How To Repair A Failing Septic System


The septic system in the house or the building they own is not something that most homeowners think about regularly. However, this can be a big mistake. When the worst-case scenario happens – you find that the system has failed or is failing – you must get it fixed quickly.

So what exactly is a septic system? Hopefully you are not trying to find the answer to this question after learning you’ve got a big mess brewing under your lawn!

A septic system is what allows us to dispose of waste at a safe distance from the home. It consists of two parts: a septic tank and a drainfield. The tank is where all the wastewater goes first. The tank holds the wastewater long enough for liquids and solids within the water to separate, and for bacteria to break down the solids. Any clarified water leftover from this process gets pumped into the drainfield, where it gets one more filtering and cleaning before trickling out into the soil.

What Causes A Septic System To Fail?

Using too much water is one of the most common reasons for system failure, as soil can only absorb so much. Water that drains from roofs, road and driveways can put extra stress on the system. Lack of proper maintenance can also lead to failure.

Improper design and/or construction is another culprit. A well-designed septic system is crucial to keeping your home and property clean and safe. Note that the flaws in a septic system range from improper sizing, to soil that is packed too tightly to absorb much water, to constructing the system on a very steep gradient.

Physical damage can occur if you build, park or drive on top of a soil absorption unit. The added pressure can shift pipes or even crush them. The soil becomes compacted, and thus loses its absorption abilities. Tree roots can be a problem, since they can clog the absorption field or crush the pipes.

How Do I Fix A Failing Septic System?

Your options will depend on the cause of damage. Any action taken must be approved by the local sanitarian. You also need a permit from the local health department.

Don’t go for quick fixes like placing more soil over an absorption field. This will not fix the problem permanently. It just delays the inevitable.

Don’t redirect the sewage to a storm sewer, road ditch, or a farm drain tile. You’re just creating a health hazard by polluting the water. Likewise, don’t run the sewage into a sinkhole or drainage well as this pollutes the groundwater.

This goes in hand with the “lack of maintenance” angle: Don’t wait for the system to fail before pumping the septic tank. It’s already too late by then.

Note that repairing physical damage, improving surface and subsurface drainage, and installation of additional lines of absorption may not be enough – you might need to install a whole new system.