Septic systems are no stranger to rural parts of this country. Sewer lines in these areas are very scarce or do not exist. However, you cannot tell a difference living on septic versus sewer – that is, until something goes wrong. Have no fear. Septic systems can last for decades without issues if they are taken care of properly. If you suspect your septic tank is having issues or is backing up, follow these steps to resolve the issue:
Understanding Septic Systems
Knowing how your system works can help you identify where the issue is occurring.
- Wastewater from toilets, dishwashers, laundry machines, and other appliances all run to an outlet pipe, usually in your basement. The outlet pipe carries the waste into the septic tank.
- The septic tank naturally separates the materials entering the tank into 3 layers – scum, liquid effluent, and sludge.
- The scum and sludge stay in the tank, while the liquid leaves the tank and makes its way to the leaching system.
Knowing Your System’s Components
Septic systems use gravity or electricity to keep the liquid moving throughout the system. It is important to know which type of system you own to pinpoint the cause of an issue. If the system uses electricity, the system has a pump chamber. A pump chamber is needed when the elevation of the leaching system is higher than the septic tank. If you do not have a pump chamber, liquid flows with the natural force of gravity throughout the system. The elevation of each component in the tank is lower than the previous (ie: the tank’s outlet pipe is lower than the inlet, the leaching fields are lower than the tank’s outlet, etc.).
What Causes Backups?
There are several causes of septic tank backups, and most are preventable. Here is a list of common causes of backups into the home:
Flooding the Tank
Overuse can cause septic backups, whether the tank is the proper size or not. Each state has a minimum requirement for the size of a septic system depending on the size of the home. With an undersized tank, normal use could cause problems for the system. However, if a properly sized system is severely overworked, it can lead to a backup.
Blockage in Pipes
It is important to only put biodegradable matter into your septic system. Items like ‘flushable’ wipes, diapers, and feminine products will never break down. These items can build up over time and get stuck in the home’s outlet pipe or the septic tank’s outlet pipe. Waste from the home will no longer be able to move on to the leaching system. The tank will overfill and have nowhere else to go besides back into the home.
Pipes can be damaged from root intrusion or from being crushed. Like blocked pipes, the waste will no longer be able to make it to the leaching system or to the tank. Easily avoid this by making sure plants and trees are placed far away from the system. Also, avoid building or driving heavy equipment over the tank.
Pump Chamber Failure
If a pump chamber is malfunctioning, the liquid cannot make its way to the leach fields. The liquid can flow back into the septic tank from the pump chamber. If the tank gets too full, it will back up into the home. Typically, an alarm will sound to let you know there is a malfunction.
What To Do
As a homeowner, it is a good starting point to know what may have caused a septic backup. However, septic emergencies should always be handled by professionals. If you suspect your system may be close to backing up into the home (a common sign is smelling septage), give Skips a call. Our technicians will feed a fiber-optic camera throughout parts of the system to ensure it is in working order. If the problem is pinpointed inside the home, a plumbing service should be contacted.
If the septage backup into the home has already occurred, call a professional immediately. Skips does not deal with matters inside the home besides pumping out waste, but there are other companies that assist with the aftermath of a septic backup into the home. If the back-ups persist, it may be time to replace some of the system’s components or replace the whole system. Contact Skips Wastewater and our office will connect you with one of our project managers. Soil Testing will take place to determine what type of system or other components will best suit your property’s needs.