Is My Septic System Failing?

Septic System DiagramA sep­tic sys­tem is a series or group of com­po­nents. The com­po­nents have changed over time, but modern-​day sep­tic sys­tems look like this.
They have a large tank, a smaller tank (called a Dis­tri­b­u­tion or D-​box) and a leach field. Pipes con­nect each part of the sys­tem. The rea­son I’m show­ing you this dia­gram is a fail­ure in just one of the com­po­nents could pro­duce some of the warn­ing signs of sys­tem fail­ure. But that doesn’t mean your whole sys­tem has failed! I’ve seen many Title V inspec­tions where the just the D-​Box failed and needed to be replaced, or the Tank had cracked and needed to be replaced. It’s not really a pass/​fail on the whole sys­tem. Some­times, the whole sys­tem does need to be scrapped, but you should always make sure you’re talk­ing to a knowl­edge­able pro­fes­sional. With that, we’ll start with 6 things that may tell you your sep­tic sys­tem is Failing.

1. Your Sys­tem Fails a Title V Inspection

If you have a state licensed pro­fes­sional out to inspect your sys­tem, and he tells you it’s fail­ing, well, that’s a bad sign for your sys­tem for sure. An obvi­ous one, but I need to get to 6 here.

2. The ground above your leach-​field is wet

If the ground above your leach-​field is soft, wet, or there are pud­dles, and itHASN’T BEEN RAIN­ING, that’s a sign of fail­ure. Your leach-​field is designed to absorb all the house­hold water you pro­duce, and dis­trib­ute it into the soil –with­out sat­u­rat­ing or flood­ing it. Once your leach-​field loses its dis­tri­b­u­tion power, the sys­tem can’t func­tion well, and you’ll have ponding.

3. The Ground above your Sep­tic Tank is has Puddles

In a sim­i­lar way, if the water is unable to drain quickly from the tank, than the back up will occur near the tank. This could indi­cate a block­age or fail­ure in one or sev­eral com­po­nents, but is a clear sign of trouble.

4. Your lawn looks great where the tank or leach-​field are

There’s another word for human waste — Fer­til­izer! Although we don’t think about it much, the waste we pro­duce has a pur­pose in the ecosys­tem, and that results as hav­ing a fer­til­iz­ing affect on our lawns. If your leach field or tank have grass that is notice­ably greener and health­ier than the rest of your lawn, your sys­tem could be over­flow­ing, and deliv­er­ing waste into the ground in ways it wasn’t designed to.

5. Your Nose Can’t be Wrong

Ah, the smell of sep­tic in the morn­ing! It’ll wake you up, that’s for sure. It’s not pleas­ant, and if you’re smelling it in your home, it’s a good bet some­thing is clogged and not drain­ing prop­erly. It could be a small prob­lem, or a big prob­lem, but it’s not a “take care of it later” prob­lem. Get an expert and find the cause. Sep­tic gases are not only smelly, they can be dangerous.

6. Sewage backs up into your House

Again, pretty obvi­ous here. If it’s not even get­ting to the tank, you could have some seri­ous issues!