What is a septic tank made of?
- A septic tank is basically an underwater sedimentation tank used for wastewater treatment through the process of biological decomposition and drainage. Fiberglass tanks have a simple design. It comprises of an underground watertight container (usually rectangle or round in shape) made up of fiberglass.
What is a conventional septic system?
Conventional System A decentralized wastewater treatment system consisting of a septic tank and a trench or bed subsurface wastewater infiltration system (drainfield). A conventional septic system is typically installed at a single-family home or small business. The name refers to the construction of the drainfield.
What is the difference between conventional and engineered septic?
An engineered septic system is often used in cases where a conventional septic system cannot be installed. The local health department may require an engineered septic system when the soil or ground water conditions are not ideal. They can also be required when the field is located uphill from the home.
What a conventional septic system is composed of?
The conventional septic system is composed of two basic components, a septic tank (for solids and scum) and a tile bed for effluent to drain into. The septic tank is a buried, watertight container made from concrete, polyethylene or fiberglass.
What is steel septic tank?
Steel Septic Tank—Steel septic tanks are the least durable and least popular tank option. Designed to last no more than 20-25 years, they can be susceptible to rust even before that. Steel top covers can rust through and cause an unsuspecting person to fall into the tank.
How does a conventional septic tank system work?
Septic tanks work by allowing waste to separate into three layers: solids, effluent and scum (see illustration above). The solids settle to the bottom, where microorganisms decompose them. The middle layer of effluent exits the tank and travels through underground perforated pipes into the drainage field.
What is the difference between conventional and aerobic septic systems?
Liquid and solid waste enters the trash tank and settles into layers, just like conventional septic systems. The difference occurs when wastewater travels to the treatment plant, where an aerator circulates oxygen bubbles throughout the effluent, similar to a fish tank pump.
How long does an engineered septic system last?
The lifespan of a septic system varies widely — from 15 to 40 years. This is because there are many factors that affect a septic tank’s life expectancy, including its materials and whether it has experienced damage from vehicle traffic, flooding by groundwater or clogging by roots.
What is the alternative to a septic tank?
Mound systems work well as alternatives to septic tanks when the soil around your home or building is too dense or too shallow or when the water table is too high. Although they are more expensive and require more maintenance than conventional systems, mound systems are a common alternative.
Does shower water go into septic tank?
From your house to the tank: Most, but not all, septic systems operate via gravity to the septic tank. Each time a toilet is flushed, water is turned on or you take a shower, the water and waste flows via gravity through the plumbing system in your house and ends up in the septic tank.
Do all septic tanks have filters?
First, not all septic tanks have a filter, especially the older septic tanks. Now many government agencies require or recommend a filter when a septic tank is installed. Cleaning a septic tank filter is different than pumping out a septic tank and cleaning it.
How do you tell if your septic tank is full?
How to tell your septic tank is full and needs emptying
- Pooling water.
- Slow drains.
- An overly healthy lawn.
- Sewer backup.
- Gurgling Pipes.
- Trouble Flushing.
How often should a septic tank be pumped?
Inspect and Pump Frequently The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.
How thick are steel septic tanks?
F. The top of the tank shall be constructed of reinforced concrete, at least four inches thick. G. When the tank is constructed of concrete, the walls and bottom shall be at least six inches thick and shall be adequately reinforced with steel or other approved material.
Are steel septic tanks good?
Steel septic tanks are the least durable and least common septic tank option. They are designed to last no longer than 20-25 years and can start rusting sooner than that. Plastic septic tanks are also quite popular due to their durability and longevity.
How long will a steel septic tank last?
The life expectancy of a steel tank is shorter than a concrete one. Inspectapedia estimates that a steel tank baffles will rust out in 15 to 20 years and may collapse if driven over, but a concrete tank will last 40 years or more as long as the wastewater is not acidic.
Septic System Life Expectancy Guide for Septic Systems, Septic Tanks, Septic Drainfields and other septic components
- ASK a question or make a comment regarding the normal life expectancy of septic system components in the comments section.
InspectAPedia does not allow any form of conflict of interest. The sponsors, goods, and services described on this website are not affiliated with us in any way. The life expectancy of a septic system is: This page explains the normal life expectancy of septic systems as well as the various components that make up a septic system. The life expectancy of a septic tank is mostly determined by the materials used in its construction, but the life expectancy of septic system pipe is largely determined by the likelihood of damage by vehicle traffic, root blockage, or flooding by groundwater.
For this topic, we also have anARTICLE INDEX available, or you may check the top or bottom of the page.
Septic System Component Life Expectancy
When a homeowner understands the right techniques for septic tank care, such as the frequency of septic tank cleaning and other septic tank maintenance duties, he or she will be better able to extend the life of their onsite septic system and ensure that it is operating effectively.
How Quickly Does A Septic System Fail? How long will a septic tank, D-box, or absorption bed last?
Keep in mind that the most essential thing a homeowner can do to extend the life of a private (onsite) septic system is to pump the septic tank on a regular basis based on the number of building occupants, the size of the tank, and the amount of wastewater produced. See TANK PUMPING SCHEDULE for further information.
- Septic Tank Pumping Frequency: Assuming you have a working and reasonably-designed septic system to begin with, the most major action you can take to extend the life of your septic system is to have the septic tank cleaned or “pumped” on a regular basis. See TANK PUMPING SCHEDULE for further information. the name of a table that calculates how frequently a certain septic tank need this treatment
- It is important to understand how the septic system is used, including the amount of wastewater produced and the kind of things that are flushed down the septic system drains. Reducing the amount of water used lessens the stress on the absorption field. By avoiding the use of chemicals or materials that do not biodegrade, the pace of solid build-up in the septic tank can be reduced. Please see the section “DON’T FLUSH INTO THE TOILETthese items into a septic system” for a list of what is and is not acceptable to flush down toilets or down building drains
- Soil conditions such as soil percolation rate, ground water or surface water levels, and the volume and level of ground water or surface water that have an impact on the soil absorption area or drain field The materials used in septic tanks corrode over time, first losing their baffles (which causes drain field obstruction) and then rusting at the bottom or sides of the tank. The pace at which rust develops is determined by the soil conditions, soil acidity, and other variables. When properly installed and maintained, an unlined concrete septic tank may last for over 40 years, excluding instances of improperly mixed concrete or acidic soils, both of which might shorten the tank’s life expectancy. Unless they are mechanically damaged, plastic or fiberglass septic tanks may be expected to survive for a similar amount of time. In many cases, the lifespan of Special Components (such as effluent pumps or septic grinder pumps) along with the lifespan of septic filters, media, and sand bed filter systems dictates the requirement for maintenance of alternate-design septic systems that make use of these components. Trees or plants in the vicinity whose roots have infiltrated system components
- Septic soakaway beds located in wet soils, near high water tables, near creeks and streams that are susceptible to flooding all have a short life expectancy and may be improperly or illegally installed
- Surface and roof runoff directed into drainfields
- And roof or surface runoff directed into drainfields The following is the water use in the building: The amount of water used in a building has an impact on the drainfield, as do exceptional or abnormal amounts of water consumption, such as toilets that are always running. See When a toilet runs continuously or a water softener is stuck in the “backwash” cycle, it can overwhelm a septic drainfield, causing it to break and contaminating the surrounding area. Similarly, a water softener that is trapped in the regeneration cycle and continues to run can cause flooding in septic fields, and a water conditioner that is incorrectly calibrated can introduce an excessive amount of salt into the water can cause damage to the drainfield. For more information on how water softeners function, see HOW SOFTTENERS WORK. Advice on how to set the water softener timing and salt dose may be found atWATER SOFTENER ADJUSTMENTCONTROLS.
How Quickly Will the Septic System Fail if We Have One or More of the Problems Listed Above?
It is not necessary to pump septic systems (tank and absorption system, or onsite wastewater disposal systems) to ensure that they do not fail instantly. However, an unmaintained septic tank no longer provides enough protection against particles in the soil absorption field. If the drain field is neglected for an extended period of time, it might limit its life and cause system failure, which may need total replacement of the soil absorption field. There are various situations when site constraints prevent the replacement of the absorption field from being possible – or at least impossible using a typical drainfield design method There are a variety of alternative designs available to address these issues.
How long do you anticipate it to endure before costly repairs to the septic tank or to the septic drain field are required?
How Long do Individual Septic System Components like Tanks, Piping, D-Boxes, Filters or Pumps Last?
A steel septic tank will rust out on a timeline that is determined by the acidity of the soil, the grade of the tank steel, and the integrity of the coating. An older steel septic tank, such as one that is 15 or 20 years old, is likely to have corroded to the point of losing its baffles and maybe having a rusted out bottom, which are issues that can be identified during septic tank cleaning and inspection. A steel septic tank cover will survive until it is either driven over by an idiot or rusted away.
- A traditional septic drain field has a variable life span that is determined by the soil percolation rate, the drainfield size, and the degree of usage.
- I’ve witnessed a traditional septic drainfield collapse within 24 hours of being used for the first time on a new system due to improper pipe installation.
- If you ask your neighbors who have comparable soils and systems, they may be able to provide valuable insight.
- A septic tank is simply one component of a complete on-site wastewater treatment system.
Preserving the septic tank, on the other hand, will help to extend the life of the absorption system, leach field, or drainfield, which is the more expensive second part of the onsite wastewater treatment system.
What to Do ifyou have just moved into a home with a septic system
If you’ve recently purchased a property that has a septic tank, you may not be aware of the size of the tank, its maintenance history, or even the location of the septic tank in question. As a result, you should have your tank emptied out and checked for damage. The business that is pumping the tank will be able to tell you the size, age, and condition of the tank.
Reader CommentsQ A
Pete Providing your excavator digs enough space around the concrete septic tank and the tank is not damaged, it should be feasible to lift and transport the tank without difficulty. I need to relocate a 1000-gallon septic tank because of construction. My main concern is the tank’s structural stability given its age. It’s 40 years old and appears to be in fine shape; the baffles have exhibited just little degradation. Without pumping, I can’t see the edges or the bottom of the tank. If the baffles appear to be in excellent condition, I suppose that would imply a tank that is sufficiently sound to transport.
Additionally, the baffles and concrete of the distribution box appear to be of high quality (I do realize this is a separate entity).
Please keep all comments to a minimum.
“Code” compliance is, of course, a contentious issue; no one purchasing a 40-year-old home can reasonably expect that all of the home’s features will comply with current building codes, nor can the owners be required to update every item to current codes, which cover a wide range of topics from structure to mechanicals to lot line setbacks and clearances to radon mitigation.
- Septic tanks of greater capacity can lengthen the life of any drainfield in general; nevertheless, my 50+ years of expertise in this field leads me to advise that it would be folly to place any expectations on a 40-year-old septic drainfield’s ability to perform.
- It’s all too usual for new homeowners to move into a house, possibly with a younger or larger family, and immediately discover that the drainfield has collapsed due to a lack of maintenance.
- We conducted an examination on a house that was built 40 years ago and still had its original septic system.
- Working with our realtor, I’m attempting to determine if the property owners would be willing to replace it with a new 1500-gallon tank.
- Greg Once the new drainfield has been installed, if there is enough space on the site for it, the contractor leaves everything in the old field in its original condition while excavating new drainfield trenches either in another location or in parallel with the existing trenches.
- If there isn’t enough space, the entire field design is dubious and should be reviewed by a septic engineer who will take into consideration soil perc rates, available space, and other factors.
Beyond that general recommendation, I’m not sure what aspect of your site necessitates the digging up and relocation of existing lines, but I believe it has something to do with a lack of area for the fields.
Just the size of an extra hole that will have to be excavated on my land in order to fit all of the stone, sand, and whatever other materials come with it is something I’m concerned about.
Once again, thank you.
You might be wondering how much excavation and disruption will be required in the first place.
Thank you so much for your prompt answer.
That being said, he said that all of the debris from the failed field would be buried in another location in my yard, which I’m not certain about.
Alternatively, should I request that the material be taken away?
Once again, thank you.
After a few years, you switch between them, giving the one that is “off” time to thin and reduce the likelihood of clogging and failure.
It’s a well-known design, however if I were the builder, I wouldn’t make any guarantees about how long it will last.
See STEPS FOR IMPROVED SEPTIC LIFEHello Sirs and Madams, My standard drain field, which has been in place for 23 years, is nearing the end of its useful life.
His advice is to build a new chamber field and install a valve to allow for switching from one field to another.
He stated that my traditional system will self-restore after approximately 7 years and will continue to function normally.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Rita According on what you’ve described, a realistic planning estimate indicates that you’ll need to:1.
replace your existing septic tank.
create a drainage system (or at the very least scope every drainfield line and dig up a couple of sample cross-sections to see how the field was constructed, amount of gravel, biomat condition) If the tree and its roots are removed, the drainfield must be relocated to an appropriate location.
What about a system that was built in 1978 but has seen minimal use since then?
Twenty years ago, a tree root had broken the cement tank in half, so they chopped the tree root and placed root killer in it.
We wish to bring the property back to life, however we are unsure about the system after so many years of inactivity.
We had a discussion about this system at You’ll see that I’ve presented a number of questions that I hope will assist you get a better understanding of the current state of the system.
We have a steel clargester that has been in service for 30 years and manages the garbage for nine residences.
Ron, how many more years do you think it will be before it has to be replaced?
I wish there was a solution like this that worked and didn’t pollute the environment like some of the harsh chemicals that people have tried in the past.
Is there a method to divide the field into smaller sections?
Alternatively, view the FAQs on SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY- questions and answers that were originally presented at the conclusion of this page. Alternatively, consider the following:
Articles on the life expectancy of a septic system
- DISHWASHER vs. SEPTICS
- NO ROCK SEPTIC SYSTEM LIFE
- SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
- DISHWASHER vs. SEPTICS
- FORMATIONS OF BIOMATTERIALS PLANTSTREES ON TOP OF SEPTIC SYSTEMS
- EPTIC DRAINFIELD LIFE
- SEPTIC FIELD FAILURE CAUSES
- EPTIC SYSTEM AGE
- EPTIC LIFE
Suggested citation for this web page
AT INSPECTION, THE EXPECTANCY OF SEPTIC LIFE An online encyclopedia of building environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, and issue preventive information is available at Apedia.com. Alternatively, have a look at this.
INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES:ARTICLE INDEX to SEPTIC SYSTEMS
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Steel Coating Technology for Wastewater Tankage
Hugh B. Mickel, P.E., posted a message on Environmentally friendly onsite wastewater treatment systems, such as the ENVIRO-AIRE Package Treatment Plants, are often built within a steel tank. The manner in which the steel is prepared and coated has an impact on the overall performance and durability of the system.
History of Steel Coating Technology :
For more than a century, the United States Bureau of Reclamation and other government agencies have investigated the performance of steel coatings, making significant contributions to the evolution of usage guidelines, usage limitations, new coating product development, and application standards for steel coatings. It became clearer as the body of research expanded that the coating type, surface preparation, and application circumstances were all critical factors in determining how well wastewater treatment systems will work over the long run.
Coal tar epoxies made their way into the picture, as did mechanical surface treatments, which eventually became the standard practice.
Decentralized wastewater systems now offer a wealth of possibilities, thanks to advancements in epoxy coatings and other technologies that have been refined through time.
In addition to dust removal procedures, time, air conditions in the blasting and painting bays, and the blasting material used are all important considerations during the production process.
When it comes to cleaning surfaces of oxidation, scale, and other surface density obstructions that might inhibit a good adhesion of the first coating layer, steel grit media has been proven to be the most successful.
Our Approach to Steel Coating :
However, although sandblasting is still a widely used and generic word for the acceleration of abrasive media with the use of compressed air and an air nozzle, sand is not the most effective medium. In reality, the phrase ‘grit blasting’ should be used in wastewater tank specifications rather than the term ‘grit blasting.’ With the exception of the steel grit employed by the company, other types of typical abrasives include rounded steel shot (which peens the surface), aluminum oxide (which is more fracture resistant than steel grit), and a variety of other less aggressive media (glass bead, crushed glass, melamine plastic, ceramic grit, and copper slag).
When it comes to A36 mild steel, steel grit performs well because it provides the appropriate level of hardness while also permitting a high degree of angularity in the particle morphologies, resulting in high surface sheering/cutting and minimal peening or denting.
In order to achieve an optimal adhesion of high-performance coatings, such as those used on Delta’s wastewater tankage, the surface profile is aimed to be 3 mils thick and the surface texture is etched to allow for maximum adhesion.
How long will they last ?
For the following reasons, we believe that wastewater tankage utilized in current decentralized wastewater treatment facilities will survive for more than 40 years: Steel coated wastewater systems constructed utilizing less advanced coating application techniques have proven service lifetimes in excess of 30 years, despite the fact that the coating application procedure did not provide adhesion levels anything like those obtained today.
- The ability to withstand the test of time. The steel package plant to the right was constructed of A36 steel and coated with coal tar epoxy.
- Sandblasting and air cleaning were used in the surface preparation process.
- The photographs on the right were shot in 2018, 32 years after the event.
- Onsite Wastewater Treatment,Steel Tank Coating are some of the terms used to describe this service.
Are you an Anchorage homeowner with a septic tank? You’re going to want to know about this.
For those who own or are considering purchasing an existing house with a septic system, it may be beneficial to bookmark this article. Beginning on May 1, new septic system laws for the Municipality of Anchorage, or MOA, will be in force, and they will almost certainly touch you. The majority of householders are completely unaware of what happens to the wastewater created by their daily personal and household activities. Homes with septic systems operate as their own utility business, which means they are responsible for their own utilities.
- The contents of the container settle and begin to degrade here.
- Because of Alaska’s cooler temperatures, decomposition in septic tanks is slower than in other parts of the country.
- The removal of sludge from your septic tank should be done on a regular basis.
- Some of the new restrictions have an impact on the actual septic tank, which is the focal point of any septic system and is subject to several laws.
- A large number of Anchorage homes with steel septic tanks were constructed more than 20 years ago, which is unfortunate.
- If the levels are below average, this indicates that the tank is leaking and that it is necessary to replace it.
- Unfortunately, engineers have informed us that steel tanks over 100 years old have a 90 percent failure risk.
When a septic tank fails, the contents of the tank (which includes the truly unpleasant stinky stuff) flow back into the earth without being properly filtered.
All new steel tanks will be required to have polyurethane coatings applied to both the inner and outer surfaces.
At the same time as manufacturers are preparing to construct new coated-steel tanks, plastic tanks, fiberglass tanks, and concrete tanks, they are simultaneously attempting to determine how they will compete in the new marketplace.
Steel tanks, on the other hand, may corrode.
Plastic tanks are also less feasible in wetter climates since they cannot be emptied out if they become submerged in groundwater.
While it is projected that the costs of concrete tanks would be comparable to those of steel tanks, the installation will be more expensive due to the equipment required to transport and position the larger, heavier concrete tanks.
They do not rust, have less bedding needs, may be put in groundwater, and can tolerate longer periods of submersion in a body of water.
A 24-inch manhole access (on the first compartment) is necessary to enable for greater visual examination as well as simpler access for cleaning and maintenance work.
The new coating and wider access manhole, however, will virtually triple the cost of a steel tank.
A 1,000-gallon steel tank costs around $1,720, while a 1,250-gallon steel tank costs approximately $1,980.
When you factor in engineering fees and installation charges, the cost of tank replacement jumps from $7,500 to $9,500 – and that doesn’t include landscape restoration.
As the owner of your own utility, you might want to consider making a monthly payment to your rainy-day fund to cover the cost of septic system upkeep.
This will also help to balance the significant expenditure you’ll face when you finally need to replace your septic tank or upgrade your drainfield, as described above.
Caring for Septic Systems
However, while it may appear that maintaining a septic system is more difficult than maintaining a sewer system, it is just a little amount of effort to avoid big repair or replacement expenditures in the future. Photograph courtesy of Josh Reynolds Is it possible for you to explain what happens when you flush the toilet? In a metropolis, people seldom give the question much attention because their wastes are normally channeled via a central sewage system and then to a wastewater treatment facility.
- Because a breakdown in their system might have serious consequences for their property and possibly contaminate their drinking water, they must pay close attention to what is happening.
- As a result, it is completely up to you to ensure that your system is properly cared for and maintained.
- Cesspools are enormous vaults made of brick, stone, or concrete in which solids can collect and settle.
- A privy is a simple structure built over a hole in the ground that may be relocated once it has been filled.
- Anaerobic bacteria break down organic waste in septic tanks, which function as reservoirs for the bacteria.
- Plastic is being used in the manufacture of newer tanks (as illustrated above).
- Wastes are transported from the toilet, sink, shower, or washer to the septic tank through the indoor plumbing system.
- The tank is located underground.
- Solid wastes disintegrate over time as a result of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can survive in the absence of oxygen).
- If any liquid leaks out of a tank, it is distributed to the ground via disposal beds, which are perforated or open-jointed pipes buried in shallow, gravel-filled ditches.
Although the liquid has reached this condition, it still includes a huge amount of hazardous bacteria and organic materials. In order for the liquid to reach underground water supplies, it must first pass through the soil and be absorbed.
Why Do Septic Systems Fail?
It is inevitable that solids will accumulate in the septic tank due to the fact that the pace of decomposition is far slower than the rate at which the system is adding new sewage. Some substances, on the other hand, will never disintegrate at all. Furthermore, the fats and oils that build in the scum layer accumulate at a higher pace than the rate of breakdown, resulting in a scum layer. The scum layer is held in place by baffles in the tank. Scum can get into the disposal pipes through broken baffles, blocking them and making the disposal system malfunction.
- All of these items will not degrade, and they may have the effect of killing the “good bacteria” or just clogging the tank’s drainage system.
- The main issues with older systems are the degradation of components (especially tank baffles) and the clogging of laterals (pipes in the leach field).
- These, which are made of ceramic pipes or concrete blocks, are susceptible to cracking or deterioration over time.
- In the past, pipes were often composed of ceramics or tar paper composites, which had a lifespan of 20 to 30 years if used properly.
Maintaining Your Septic System
The disposal field (also known as the leaching bed) is set out in the shape of a pitchfork on level ground. The leaching bed may zig-zag downwards in areas where the home is situated on a rise. Many homeowners, particularly those who live in older homes, are unsure about the exact location of their tank and field in relation to their home. It is critical that you identify the location of the tank since it will ultimately require service. First, locate the pumpout and observation openings on the equipment.
- To gently probe the soil for the tank and distribution box, you can also use a slender steel rod with a 1/8-inch diameter to gently probe the earth.
- Once you’ve located the tank, look for the dumping field, which is normally accessible by a distribution box fanning from it.
- Please be aware that identifying the laterals can be difficult—in fact, in some situations even septic professionals have problems locating all of the components of the system.
- The most important thing to remember is to empty your tank on a regular basis.
- Depending on the size of the tank and the number of people that it serves, the frequency will vary.
- A septic tank requires cleaning on average every three to five years if it is used and cared for correctly (more if you use a sink-mounted garbage disposal unit).
- Expect to spend around $200 for each pumpout, depending on the size of the tank and your geographic location.
In addition, while the tank is open, the technician can inject some water into the distribution box to obtain an idea of how effectively the leach field is performing.
Additionally, even just glancing into the tank, you should use caution.
Depending on the tree, roots can grow up to 30′ to 40′ from the base of the tree and burst or dislodge the distribution box, connecting pipes, and laterals.
Don’t even think of driving cars or heavy equipment over the dumping area.
Because of this, solids will ascend to the top of the tank and block the laterals, overloading the tank.
Installing water-saving toilets and showerheads is one technique to limit the quantity of water that enters the system.
Don’t attach sump pumps to your septic system until you’ve fixed any leaky toilets and faucets.
After being clogged with sediments or having their integrity compromised by tree roots or automobiles, laterals begin to collapse.
Cooking oils, fats, and grease should not be poured down the kitchen sink drain.
Please do not flush non-biodegradable things such as disposable diapers, clumps of cat litter, filtered cigarettes, feminine hygiene products or plastic tampon applicators, paper towels, condoms, or other similar materials.
These chemicals have the potential to harm beneficial microorganisms in the tank and the soil, as well as pollute groundwater supplies.
None of these goods has been shown to be of considerable benefit in terms of enhancing performance or preventing failures.
Many over-the-counter septic system cleaning products include chemicals that are potentially harmful and are not biodegradable, as is the case with many household products.
Experts advise against using cleansers that contain sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or hydrogen peroxide.
Use of any product containing toxic chemicals in excess of one percent by weight is prohibited, including trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, methylene chloride, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, toluene, napthalene, trichlorophenol, pentachlorophenol, acrolein, acrylonitrile, and benzidine.
How To Tell If Your System Is Failing
While there are no 100-percent accurate ways for spotting a malfunctioning septic system, you should be on the lookout for the following signs of a potential problem: In the event of a toilet backup into the house: To begin, rule out the possibility of a clogged soil line or other interior plumbing issues. Drainage system failure due to sewage or effluent leaking into the structure or basement: The water resulting from this condition will have a distinct odor. In the vicinity of the disposal field, there is a puddle of effluent on the soil surface.
It is not recommended that the grass above the septic field be too green in a healthy system.
It is important to remember that wastewater on the ground is a major health danger and should be addressed as soon as is practical.
What To Do If The System Fails
If you have any reason to believe that your system is failing, contact your local health department. Also seek the assistance of a skilled septic system contractor. Then collaborate with both of these parties to develop a strategy for moving forward. With older houses it’s not unusual to discover a septic system that is either underdesigned for the current level of use required by the tenants, poorly placed, or in a position that will no longer support the sort of system already installed. In the majority of these instances, you will need to replace the system with a new one that meets current codes.
A properly installed, operated, and maintained septic system can provide you with up to 30 years of service while also protecting the environment from contamination of water quality.
Barry Chalofskyis a professional planner with the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, and the author ofThe Home and Land Buyer’s Guide to the Environment.
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
Mr. Fix-It-Up-For-The-Family You may save a lot of money if you understand how a sewage treatment system works—and what can go wrong—so that you can handle your own septic system maintenance.
How does a septic tank work?
Pumping the tank on a regular basis eliminates sludge and scum, which helps to keep a septic system in good working order. It is possible for a well-designed and well built septic system to last for decades, or it might collapse in a matter of years. It is entirely up to you as long as you can answer the question of how do septic tanks function. Healthy septic systems are very inexpensive to maintain, but digging up and replacing a septic system that has completely collapsed may easily cost tens of thousands in labor and material costs.
It’s critical to understand how a septic tank works in order to maintain one.
Let’s take a look below ground and observe what happens in a properly operating septic system, shall we? After that, I’ll explain why things go wrong and offer you some tips on how to keep your system in peak operating condition.
Understand that a septic system is a cafeteria for bacteria
Bacteria are responsible for the proper operation of a septic system. They decompose garbage, resulting in water that is clean enough to safely trickle down into the earth’s surface. The entire system is set up to keep bacteria healthy and busy at all times. Some of them reside in the tank, but the majority of them are found in the drain field. 1. The septic tank is the final destination for all waste. 2. The majority of the tank is filled with watery waste, referred to as “effluent.” Anaerobic bacteria begin to break down the organic matter in the effluent as soon as it enters the system.
- A layer of sludge settles to the bottom of the container.
- Scum is mostly constituted of fats, greases, and oils, among other substances.
- Grease and oils float to the surface of the water.
- (5) A filter stops the majority of particles from reaching the exit pipe.
- The effluent is discharged into the drain field.
- Effluent is allowed to leak into the surrounding gravel because of holes in the drain septic field pipe.
- The garbage is completely decomposed by aerobic bacteria found in gravel and dirt.
- Potable water seeps into the groundwater and aquifer system from the surface.
Septic Tank Clean Out: Don’t abuse the system
Septic systems that have been correctly planned and constructed require just occasional ‘pumping’ to remove the sludge and scum that has built up inside the tank. However, if you don’t understand how a septic tank works, you may unintentionally hurt or even destroy the system.
- Drains are used to dispose of waste that decomposes slowly (or not at all). Cigarette butts, diapers, and coffee grounds are all known to cause issues. Garbage disposers, if utilized excessively, can introduce an excessive amount of solid waste into the system. Lint from synthetic fibers is emitted from washing machine lint traps. This substance is not degraded by bacteria in the tank and drain septic field. Bacteria are killed by chemicals found in the home, such as disinfecting cleansers and antibacterial soaps. The majority of systems are capable of withstanding limited usage of these goods, but the less you use them, the better. When a large amount of wastewater is produced in a short period of time, the tank is flushed away too quickly. When there is too much sludge, bacteria’s capacity to break down waste is reduced. Sludge can also overflow into the drain field if there is too much of it. Sludge or scum obstructs the flow of water via a pipe. It is possible for tree and shrub roots to obstruct and cause harm to a drain field. Compacted soil and gravel prevent wastewater from seeping into the ground and deprive germs of oxygen. Most of the time, this is caused by vehicles driving or parking on the drain field.
Get your tank pumped…
Your tank must be emptied on a regular basis by a professional. Pumping eliminates the accumulation of sludge and scum that has accumulated in the tank, which has caused the bacterial action to be slowed. If you have a large tank, it may be necessary to pump it once a year; but, depending on the size of your tank and the quantity of waste you send through the system, you may go two or three years between pumpings. Inquire with your inspector about an approximate guideline for how frequently your tank should be pumped.
…but don’t hire a pumper until you need it
Inspections and pumping should be performed on a regular basis. However, if you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, you may verify the sludge level yourself with a gadget known as The Sludge Judge. It ranges in price from $100 to $125 and is commonly accessible on the internet. Once you’ve verified that your tank is one-third full with sludge, you should contact a professional to come out and pump it out completely.
Install an effluent filter in your septic system
Garbage from your home accumulates into three distinct strata.
The septic filter is responsible for preventing blockage of the drain field pipes.
Septic tank filter close-up
The septic tank filter is responsible for capturing suspended particles that may otherwise block the drain field pipes. Obtain an effluent filter for your tank from your contractor and place it on the outflow pipe of your tank. (It will most likely cost between $50 and $100, plus labor.) This device, which helps to prevent sediments from entering the drain field, will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis by a contractor to maintain its effectiveness.
Solution for a clogged septic system
If your septic system becomes clogged and you find yourself having to clean the filter on a regular basis, you might be tempted to simply remove the filter altogether. Hold on to it. Solids, wastewater, and scum are separated into three levels in septic tanks, which allows them to function properly (see illustration above). Solids sink to the bottom of the container, where microbes breakdown them. The scum, which is made up of trash that is lighter than water, rises to the surface. In the drainage field, the middle layer of effluent leaves the tank and goes through an underground network of perforated pipes to the drainage field.
- Keep the effluent filter in place since it is required by your state’s health law.
- Waste particles might flow through the filter and clog the perforated pipes if the filter is not used.
- Your filter, on the other hand, should not require cleaning every six months.
- A good chance is high that you’re flushing filter-clogging things down the toilet, such as grease, fat, or food scraps.
- A garbage disposal will not be able to break down food particles sufficiently to allow them to flow through the septic tank filtration system.
- Plastic items, disposable diapers, paper towels, nonbiodegradable goods, and tobacco products will clog the system if they are flushed through it.
- More information on removing lint from your laundry may be found here.
Get an inspection
Following a comprehensive first check performed by an expert, regular inspections will cost less than $100 each inspection for the next year. Your professional will be able to inform you how often you should get your system inspected as well as how a septic tank functions. As straightforward as a septic system appears, determining its overall condition necessitates the services of a professional. There are a plethora of contractors who would gladly pump the sludge out of your tank, but many, in my experience, are unable to explain how a septic system works or how it should be maintained.
A certification scheme for septic contractors has been established in certain states; check with your state’s Secretary of State’s office to see whether yours is one of them.
Also, a qualified inspector will be able to tell you whether or not your tank is large enough to accommodate your household’s needs, as well as the maximum amount of water that can be passed through it in a single day.
You may be able to boost the performance of your system by using a product such as RID-X to introduce bacteria into the system. As you learn more about how a septic tank works, your professional should be able to tell you whether or not your system will benefit from this treatment.
Alternatives to a new drain field
If an examination or a sewage backup indicate that your drain field is in need of replacement, the only option is to replace it completely. As a result, it’s important to talk with a contractor about other possibilities before proceeding with the project.
- Pipes should be cleaned. A rotating pressure washer, used by a contractor, may be used to clean out the drain septic field pipes. The cost of “jetting” the pipes is generally around $200. Chemicals should be used to clean the system. A commercial solution (not a home-made one) that enhances the quantity of oxygen in the drain field should be discussed with your contractor before installing your new system. Septic-Scrub is a product that I suggest. A normal treatment will cost between $500 and $1,000. Make the soil more pliable. The practice of “terra-lifting,” which involves pumping high-pressure air into several spots surrounding the drain field, is authorized in some regions. Some contractors use it to shatter compacted dirt around the pipes. Depending on the circumstances, this might cost less than $1,000 or as much as $4,000 or more.
Protect your drain septic field from lint
When this device is in place, it inhibits lint from entering the system, especially synthetic fibers that bacteria are unable to digest. One of these filters, which I’ve designed and termed theSeptic Protector, was invented by me. An additional filter is included in the price of around $150 plus delivery. Learn more about how to filter out laundry lint in this article.
Don’t overload the septic system
Reduce the amount of water you use. The volume of water that flows into your tank, particularly over a short period of time, can be reduced to avoid untreated waste from being flushed into your drain field. Replace outdated toilets with low-flow ones, install low-flow showerheads, and, perhaps most importantly, wash laundry throughout the week rather than just on Saturday mornings to save water.
Meet the Expert
Septic systems, according to Jim vonMeier, are the solution to America’s water deficit because they supply cleaned water to depleted aquifers, according to vonMeier. He travels the country lobbying for septic systems, giving lectures, and giving testimony. For septic system inquiries, as well as information on the operation of the septic tank, contact him by email.
How Long Will A Septic System Last?
Q:We recently purchased a home that had a septic system that was 20 years old. It’s a simple gravity system with a leach field at its heart. We had the system evaluated before purchasing it, and the inspectors stated that everything “appeared to be in good working order.” The vendors did not keep track of how many times they pumped the tank, although they claimed to have done it “a few times.” How long do you think we’ll be able to get out of this system before it needs maintenance or replacement?
- — John et al.
- Typical life spans in the business are 20 to 30 years for systems that have been adequately planned and built, have been well-maintained, and have not been overburdened with data.
- I just had a conversation about this with a sanitary engineer who has been designing septic systems for more than four decades.
- He has also encountered systems that have lasted 40 or more years, although they are the exception rather than the rule.
- There are just too many factors to consider.
Don’t Forget Maintenance
Typically, the leach field is the first component to fail in a septic system system (drain field). The drain field is calculated based on the number of bedrooms in the house, with two persons sharing each bedroom. As a result, a three-bedroom drain field may accommodate up to six people. All else being equal, a drain field that receives little traffic will outlive one that receives a lot of traffic. In the case of a three-bedroom system, if only two people use it, low-flow fixtures and appliances are used, and the system is pumped on a regular basis, it should last for many years.
- Chemicals, grease, and food scraps that are flushed down the toilet will reduce the life of the system.
- The septic tank is the other main component of the system.
- Steel tanks often fail after 20 to 30 years, however high-quality plastic tanks can endure for 30 to 40 years with proper care.
- The lifespan of a system is influenced by a variety of factors.
- Others, like as proper care and upkeep, are completely within the hands of the homeowner.
- Routine pumping, household water conservation, and paying attention to what they flush down the drain — no harsh chemicals, paints, grease, food scraps, or other solids — are the most critical aspects that the homeowner can manage.
- Drainage of yard and roof water away from the drain field is necessary to prevent the soil from becoming saturated.
Drive or park over the field, or use it in any way that may crush the earth, is strictly prohibited! Maintain a safe distance between trees and big bushes, as the roots of these plants might block the perforated drain pipes. Grass provides the most effective ground cover.
Drain field failure occurs gradually in the majority of cases when the soil around the leaching trenches becomes clogged with sediments and grease from the septic tank and becomes blocked by the naturally occurring “biomat.” In other circumstances, the drain field may collapse completely (due to high-volume water usage and inadequate pumping). Slow drainage, backups on the lower levels of the home, or moist regions over the leach field with a strong odor of sewage are all indicators of a clogged drain.
If the tank is in good condition and you have a designated area for a replacement drain field, as required in some jurisdictions, the cost of a new drain field will typically range from $3,000 to $10,000.
If you want a fully new system, the cost can easily approach $15,000, and if you require an alternate septic system, the cost can potentially reach double that amount.
New Perc Test?
The majority of municipalities will require that you perform a fresh perc test and an in-hole test before they will issue a permit to replace your present leach field or full septic system. If a site has already passed the perc test, it is likely that it will pass again in the future. The opposite is sometimes true because site circumstances (for example, a higher water table) may have altered, or the town’s test processes and requirements may have changed. It’s possible that you’ll need to upgrade to a more expensive form of “alternative” septic system than the one you started with.
– BuildingAdvisor.com’s Steve Bliss says Continue reading about Septic System Maintenance.
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