Troubleshooting a Drain Field
Whether you have installed a septic tank because you're interested in being self-sufficient or simply through necessity, one important part of keeping it functioning properly is maintaining the drain field. Problems with the drain field will impact the septic tank and can lead to plumbing issues within your home so you should deal with any problems promptly to minimize the amount of work required. The solutions below will help to keep your waste disposal system working efficiently.
Check Septic Tank
If you are having problems with backed up plumbing and the water level in the septic tank is high then it suggests a problem with the drain field. A normal water level indicates that the problem is either in the internal plumbing or in the lines connecting the house to the tank.
The lines to the drain field can become blocked if sludge builds up in the bottom of the septic tank. To prevent it, you should have a regular schedule for pumping and inspecting the tank. The frequency of maintenance will vary depending on the size of your tank and the occupancy of your home but normally, a service interval of between 1 and 3 years is recommended. Check with the manufacturer to obtain a more specific estimate for your personal circumstances.
If the pipes to the drain field become blocked, it will cause the waste to begin to accumulate in the tank, then back up into your home. Lines can also be affected by compression caused by driving a vehicle over the surface or a new building, even a small one such as a shed. Tree roots are another cause of problems with drainage lines because they can either pierce the pipe, or compress it. Blocked, compressed or damaged pipes need to be dug up and either cleaned, or replaced.
Saturated Drain Field
If you have pumped and cleaned the septic tank, and there are no problems with the lines but you still have problems with waste water flowing back into the tank, it indicates that your drain field is saturated. You will need to either extend the field or have it remediated to allow it to begin absorbing waste again. When choosing a new drain field, be sure to test the soil's porosity and make sure that no tree roots will clog it up. Do not build on or cover the drain field; ideally the top surface should be grass which is mowed regularly.
Prevent problems through good planning at the time of installation. Choose a suitable drain field location and size so that you don't need to change it later because this can be expensive and inconvenient. Install filters to prevent lint from your washing making making it's way to the septic tank because it can also cause blockages. An effluent filter installed within the tank will prevent solid waste entering the pipes and causing a blockage. Running too much or too little water through the tank can cause operational problems. Try not to do more that two washing loads per day and make sure that you regularly cycle water into the tank during cold periods to prevent the pipes from freezing.