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 opposed 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 used 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 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 odours 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 slowly

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 assess 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 assess systems to ensure you’re getting the reliability you deserve.

We also offer service contracts which provide routine maintenance.

Find out more

World Water Day


As we all know, water is a limited resource for which global demand is growing. We need to reduce and reuse wastewater. By exploiting this valuable resource, we can make the water cycle work better for every living thing.

Why is wastewater an enormous opportunity to achieve sustainability?

Most of the wastewater we produce returns directly to the ecosystem without being treated or reused. The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy and nutrients.

In households, farms or factories, the principle is the same: If we all stop putting rubbish, oils and chemicals down the drain, fewer pollutants will enter the system, helping protect the environment and our water resources.

Wastewater management is a crucial part of the water cycle

Freshwater is the single most important natural resource on the planet, and it’s finite and increasingly scarce. It makes little sense to use drinking water for things like municipal washing, crop irrigation or industrial cooling. We need to treat and re-use more wastewater, at the same time as we reduce the quantity and pollution load of wastewater we produce.

The health and productivity of a nation depends on access to safe water and sanitation. In India alone, a staggering 63 million people in rural areas still live without access to safe drinking water. With increased awareness to improve wastewater management, we could reduce environmental pollution and reap the benefits of exploiting this overlooked resource.

Wastewater affects our health

Public health depends on access to safe water and sanitation. Polluting our water resources and environment with untreated wastewater puts people’s lives at risk, especially in the poorest communities. By 2030, global demand for water is expected to grow by 50%. At the same time, the quantity of wastewater is increasing, due to population growth, accelerated urbanisation and economic development.

What can YOU do to make a difference?

Industrial pumps are required for a vast range of different waste water applications. Often waste needs to be moved uphill or over long distances, pumps are required to push it through sewers and drainage systems rather than relying on gravity.

Meet the water challenge whilst meeting the energy challenge also…



Virtually any pump solution can benefit from an energy check/pump audit.

So what are you waiting for? Take action today, and contribute to the Water & Energy Challenge.