Septic tanks are a concrete chamber (occasionally fiberglass or plastic) where waste water is discharged. Solids settle to the tank bottom while lighter items (grease, hair) float to the top. Clearer water settles in the center of the. Anaerobic bacteria breakdown the solids. Once a septic tank is full, overflow discharges into the drainfield.
Systems can last 5 years (or less) or more than 50 years. Getting your tank pumped regularly (3 to 5 years) will extend the useful life of your system. Starting with a proper design is important, and certainly how well your system was originally constructed and installed is too. Once in operation, proper maintenance is critical. Fixing leaks and removing clear water discharge (softener and sump pumps) will extend the life. Drainfields can and should last many decades. This is the value of periodic septic system inspections.
When your septic tank is inspected for proper function, including signs of decay or needed repairs. A boring is performed on the drainfield to determine if the discharge lines are functioning. We also look for root invasion and soil compaction.
Large amounts of rain or high water table can affect the function of septic systems. They drain more slowly and toilets might not flush properly or back-up. Try to minimize septic use during heavy rains.
The drainfield is the final disposal area of effluent water from your septic tank, and consists of loose stone with sand below. The water passes through a perforated pipe and the stone, to the sand below. Bacteria break down the organic matter and plant growth (lawn grass, etc.) absorbs the water through its roots and is evaporates into the air. Eventually the aerobic bacteria can no longer perform their job and a black, slimy, sludge (biomat) forms, and the system begins to fail.
A pump card is a sheet of paper provided by the septic tank pumper, often including a drawing locating the tank location. Most pumpers use a standard form, but we can supply the pumper a form if necessary. The pump card is written confirmation of the septic tank size and that the pumper observed no problems.
The tank is an integral part of the septic system. Leaking tanks can cause premature failure of a septic system. The tank is properly inspected when it is empty. The pumper provides information including size of tank, condition, structural integrity, whether the outlet baffle in place, evidence of drainfield flow back and if the lid is cracked or needs replacement? Since we are not onsite when the tanks are pumped, this card provides us important information.
You will be referred to your local health department to apply for a replacement septic permit. Only the local health department is permitted by law to design and issue a permit for a new septic system.
A septic system is designed for an average amount of household sewage. Excessive water, which does not require treatment, is a waste of system capacity. Some water additives are high in salt content and can kill septic tank bacteria, reducing its efficiency. Excess sump pump water can overload the system, leading to premature failure. It’s best to use your septic system only for water that requires treatment.
Garbage disposals send organic material into the septic system, increasing the need for cleaning and maintenance. The organic solids might not settle to the bottom of the tank, and get sent to the drainfield, increasing possibility of premature failure.
These chemicals are a waste of money, especially root additives. If you have roots growing into your septic tank, you should replace it.
Trees and shrubs with aggressive root systems, such as fruit or flower bearing trees/shrubs, will inundate the system. The vegetation is used to getting water seasonally. When the water supply stops, the roots may seek the septic tank or pipes of the drainfield.
Cut the tree/shrub down during a dry season, when surface water is minimal. Grind the stump down but do not remove it, as it may do more damage to the drain system. Leave the roots intact. Do not drive anything heavier than an average lawn tractor over the system.
Problems with older septic systems may not be apparent until a thorough septic inspection has been performed. Properties with older septic systems may in fact be close to the end of its life expectancy. Repairs (or possibility of a new system) may be required beyond a septic inspection and pumping. Unexpected or last-minute repairs can be a deal-breaker for the buyers, so it’s better to schedule inspections weeks before closing if possible.
We do our best not to disturb your landscaping. Inspections require digging as evaluations require a soil probe to locate your system. Some grass will be removed and placed back. The probe is used as little as possible. We cannot be responsible for any damage to lines which are not located and clearly marked by the homeowner.
Plastic materials, large amounts of acids/caustics, soaps or cleaning materials (the high/low pH factor affects the bacteria), cloth, cigarette butts, paper towels, disposable diapers, toilet tissues which do not decompose readily in water, greasy/fatty materials, motor oils, grease, kerosene, gasoline, paints, other materials which do not dissolve in water. Rainwater from gutters and sump pump discharge should not enter the septic system.