Anyone who’s used a septic system before probably has a horror story or two. Septic system failures are embarrassing, expensive, and possibly dangerous. When the system fails, the sludge and scum in a tank can flow out into the drain field, which could possibly end up draining into the local water supply that people use on a daily basis. When the drain field (typically a part of your yard) is flooded, the water can pool on the surface, bringing with it a terribly foul odor. The system could also back up into the house, making it impossible to use anything that’s hooked up to the septic tank. The thing to keep in mind here however is that all of these problems can be avoided if the septic tank is properly cared for.
One big thing many people don’t take into account is the various things that can affect their drain field. Roots from trees and bushes can obstruct or damage a drain field to the point it no longer efficiently filters the runoff from the tank. This can lead to large puddles in your yard. Parking or moving a car over the drain field can compress the soil to the point where the field cannot absorb any liquid, and may cause a backup in the system, potentially running septic fluids back into your home or down into the local drinking water. And of course, any digging, pipework, or any other kind of activity that could disrupt your drain field or septic tank should be run past a professional before being done. A good source for professional septic tank workers is www.septicyellowpages.com.
Now that we’ve looked at what you shouldn’t do around a septic tank, let’s look at what you should do. Any doctor will tell you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of medicine. The same applies to your septic tank. Your typical septic tankshould be checked by a professional at the very least once every three years. Some newer tanks that have more electrical pieces need to be checked over at least once a year. Draining the tank is largely dependent on how much waste and water it receives. The more it processes, the quicker it will need to be emptied. You should drain the tank as often as your professional inspector suggests, as once it becomes apparent there is an issue it’s no longer a simple fix.
There are a few simple tricks you can try to extend the life of your tank however. By conserving your water usage, you’re giving your tank less waste and water to process. This gives you more time before you need to have it drained. The same goes for garbage disposals. Anything you run through the disposal is going to wind up taking up space in your septic tank. Most importantly however, be wary of and product that claims to boost your septic tank’s ability to process waste. Septic tanks work by having a balanced ecosystem of bacteria that eat away at the waste, leaving behind effluent or “gray water” that can be let out into the drain field. Introducing new chemicals to the tank can kill the bacteria and bring your tank’s waste processing to a grinding halt. More good information can be found at http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/upload/homeowner_guide_long.pdf.
Sometimes despite your best efforts and all the attention in the world, accidents happen. Your tank backs up unexpectedly, the neighbors’ tree falls into your yard and ruins your drain field, a flash flood makes your tank useless. All of these are potential issues septic tank owners could face. Repairing septic work is often costly, time consuming, and somewhat embarrassing. With luck and maintenance, you’ll hopefully never need to worry about septic failure. However, there are resources out there that specialize in helping people find a way to resolve these issues. Companies like UKDP can often times find built in clauses in insurance policies that can help facilitate repairs or outright replacement. UKDP in particular can help you check your property’s policy on the issue, and coordinate the repairs themselves. And if you just need some advice, the company offers a free online enquiry form or toll free phone call that can get you moving in the right direction. Check out their website at www.ukdpsolutions.co.uk.