Everything you need to know about Septic Tanks

Septic tank

What are septic tanks?

Many buildings and homes have on-site wastewater management systems-often referred to as septic tanks- their purpose is to treat sewage at the location, as oppose to transporting the waste through a treatment plant or more complex sewage system. They are popular in rural areas but are often found in urban areas also; commonly use to treat sewage from an individual building.

It is imperative to know whether your building is on a septic system, as septic tanks are buried and can be easily forgotten, which can result in sewage backing up into the building, or surfacing near the septic tank.

How does a septic tank work?

  1. Untreated sewage from a building flows into the septic tank where the solids are separated from the liquid.
  2. The solid material material is then separated based on their density. Heavier particles will settle at the bottom, whilst lighter particles will form a layer at the top of the tank.
  3. Biological processes are then used to help degrade the solid materials
  4. Finally, the liquid flows out of the tank into a land drainage system and the remaining solids are filtered out

Septic Tank- Domestic Building

How would you notice a failed septic tank?

A septic system failure causes untreated sewage to be released, which can result in sewage or wastewater coming to the surface of the ground above or around the tank, or to the drain field. In worst case scenario waste will be backing up into the pipes located in the building.

The Signs:

  • Water and sewage from drains, sinks and toilets backing up into the building
  • Settled water or damp spots near the septic tank or drain field
  • Foul odors coming from the septic tank or drain field
  • Bright green, spongy textured grass over the septic tank/ drain field, even during dry weather
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system
  • In domestic buildings bathtubs and showers drain very slow

Sewage carries pathogens and various other unsafe contaminants.Exposure to such contaminants can cause health issues for individuals. Contaminants may also be found in water sources, making it unsafe for drinking, swimming, shellfish harvesting and agricultural uses.

What are the reasons a septic tank might fail?

1.Piping from the building connected to the tank is blocked

When this occurs, drains drain very slowly (this may be more apparent on lower levels of the building) or in extreme cases drains may stop working completely. Clogged piping can be prevented by only flushing human waste and toilet paper and by having your system inspected annually.

2. Inlet baffle to tank is blocked

This failure is very similar to when the inlet pipe from the building to the tank is clogged.

Again, this can easily be avoided by only flushing human waste and toilet paper into the system. In the case of attempting to unclog the pipe extra care must be taken to not damage any septic system components, which is why a professional should always be contacted in the case of failure.

3. Effluent filter / outlet baffle is blocked

This type of failure usually results in sewage backing up into the building or even surfacing near the tank. This can also symbolise that the tank is receiving too much water in short periods of time. If the system contains an effluent filter, in the case of failure it is to be cleaned or replaced; if there is not an effluent filter in the system the tank will need be pumped to allow inspected and remove the clog.

4. Drain field has failed 

When a drain field fails- or is saturated with water- sewage may back up into the building. Soggy, wet areas will be noticeable above the drain field as well as bright, green spongy grass above the tank area. This may mean that the system was operated incorrectly and as a result excessive amounts of solid material made it to the drain field causing it to fail prematurely. Or the system may have failed due to existing for many years and having no more capacity to accept waste. This can be rectified by drying out the drain field and rehabilitating it. The best thing to do is to contact a professional to asses the situation and identify the required actions.

How to prevent failure 

Routine maintenance carried out by a professional will ensure proper operation and longevity of your septic system. If you are looking to install a new septic system it is also imperative to contact a professional to ensure the system has been designed, sited and installed correctly.

Septic systems and pumps should be serviced and inspected on an annual basis.

You can prevent failure of the system by avoiding excess water use, and monitoring what is put down drains and flushed into the system.

AVOIDING non-biodegradable items.

Cougar Pumps have fully equipped and qualified engineers who can inspect and asses systems to ensure you’re getting the reliability you deserve.

We also offer service contacts which provide routine maintenance.

Find out more

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