Septic Tank Problems – How to prevent and fix common drain field problems and odors

septic tank problemsSeptic Tank Problems

Most commonly, drain field problems are caused by septic tank problems. These problems can cause unpleasant odors and if left unattended could damage the septic tank system as well as the drain field. The tricky part with realizing you have a drain field problem is if you don’t know where the problem is occurring, which can occur if you’re not familiar with the placement of your septic tank system.

There are a couple of common problems that cause septic tank drainfield problems. The most common is a drain field that has become overfilled with the organisms that help break down the waste water from the septic tank. Generally, the drain field is an area of gravel that houses the septic tank. Holes in the septic tank, or pipes, transport the waste water and distribute it into the gravel. It sinks down and after a short time something called a biomat forms, which is essentially a collection of organisms that consume the waste water and prevent it from seeping into the soil. This balance tends to stay healthy unless something happens in the tank where too much organic matter gets out and the biomat grows to surround the tank. Once the biomat has shrunk the drainfield, you have drain field problems because the waste water will no longer be able to sink down so instead it will come up to the surface and cause puddles or other septic tank problems.

Once there are puddles in your field, you have to trouble shoot the problem. It is a good idea, as a preventative method, to have your septic tank checked every few years because of this biomat issue that can happen. One of the best ways to prevent overgrowth of the biomat is to make sure your tank is aerated. Tanks that are not aerated need to be pumped every two to five years. However, aerated tanks can go up to 12 years without needing to be pumped. This is because aerated tanks will house a different kind of bacteria, one that survives with the presence of oxygen, that consumes solid waste. This organism can help prevent septic tank problems as well.

Common septic tank problems also include regular clogs, which can happen if something is put into the tank that shouldn’t be there or if the tank has not been draining properly and solid waste has built up in a pipe. Some of these problems can be solved by running 50 or 60 gallons of water through the tank. This will cause some puddling, about an inch, but if your tank does not have a biomat issue that water will disappear from the surface in a matter of a couple hours. This issue will not always need to be serviced as it will often solve itself with the addition of fresh water.


Septic tank problems symptoms:


Some of the symptoms you can look out for with septic tank problems are subtle while others are fairly obvious. If you’re having a biomat problem, one of the subtle symptoms is that if you have grass or lawn over the area, it will grow greener and taller than other grass in the area. This is because the soil is extra rich from the waste water that is not draining. While the organisms break down the waste in the waste water most quickly and effectively, plants can also take advantage of the waste water and grow greener. While a green lawn is always a good thing, having a drain field problem is not! If your grass is getting tall and green in one specific spot, make sure that you check that spot for puddling.

Puddling is a second most common symptom of septic tank problems. This is when the water no longer has anywhere to drain to. It comes up to the surface because it cannot sink down into the ground due to the impermeable biomat. When you see puddling, it means that you need to take care of the problem quickly. Puddling will only grow and with any heavy rains or prolonged avoidance of the problem it can turn into a serious issue as the waste water is disseminated around the area and the puddles become very deep. Getting your septic tank pumped at this point is the most effective way to get rid of the puddling. If you experience this problem often, looking into aeration systems would be advisable as they will pay for themselves when you factor in the fewer times you will have to have your tank pumped.

Septic tank odors will often accompany puddling. Once the waste water comes up to the surface, you will start to notice the smell of the waste in the water. This smell is very unpleasant, usually, and can also include the smell of your water if it is hard water. These smells are just as important as an indication of problems as puddling. Often, before the puddles actually appear, you will begin to smell the septic tank odors. These odors will only worsen as waste water starts to puddle. Like with puddling, when smelling septic tank odors you should immediately make plans to have your tank pumped so you can eliminate the issue. Also, remember to troubleshoot by pumping 50-60 gallons of water into your tank. If it is a clog, you may solve the problem, and if it is a biomat issue, you will know within an hour or two if the water is not draining at all. This way you know if you need to call about getting your tank pumped, and can consider the possibility of aeration.

Septic tank problems come in many shapes and sizes, but knowing the most common ones and the common symptoms can help you decide what is the best course of action.

Septic tank problems are not uncommon when you think about it. After all, septic tanks, like garbage disposals, do fill to the brim and need to be cleaned out. Since septic problems are all too common with septic tanks, the following article can help you deal with common septic tank troubles in an inexpensive way.


Before learning how to deal with septic tank troubles, you must first know what typical septic tank troubles are. One type of septic tank trouble is septic tank drain field problems. Drain fields are places where wastewater runs to after it has been separated from sludge (solid waste). Drain fields are comprised of the soil surrounding the septic tank. Drain field problems include defective or depreciated drain pipes, water that does not drain properly, and water that does not completely sink into the soil. Sometimes, the drain pipes can be damaged, hurt, defective, or simply depreciated (pipes are wearing out). Damaged drain pipes can prevent wastewater from flowing into the drain field, thus pushing the wastewater back through the pipes and into the home once more. This leads to all sorts of clogging issues (clogged toilet, shower, faucets, sinks, etc.). Defective drain pipes may not work properly from the start when installed and may contribute to the same problems as damaged pipes. Wastewater is intended to drain into the drain field (the soil external to the septic tank). When wastewater does not do this (due to bad drain pipes), wastewater can reappear in showers, sink faucets, laundry water, etc. At this point, wastewater becomes hazardous to the home residents. Wastewater can run into the drain field as it should but not necessarily evaporate into the soil. If the wastewater does not evaporate, it can also create septic problems (though it may not return to the home water supply).


In addition to drain field problems, there are also common septic tank problems you may encounter with your septic system. Common problems regarding your septic tank include water backups, sewage growth, septic odors, and both water overuse and underuse. Water backups can occur in sinks, faucets, showers, and toilets. Sewage growth can occur in a septic tank drain field when hazardous chemicals eliminate the septic tank bacteria, whose job it is to break down solid waste and disintegrate wastewater into the drain field soil. Septic tank odors occur when the toilet, bathroom, sinks (any room), and septic tank area outside begin to give off a foul smell. You may be able to avoid these odors, but they could cause other problems such as attracting bugs and insects into your home. Whether foul smell or foul garbage, the outdoor creatures do not know the difference.


Common problems can be prevented if you are aware of septic symptoms to get help right away before the symptoms become your worse nightmare. Septic tank problems symptoms include backups in sinks and toilets. Usually, a dark liquid of some sort may collect at the bottom of sinks, drains, and even toilets and will be accompanied by a horrible odor. Another symptom of a problem will be slow drainage of water. Drainage pipes are supposed to carry the water quickly from one place to another, which is why, upon first moving into a home or an apartment, everything runs “fast.” After a few months or even a year of living in a home, water can begin to run slow—a good indication that something is not working properly. Surface water on grass outside the home with a “swamp-like” appearance may also be another symptom of trouble on the horizon. If you look outside your home and see green algae buildup on the grass, you could have a septic problem on your hands. Other such septic problem symptoms may include a foul smell around the house yard as well as the appearance of bacteria in your drinking water.


The common septic tank troubles have been addressed. The last question you may be asking is, “How do you deal with these troubles in an inexpensive way?” The best way to deal with septic tank troubles is to simply avoid them altogether by prevention and maintenance. You can prevent septic tank problems by not throwing cigarette butts, baby diapers, tampons, and other materials down your toilet. Do not pour gasoline, oil, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals down your sink drain. Place garbage in the garbage dispenser and not down the kitchen sink, for example. In addition, prevent yourself from overusing water or underusing it. Too much water used at the same time can also damage your septic tank. When taking showers during the day, hold off on doing the laundry until later in the evening. Prevention is the most inexpensive way to deal with septic tank troubles. Even if you are currently experiencing septic trouble symptoms, do not despair—start following the prescribed prevention methods and the symptoms may disappear!


Maintenance is the other inexpensive way to deal with septic tank troubles. You can maintain your septic tank’s health by having it pumped by a certified pumper every 1-5 years. The length of time between tank pumpings is determined by the number of people that live in your household as well as the frequency in which you use water supplies (how many times a week you do laundry, cook, shower, etc.). A good way to maintain your septic tank is to check it yourself if you know how to do it. Make sure that there is no overflow or massive water puddles on the soil of the drain field or grass. Observing your septic tank every so often may make a huge difference when it comes to the financial cost of pumping your septic tank.


Septic tank problems can easily occur when you neglect frequent diagnosis of your septic tank system, showers, toilets, and sink drains. You can prevent septic tank troubles by discarding items in their proper places, checking on your septic tank every so often, and having your tank pumped every 1-5 years. When you do all you can, you will breathe easy knowing that you have a healthy system and a healthy home.

Septic tank maintenance

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