Septic tank maintenance

January, 2012:

Will Rain Water Keep My Drain Field Flooded?

When the rainy season comes, flooding always becomes an issue especially with septic systems that have drainage problems in the drain field lines. This can become more of a severe problem with homeowners that live in flood zones or areas where the water table is relatively high. These areas are some of the toughest zones to try to install and maintain a functional septic system. In some areas, there are times when you cannot go outside without wearing boots and the surround yard areas become a complete mess of muck and mud. 

Your septic system’s drain field depends on gravity to keep liquids flowing out to the field lines for absorption. It is comprised of trenches that are lined with perforated piping and filled with gravel. These drain field lines are the components that function so as to equally distribute the wastewater through the subsoil’s below the system. The drain field is responsible for the secondary treatment of the household’s wastewater as it enters the trenches. The wastewater is them further filtered by the bio-mat before it is finally absorbed by the surrounding soil. 

If you have a weak system, you may start to notice that your drains become slow whenever it rains heavily and your toilets may make strange noises, sometimes flushing at a slower than normal rate. It can really be frustrating when wastewater starts to backup into your home and if the backup is driven by rainwater, only Mother Nature knows how long the flood battering will continue. The backing up of the sewage happens simply because it has nowhere else to go and that the flooding in your yard has greater pressure and pushes back the wastewater into your home. 

It is common notion that when all of this commotion happens, there must be something wrong with the septic tank and while this may be true, usually the problem lies in the field lines. Some homeowners do not pump their tank according to schedule and as a result, sludge accumulates and this flows right into the drain field. If you are proactive and assure that only healthy material pass into the tank area, generally you can rule out a full septic, especially if you use bacteria additives and have the system inspected every few years for sludge levels. 

Consider the leaks or damages that can be present somewhere in your septic system. These leaks or damages can be a cause of floodwater take in or a leakage in the wastewater out into the surface of the drain field. Sediments may also enter the pipes in the drain field or distribution box that may cause blockages. As a result, the water will not be absorbed as quickly as it should and may backup to the surface of the yard, above the drain field. This is aggravated by rainfall or excessive use of water in the household. 

 If you have ruled out other causes of leakage and are certain that your drain field is flooded, the first thing that you have to do is to reduce the amount of water that your household consumes everyday. Doing so will decrease the water flow into the tank and lessen the water load in the system. Next is to plug the floor drains where the wastewater could backup to. You wouldn’t want to wade in sewage until the problem is solved. Try to flush only once a day per person or use a portable potty along with off site laundry care in emergency situations. Fewer showers won’t hurt, too. It is also a must that you do not use your dishwasher for a while and just have your clothes washed at the Laundromat while the drain field situation is being controlled. Also check for any leaks in the house plumbing. Another thing that you can vigilantly do is not to use anti-bacterial detergents or solutions. This lowers and even depletes the bacterial population in the septic tank. When this happens, the solid wastes are not properly digested, resulting to the drain field blockages or clogs that make things worse when flooding occurs. 

Don’t fret. Once the water output has been reduced, plan a treatment course based on the amount of people in the home and the size of the system. You can obtain help from a remediation professional who specializes in restoring drainage to weakened or clogged drain field lines here on this site. If there is no visible or probable damage to your septic system then everything should return to normal after committing to water reduction followed by various drain field restoration treatments. While some drain field systems are flooded as a result of breakage, most systems are simply clogged and can usually be corrected through diligence and the right tools.

Sand Mound Preventative Maintenance

For households that have a sand mound as their septic system, one should be aware that it needs to be cared for and maintained just like any other type of septic system out there. It is part of your home and it is responsible for the proper disposal of the wastes that you have every single day. The systems are usually stable and proficient but there is a fine balance that must exist between the bacteria life within the system and what fuels you feed the system daily.

If you do your part in the preventive maintenance of your sand mound, you can be sure that your will have a smooth operating system for years to come. Since sand mounds are finicky at times and are relatively expensive compared to common drain field type systems, it is vital for you to have your sand mound inspected regularly to determine if and what might be needed to enhance system performance. Regular inspections will assist in detecting problems immediately before they even have the chance to really harm the system.

The sand mound system is complex and very prone to inadvertent abuse from its owner. When something goes wrong with the mound system, it will be very expensive to repair and many people are generally not prepared for the financial hit that a septic system can create. Six months after it is installed, the sand mound should be re-monitored and double checked to assure that proper settling has occurred and that there are no leaks or misalignments. The monitoring continues again after six months and then every year thereafter. Here are the particular points that should be considered when you perform preventive maintenance on your sand mound system.
1. Sludge inspection
Sludge inspection should be done on an annual basis. Gunk and sludge accumulate gradually. As they do, ample room for the wastewater becomes smaller and smaller. This allows the wastewater to pass through the tank at a much faster rate, which gives the bacteria not enough time to digest the solid wastes before they leave the tank. The tank lowers in its efficiency to protect the sand filter from blockages and contaminants.

2. Pump the tank
Watch the level of sludge in the tank. If it reaches a foot deep, the tank should already be pumped. This can be a very dirty job to do but you have to do it to make sure that your tank is in tip-top condition. If you are squeamish about it, you could just have the professionals do it for you. You should know the exact location of your pump tank and septic tank for easier maintenance.

3. Include pump tank
When you have the septic tank pumped, include its compartments and the pump tank as well. A report should be given after the pumping processes.

4. Tank baffles
Tank baffles are the ones that separate the solid from the liquid wastes. These devices make sure that the solids are able to settle at the bottom for digestion. They just permit clarified effluent to enter the sand filter. Make sure that you always check the filter baffles because if these clog up, there will be a backing up of wastewater and the drains will go slow. They should be checked and cleaned up on an annual basis. You can do this on your own. Just make sure that no one uses the water inside the household as you clean the filter baffles. Ding this regularly will make sure that sludge and scum do not get to the sand filter layer.

5. Pump tank and controls
Between the tank and the sand filter of your sand mound is a pump that delivers the effluent. From the sand filter to the mound, another pump makes this happen for the effluent to be distributed to the surrounding soil. There are also control floats that regulate the amount of effluent that enters the sand filter. These components should also be maintained to ensure the proper conveying of effluent to the sand filter and mound.
6. Considerations
To make the job easier for your sand mound and to prevent any untoward malfunctions, consider making a compost out of the food scraps that you have instead of using the garbage disposal unit. This lessens the solid wastes that enter your tank. Divide your laundry tasks to prevent water overload into your sand mound system.

The sand mound is basically a leach field that is elevated due to whatever conditions lead to the requirement for such a system. Remember that all septic systems need to be looked at regularly and inspected at least once each year. If you do not use a regular maintenance additive then you most certainly will need frequent pump-outs to assure that the tank sludge never escapes out to the pump station that feeds your mound.
Let a septic remediation professional guide you through more of the needed information about your sand mound’s preventive maintenance. This will enable you to have a better and clearer grasp of your responsibilities as a sand mound owner.

Do Water Softeners Harm Septic Systems?

Millions of households resort to using water softeners to make their water more usable for drinking, bathing, washing dishes, laundry and pretty much everything else one might want to do with water. If your well or central supply is feeding your home with hard water., When the water is hard, the soaps and detergents do not lather up and therefore, do not clean well. While chemically altering hard water to a more suitable state is relatively easy, for homeowners that have septic systems, the usual question is… do water softeners harm septic systems?

                You may already know that your septic system receives the waste water that your household produces everyday. The septic tank catches everything including the solid waste materials. The solid wastes settle at the bottom of the tank and get degraded by the anaerobic bacteria found there. The resulting pre-treated effluent is then dispersed into the drain field to be purified and then returned to the environment by the distribution box.

                Since all of this water travels throughout the home and eventually into the septic system, there is some concern over whether or not the agents used in the softening process will have a detrimental effect o the bacteria life found throughout the septic system. The process of water softening is done by the exchange of chemical cations. This process replaces magnesium and calcium with potassium or sodium. The water that is to be used by your household first passes through a resin bed wherein the magnesium ions and calcium ions are removed. This resin bed is designed to handle a certain amount of water that needs to be rejuvenated to provide water that is already softened. When exhaustion reaches the resin bed, the control valve washes it out and absorbs the salt. When the salt gets in contact with the resin bed, ion exchange takes place. The calcium and magnesium ions are collected in the resin bed are then washed and drained. When the final rinse to remove the salt is done, the resin bed is reset to give soft water again.

                The effects of the water softening process are brought up because the excess salt and the excess water may prove harmful to the septic system and may cause premature failure. It is said that salt has a direct effect on the bacterial population in the septic tank. If the bacteria present in the tank thrive without the excessive presence of salt, then their population might dwindle when salt is dumped in great amounts as a result of water softening. While some manufacturers claim that their units discharge produces very little concentrated salts to be discharged into the septic system, the only true way to determine the actual composition of the discharge would be through testing each individual design in a real world setting. Set aside this and focus on the increased amount of water that enters the system during the process of water softening. 

The volume of water depends on the design of the water softener, diameter of the pipe, and water pressure. If the issue of water volume is raised, studies show that this does not significantly harm the septic system. The flow increase from water softening is much lower than from an automatic dishwasher. With the time lock used in water softening, water in your household is only regenerated when needed. In effect, this lowers the amount of water discharged. When it comes to the soil percolation rate, water softening improves the percolation of the soil types that are fine textured. This is brought about by the calcium ions that are found in the discharge of the water softening process. The calcium improves the soil porosity of the soil. Bare in mind, softeners that discharge concentrated levels of salt or high volume water can and will affect the bacterial life and those units that discharge high amounts of water will cause excess water pressures. Excess water pressure disrupts normal decomposition, regardless of salt content.

                With all the evidence collected, it can be concluded that the water softening process may or may not negatively affect the septic system. Super efficient designs can actually offer simple benefits. For instance, having a water softener installed can lessen the amount of soap or detergents that you use because when water is soft, it