system fields tend to stay pretty arid and drainage areas are usually covered with gravel or rock. If you notice lush grass growing in these areas, it’s time to call up a contractor. Leaking wastewater will dissolve into nitrates and phosphates, which you may recognize as key fertilizer ingredients. This causes a quick uptick in surrounding plant growth, usually in odd patches.

If your septic tank/drain field area is overgrown with trees and shrubs, this could be a cause for worry, as roots may reach down and damage your system.

4. A Poor Septic Tank Inspection

Ideally, you should have your septic tank inspected every three to five years. There are small ports that an inspector can quickly dig down to measure slime, sludge, connections and other important factors. A poor inspection means it’s time for repairs, cleaning, or a good old-fashioned septic tank pump before you end up with a failed septic system.

5. Dangerous Well Water

Septic systems and water wells often occur together, because both are necessary away from a city system of sewage and water. Your well can provide valuable insight to the health of your septic system, too. You should have your well water regularly tested to ensure it’s healthy. If contamination or algae suddenly show up with a vengeance, your well is trying to tell you that something has gone wrong with the septic system.

For answers to your questions, contact The Pink Plumber today!

Image Source: Flickr

Septic Tank Options for Smaller Properties

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

If you think your home doesn’t qualify for septic tanks because of its small lot, think again! It’s possible to install a septic tank on a small property, even if it doesn’t have the space required for the typical drain field. If you don’t have access to the city’s water supply or you prefer to go with a septic tank, consider these options for your smaller lot.

Septic Tank Alternatives

A number of septic tank options exist other than the conventional system. A standard septic tank carries wastewater from the home via a pipe, which directs the waste into a storage tank. There, the waste water and solids separate, and sludge eventually forms from the solids. The wastewater is directed to a large drain field located a distance from the home, where the soil filters the waste. Without the space for a drain field, you’re limited to these options:

  • Aerobic treatment. This system employs oxygen to quicken the process of breaking down the solids. As a result, the water the unit discharges is much cleaner. The system doesn’t require a separate drain field, but it must be monitored frequently to ensure that the water the system releases is clean enough to go directly into the soil.
  • Chlorine disinfection. An alternative to oxygen, this type of septic system uses chlorine, which causes oxidization, to purify the water before it’s released into the soil. In fact, this is the exact method that many cities and towns use to purify the drinking water.
  • Biofilter systems. This unique septic system doesn’t use oxygen or chlorine to treat water. Instead, the system consists of layers of gravel and sand, which alternate in an airtight and watertight container. The system pumps wastewater into the bottom of the tank, and the effluent works its way up through the sand and gravel, eventually rising to the top and into the soil.

Keeping Your Alternative Septic Tank System in Good Shape

Whether your system is a standard unit or an alternative one, homeowners should comply with these maintenance guidelines:

  • Trees interfere with the system’s operation. Avoid planting trees near the tank; otherwise, tree roots will damage the tank or pipes, and disrupt the safety of their operation.
  • Schedule routine maintenance. To promote optimal operation and prevent hazards, have an expert inspect the tank according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This way, you’ll be able to prevent smaller septic tank problems from becoming bigger ones, and identify worn parts before they wear out.

Small lot? No problem. There are septic tank options that will work within the limited square footage. Work with a professional to identify the system that will work best for you. For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Flickr

Navigating Septic Tank Problems When Company Is Over

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

No matter what you’re in the middle of, dealing with septic tank problems is unpleasant. Add some family and friends to the scenario, and it just gets worse. What’s the best course of action when you have company over and septic tank problems? Here are some troubleshooting steps you can follow.

Step 1

You should know that most septic problems require expert help. Once you enact a few troubleshooting steps, you’ll need to call a professional to service the tank. In the meantime, deal with foul odors or backups to maintain comfort in your home.

Step 2

Septic odors are not always toxic, but they are a hazard. If you’re noticing foul odors, take steps to ventilate the home. Open windows and doors, run fans, and use Febreeze or scented candles to mask the odors. If you leave the home closed up, however, the noxious gases can cause nausea and headaches. Sinks or toilets clogging up? Use a plunger to attempt to get the liquid moving.

What causes the odors?

  • Problematic plumbing traps. The traps creating a holding cell for water that prevents sewage gases from passing through them. Identify where the odor is coming from, and then run some water in the sink or tub. If the trap was causing the problem, the odor will go away.
  • Stopped up vent pipes. The septic tank employs a vent pipe that allows the gases to escape. If the pipe is clogged, the gases will back up into the home. Visually inspect the roof and see if the pipe is blocked by a nest, leaves or other debris.
  • Miscellaneous. Failing to maintain the septic tank can lead to a host of problems, most of which you won’t be able to deal with while you have company at the house. Improper septic tank use can disrupt the decomposition of the tank’s organic matter, and a tank that’s too small will eventually malfunction.

Step 3

Once your company has left, it’s time to really deal with the problem. Contact a septic tank professional right away to schedule emergency service. Keep the area ventilated, and use your septic system as little as possible. During the service appointment, the technician will assess the situation, and diagnose the cause of the problem. Addressing the issue might be as simple as a tank pumpout, or it may require a leachfield or tank replacement.

If you’re worried that septic tank problems are in your near future, contact a professional to evaluate your system. For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today.

Image Source: Flickr

Stay Clear of Chemicals Harmful to Drain

Monday, October 6th, 2014

As you brush your teeth and wash your hair, you probably don’t give a second thought to what is going down the drain. You should be aware of chemicals harmful to drain. Your Atlanta septic system will thank you.

One-fourth of all homes in the United States have septic systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Septic systems are more prevalent in rural regions that don’t have a central sewer system.

Keeping up with proper maintenance and thinking smart when it comes to what you put down your drain can help prevent the need to replace your septic system sooner than you need to. Replacement can cost between $3,000 and $7,000.

A septic system works by containing living organisms that digest and take care of the waste. There are some toxins that will destroy those organisms and potentially ruin your system.

When it comes to chemicals harmful to drain, some things to avoid include:

  • Liquid drain cleaners. Many of these can be harmful to your pipes and septic system. Instead, when you have a clog, pour hot boiling water down the drain or push a plumbing snake down the drain to clear the blockage.
  • Oil-based paints and solvents. These chemicals should be disposed of at a local household disposal waste site.
  • The cooking oils and grease you put down your garbage disposal. Those fats and solids that make their way down into your septic system — think bacon grease — can end up clogging the drainfield in your septic system.
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover. Never pour either down the drain.
  • Motor oils, transmission fluid, and anti-freeze.
  • Flammable and explosive materials.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Anything else can cause your septic system to clog and work less effectively.

If your septic system is malfunctioning, you might be alerted by the foul odor.

Other signs that it might be time to call a plumber or septic professional include:

  • You notice your drains are backing up with wastewater.
  • You see spongy, vibrant green grass popping up on your drainfield.
  • You see squishy, muddy soil in the area of the septic system, or near your basement.

On average, septic systems should be inspected about every three years. They should also be pumped every three to five years. That frequency will be based on the size of your household, how much wastewater your family produces, the amount of solids, and the size of the tank.

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

Image source: FreeImages