Our septic systems aren’t something we think about very frequently. After all, who really wants to think about sewage? But knowing a few basics about your septic system and what can cause problems can help keep your septic functioning properly and extended its useful life. Part of this means we need to know why septic tanks leak and how to tell if it’s leaking. Before we can get into those two aspects, we first need to understand the basics of how a septic tank works.
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
A septic tank is basically a large tank that holds wastewater and solid matter while it is broken down. Natural bacteria in the tank are responsible for breaking down all solid matter into what is called effluent water. As more water is added to the tank this effluent water is released into the drain field and filtered through the soil.
A well-functioning septic system requires balance. The balance of levels between natural bacteria and wastewater coming into the system is important. Too much wastewater in the system means that the bacteria won’t be able to keep up.
What Causes a Septic Tank to Leak?
So, now that we understand the basics on how a septic tank works let’s look at some of the reasons that it may leak.
1. Delayed Maintenance
A major component in septic tank leaks is delayed maintenance. Septic tanks should be cleaned every three to five years. This removes any buildup of solid waste before it’s able to clog the system. The exact amount of time between cleanings depends on the size of your tank and the amount of water you use. Typically, a four-person household with a 1,500-gallon tank will need to get it pumped every four years.
2. Using Too Many Cleaning Products
As we talked about, the natural bacteria held in your septic tank play a major role in this system. Without these natural bacteria our septic tanks would not function properly. When we use too many cleaning products, these bacteria die, and our septic tank suffers. Excessive use of cleaning products will also increase how often we need to clean the septic tank.
3. Damaged Pipes
There are several pipes connecting all of the components of your septic system. Any one of these can be damaged by a variety of factors. If they are, this can cause wastewater too to leak out of the system. Accidentally driving over plumbing lines and tree roots growing around these lines are some of the more common culprits.
How can You Tell if Your Septic Tank is Leaking?
Let’s take a look at some of the signs that suggest your septic tank may be leaking.
One of the most telltale signs is a strong odor. This is hard to miss and is rather unpleasant. If you smell a sewage in your backyard it’s time to call in a professional to fix the problem.
2. Vegetation Growth
Another sign, although less obvious, is excessive vegetation growth. Areas where a septic tank is leaking will produce taller grass or vegetation than the surrounding areas.
3. Soggy Yard or Standing Water
With or without a smell, soggy soil or standing water around your septic tank or drain field is an indication that something is not right with your system.
4. Slow Drains
Inside your house you may also begin to notice symptoms of a bigger problem. Slow drains or water that is backing up signifies that there is a problem down the line.
If you notice any of these symptoms or if you just haven’t had your tank cleaned recently, it’s a good idea to call in the professionals. We can thoroughly examine your septic system, ensure there’s no leaks, and get your septic working like new.