How to Care for your Septic System
Living in the country has many advantages, but sewage disposal is not among them. Where city dwellers are only concerned with the drains and pipes that run from their houses to the city sewer lines, those who live in the country have to be aware of sewage-related issues every day. Septic systems, although simple, are also fine-tuned: they can be damaged or destroyed by the wrong products, overuse, flooding or drought, or even a big house party. It's important to have a basic idea of how septic systems work, so you can take care of yours and make it last as long as possible.
The Problem with Septic Systems
The primary problems with septic systems is no one has ever found a way to make them last indefinitely. From the moment the tank is built, a septic system is literally a crap shoot, and there are few things more inconvenient than having your bathroom out of order! But if it's built correctly, drained properly and used with a certain amount of gentle attention, your septic system should last for decades with only minimal maintenance.
What is a Septic System
A septic system consists of a large tank that is buried in the ground some distance away from the house, a drain field for gray water, and pipes that lead solid waste to the tank. The tank acts as a holding and storage facility for solid waste, and the drain field sends liquid waste percolating through the soil, which cleans it naturally by the microbes in the soil (which are similar to the microbes used in some bacterial drain cleaning products) and eventually returns the water in a pristine state back to the water table. When the septic tank is full of solid waste, the homeowner calls a company that brings a large truck to the house and pumps out the tank. Because the majority of household waste tends to be in the form of water (shower, laundry and dish water as well as the water used to flush toilets), the tank fills up slowly, and only needs emptying every year or two, depending on the size and usage of the household.
Taking Care of your Septic System
Most homeowners call a local plumber to have their tank pumped in the spring or fall once a year or every two years, when it has filled up with sludge. The septic system is the digestive tract of your home: water leaches out through special perforated pipes into the drain or leach field, which prevents the tank from filling up too quickly. The right balance of bacteria in the septic tank means that solids are broken down even further and turned into liquids, with the solids remaining significantly diminished in size. If you use a bacterial cleaner on a regular basis, the billions of bacteria added to the tank will keep diminishing the solids in the tank. You can keep your septic tank running along, so smoothly you may not need to have it pumped for years—even a decade or more!
The septic leach field, or drain field, also needs attention for your septic system to remain virtually maintenance free for long periods of time. The perforated pipes (leach lines) that send water into the leach field can become clogged with material over time, which prevents water from moving out of the septic tank and into the drain field. When this happens, the tank fills up very quickly because the water has nowhere to go and must sit in the tank. If you put a bacterial drain cleaner into your septic system once a week, the bacteria continue to live in the water that enters the tank, and as the water moves out through the leach lines, the bacteria take up residence along the length of the pipe and in the holes. With the bacteria digesting the solid waste that would otherwise plug the holes, your leach lines remain free and clear, allowing water to move out into the drain field where it percolates through the soil and returns to the water table as pure water.
Dealing with a Septic Emergency
If you've got a problem with your septic tank, chances are it is somewhat of an
emergency. When your septic system fails or needs to be drained, don't hesitate to
call us at 1-877-DRPIPES (1-877-377-4737).
An experienced local plumber will be able to quickly diagnose and solve your septic