If your tank hasn't been pumped in the last 5 years, you are seeing wet areas or standing water above your drainfield, your toilets are running slowly or there are odors in your home, you may need to have your septic system repaired. A septic tank wastewater system can contaminate ground water, surface water and your yard with nutrients, bacteria and viruses, so any problems should be checked out by a professional.
How does a septic system work?
A septic system consists of two main parts-a septic tank and a drainfield. The septic tank is a watertight box, usually made of concrete or fiberglass, with an inlet and outlet pipe. Wastewater flows from the home to the septic tank through the sewer pipe. The septic tank treats the wastewater naturally by holding it in the tank long enough for solids and liquids to separate. The wastewater forms three layers inside the tank. Solids lighter than water (such as greases and oils) float to the top forming a layer of scum. Solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank forming a layer of sludge. This leaves a middle layer of partially clarified wastewater.
The layers of sludge and scum remain in the septic tank where bacteria found naturally in the wastewater work to break the solids down. The sludge and scum that cannot be broken down are retained in the tank until the tank is pumped.
Lift the lid of your tank and check the water level - if the water is lower than the outlet, you may have a clog. If the level is higher than the outlet, you need your tank pumped. Standing water may indicate that there is a broken pipe.
There are many possible causes, but your first step should be to call a septic tank professional. Secondly, check the websites of your local health department to learn what procedures you can follow for clean-up. You should take precautions when cleaning so that you don't get sick. Keep children and pets away from the mess.
Keep your tank in good working order
You should hire local septic pumpers to inspect your septic system annually. Most importantly, you will need to pump out your septic tank regularly. Every three to five years is recommended by experts for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank. Smaller tanks should be pumped more often than that. This helps eliminate solids build-up that can clog your leach field. If you use a garbage disposal, have the tank pumped more frequently. Don't use your toilet as a garbage can! If you put lots of stuff down the toilet, you will need to have the tank pumped more often.
Remember that your septic tank will work only if the bacteria in it are healthy and hungry. If they get sick or die, your septic tank will start sending un-digested waste out to the drain field which will quickly plug it up. Below are some "weird" things that could kill your septic tank:
Anti-Bacterial Hand Washing Soap
Toilet Bowl Cleaners
Bath Oils, Body Oils
Hot Tubs / Spas
Time-Release Pills and Capsules
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