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Why Septic Tanks Fail

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

If your home isn’t connected to city sewers, then your septic tank is the most important part of your plumbing system. Septic tanks are responsible for safely processing all of the wastewater you produce. When your septic system stops working properly, all the wastewater in your home has nowhere to go. That means it comes back to you–untreated and unsafe.

Septic tank failure is a very serious (and often very expensive) problem. You never want to deal with it–trust us. Luckily, if you make sure to avoid the following problems, you won’t have to! These are the four primary reasons why septic tanks fail, and how you can avoid them.

Your septic system works by transferring all the wastewater you produce into the septic tankLack of Maintenance

Your septic system works by transferring all the wastewater you produce into the septic tank. Inside the tank, heavy contaminants separate from the water and settle on the bottom as sludge. Light pollutants like oil and grease float to the surface of the wastewater as scum. The septic tank only pumps the water into the drainfield after the sludge and scum separate out. The scum and sludge stay inside the tank, so they can’t contaminate the groundwater.

Some of the sludge and scum inside the tank breaks down naturally over time, but not all of it. You need to pump your septic tank out at least once every 3 years to remove built-up sludge and scum. If you don’t, the sludge and scum will continue to build up inside the tank. Eventually, they’ll take up too much space or even start draining out into the soil along with the processed water. When that happens, it won’t be long until the tank stops working altogether.

Excessive Water Use

The main disadvantage of septic tanks are their limited capacity. A septic tank can only manage to process a certain quantity of wastewater at a time. Your home’s septic tank was designed to handle a specific flow rate of water, based on your home’s size. Usually, your septic tank should discharge wastewater at the same rate as or faster than it takes on water. When it has to take on too much water it can’t do that, and you have a problem.

When your septic system takes on too much water, the tank fills up before it can empty out again. The excess water can’t enter the full tank, so it has to go somewhere else. Usually, this “somewhere else” is right back to you, either through your pipes or out onto your lawn. If your septic tank can’t handle your water use, it’s usually because it’s simply too small for your needs. It’s also possible that drainage or runoff entered the septic tank from outside and overloaded the system.


plumbing inspection

Several things can seriously damage a septic system. Septic systems have four main components: the pipe connected to your home, the tank itself, the drainfield, and the soil surrounding it. If something happens to any one of these four components, the septic system could be compromised. Different kinds of damage affect the septic system in different ways. Often, damage that seems minor at first builds into something more serious over time.

Tree roots are a particularly common source of septic system damage. Occasionally, tree roots can grow down into the septic system. They can dislocate or puncture the pipes, or even break into the tank itself. Roots could also clog drain lines even if they don’t directly damage the pipe and tank. Paving or driving on the drainfield can also seriously hurt the septic system by crushing components or compacting soil. In general, you should avoid straining the drainfield around the septic system if possible.

Improper Installation

Even if your tank is sized correctly, it won’t work properly if it wasn’t also installed correctly. Septic systems must be buried at a specific depth in a specific kind of soil. In fact, the soil in your drainfield is one of the most important parts of the entire system. It’s responsible for absorbing, treating, and ultimately dispersing wastewater safely. If the soil in your drainfield isn’t suited for septic use, then it won’t do its job properly.

If drainfield soil is too wet, then it won’t be able to treat sewage properly before discharging it. Instead, sewage will reach groundwater while it’s still contaminated. If there’s not enough soil beneath the bottom of the drainfield trench (vertical separation distance), then your drainfield won’t be able to absorb all the sewage. Every other component of the system must be installed carefully, too. When the drain line or distribution box aren’t level, they may not work properly. If you’re worried that your septic system wasn’t installed properly, call a pro to come have a look.

If you’re ever worried about your septic system, remember that you can always call The Pink Plumber for help. Our experts can inspect your system, diagnose any problems, and solve them quickly and effectively. Whatever your septic tank problem, just call The Pink Plumber and we’ll bring you a solution.

Why You Need to Maintain Your Septic Tank

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

If you have a septic tank, then chances are you already know the “shoulds.” You should pump your septic tank at least once every three years. You should call an expert to inspect your whole septic system about once every five years. Even if you know these “shoulds” by heart, however, you may not know WHY they’re so important.

Maintaining your septic tank isn’t just something you should do. It’s something you should want to do. These are the main four reasons why it pays–sometimes literally!–to maintain your septic tank. The next time you’re considering having your septic tank serviced, think about how that maintenance will help you:

Save Money

According to the EPA, regular septic tank maintenance fees cost an average of $250-500 every three to five years. The cost of repairing or replacing a failed septic system, on the other hand, can be $3000-7000! That cost isn’t even considering the associated damage a failed septic tank could cost, either. Septic tank failure could inflict substantial damage on your home and property. Just getting at a septic tank to repair or replace it involves digging up your lawn.

Scheduling regular maintenance is by far the most cost-effective way to care for your septic system. All septic systems regularly require pumping and other forms of maintenance. If you don’t maintain your septic system, it will stop working as effectively as it should. That lack of efficiency could cause other plumbing problems and cost money, even before a total failure! Septic system maintenance may cost money now, but it’ll save a lot of money in the long run.

Stay Healthy

plumbing inspection

Your septic system is absolutely crucial for keeping your home and water clean. It processes and safely disposes of all the wastewater you produce every day. Wastewater is full of pollutants and contaminants that can pose a serious risk to your health. The septic tank separates these contaminants out of your wastewater before discharging it back out into your drainfield. When you don’t maintain your septic system, it will lose its ability to reliably manage contaminants.

When your septic tank can’t manage your wastewater contaminants, they could affect you in several ways. If your septic tank fills with sludge, unprocessed sewage water could actually come back up through your drains. Coming into direct contact with sewage put you at risk of contracting a wide variety of diseases. If the system stops processing sewage properly, the contaminants in it could also seep into the surrounding groundwater. Contaminated groundwater could cause health problems for you, your neighbors, and your whole area!

Preserve Your Lawn

We already mentioned how repairing a septic system requires digging up your lawn. Unfortunately, that’s not the only way a faulty septic system can hurt your lawn, either. Drainfield floods are one of the most common problems that happen when a septic tank malfunctions. If any component of the system aren’t level, they won’t evenly distribute wastewater to all portions of the drainfield. When that happens, your septic system could “overload” a part of the drainfield.

When your septic tank overloads part of the drainfield, it sends more water there than the soil can handle. The soil becomes overly saturated and can no longer “hold” all the wastewater. As a result, the water bubbles over the surface of the soil, flooding your yard. Wet spots on your yard or overly-green grass are common early signs of septic system failure for this exact reason. Over time, septic malfunctions can inflict even more severe lawn problems than flooding, such as sinkholes!

Protect the Environment

plumbing inspection

Remember: malfunctioning septic systems release untreated sewage into the soil and groundwater surrounding them. This sewage doesn’t just affect you. When the bacteria and pollutants in sewage enter groundwater, they can pose risks to the entire community. Groundwater never stays in the ground; it enters streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. When pollutants enter groundwater, they’re invariably entering other bodies of water, too. Pollutants in groundwater end up affecting the plants and wildlife relying on nearby water.

Unfortunately, polluted groundwater can affect your drinking water, too. Many people who use septic systems also use well water or another local groundwater source for drinking water. Polluted groundwater can quickly seep into these sources of drinking water and contaminate them with dangerous bacteria. Groundwater contamination may occasionally even affect city drinking water reservoirs. Most ecosystem are so affected by groundwater that it’s difficult to speculate on the full damage its pollution inflicts. Pollutants hurt property, plants, animals, and people. It’s bad news.

All this is to say: you should really, really maintain your septic system. Keeping it clean and functioning is what’s best for you, your wallet, your family, and your entire community.

Not only is maintaining your septic system important, it’s also easy! If you live in the greater Atlanta area, all you have to do is call the Pink Plumber. We can inspect, maintain, and repair your septic system quickly and effectively. Stay safe and save money at the same time, all by taking care of your septic system.

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