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The Home Depot

3 Common Septic Tank Problems

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Septic Tank > 3 Common Septic Tank Problems
3 Common Septic Tank Problems

When you have a septic tank system, there is something that will always cause you grief. There are no exceptions. Most soakaways are going to fail, it’s just a matter of time. By the way, if you don’t already know, a soakaway is a pit that’s filled with rocks and rubble, etc. This big pit is where your waste goes and eventually soaks away into the ground. It will ultimately need repairs, so it’s something to expect when you have a septic tank system.

Every septic tank needs to be emptied yearly. The container of waste can only handle so much sludge.
  1. 1. Soakaway Problems

    Some of the signs of a soakaway failure are:


      • The toilet keeps overflowing.


      • The drains are beginning to make strange gurgling sounds.


      • When you empty a sink, it backs up to the shower or bathtub.


      • You notice an overflow where your washing machine is hooked-up.


      • You smell foul air and see wet waste beginning to show up on your land.


      • You smell stinky odors coming from the drains in your house.


      • The toilets become slow when you flush them.


      • Your drain inspection chambers begin to fill-up with waste. Ideally, these areas should be empty.


      • Nearby streams and ditches become polluted.


      • You notice that there are dips in the soil near either the soakaway drain or near the septic tank.

  2. 2. Type of Soil

    Every septic tank needs to be emptied yearly. The container of waste can only handle so much sludge. If the goo starts to empty into the soakaway pit it will clog things up. Septic tanks that are onion-shaped can become an entire issue itself. You really want to invest in a traditional, 2-chamber fiberglass/brick/concrete septic tank.


    Is the soakaway deep enough? If your soakaway is deeper than 3-feet below ground level, including the 1-foot gravel bed underneath the pipe, bad biology will occur. Because it’s in an area where there’s no oxygen (or very little), the bacteria produced will be called anaerobic bacteria. It is a type of bacteria that thrives in little or no-air environments. This causes slime that not only blocks the soakaway, but makes the soil less porous, and therefore unable to absorb the mess coming from your septic tank. That means you need to construct your soakaway in an area known as the aerobic soil layer. This dirt has oxygen, which is necessary for the well-being of the helpful bacteria.


    Let’s say the winter water table rises higher than the septic tank outlet level. That will cause the soakaways outlet pipe to back-up into the septic tank. If this happens, the ultimate outcome will lead to the soil becoming less-and-less porous.


    3. Other Problems

    As with any system you use to dispose of your waste, problems are bound to arise. Sodium binding in the soil, another house joining your system, septic tank overflow, and common deterioration of the tank could also be in your future if you depend on a septic tank system.

You can keep the wolves at bay by expecting certain problems and performing regular maintenance. Following that approach has the potential to stave off major problems or at least delay a shutdown.

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