About one-quarter of American households use a septic system to process their household waste, while the rest rely on a municipal sewer system. Maintaining your septic system is your own responsibility, but many people don't think about their septic systems until something goes wrong. A soggy backyard or a sewage backup in your basement are major clues that something is wrong with your septic tank, and that something may be a drainfield failure. Here's what you need to know about this serious septic tank problem.
What is a drainfield?
Your septic system treats wastewater in a few different stages, and the drainfield is the last step. Here's a quick rundown of how your septic system works to give you a better idea of the role your drainfield plays.
When you flush your toilets or use your sinks, water flows down your pipes and into the septic tank, which is buried in your backyard. The solid waste sinks to the bottom of your tank. Some of this waste decomposes over time, while the rest of it will eventually need to be pumped out by a plumber. The liquid waste flows out a pipe at the other end of your tank, and out into the surrounding soil. This soil is called the drainfield. The water that reaches your drainfield is filtered by the soil, and once it's clean, it soaks into the ground and rejoins the groundwater.
How can a drainfield fail?
At first glance, it seems impossible that a drainfield could fail. It's just dirt, right? Well, if your septic tank isn't pumped often enough, the solid waste that's supposed to sink to the bottom of the tank will overflow into the drainfield. Solid waste can't pass through the soil, so blocks the drainfield, and keeps any more wastewater from being treated. This can lead to a messy sewage backup in your basement.
Using too much water can also make your drainfield fail. If you send too much water into your septic system at once, for example, by washing multiple loads of clothes in one day, the soil won't become oversaturated. When the soil is oversaturated, no more water can absorb into the soil; instead, the water sits on top of the soil, leading to the formation of puddles all over your backyard.
Can a failed drainfield be fixed?
Sometimes, a failed drainfield can be fixed, depending on the cause of the failure and how severe the situation is. If a clog is the cause of the problem, a plumber may be able to pump out the tank and then remove the clogs. A clogged drainfield can't be fixed with a drain snake like a clogged pipe can; plumbers use a machine that shoots high-pressured water through your drainfield to loosen the clogs. If the clogs are severe, the plumber may not be able to fix them.
If excess water use is the cause of the problem, you'll need to let your drainfield dry out before you can use it again. It takes a few months for the drainfield to dry out enough to be usable again, and during this time, you can't put any water down your drains. If this is the case, the most practical solution is to replace the drainfield, rather than having you live somewhere else for a few months.
If you need a new drainfield, it will be installed beside your old one. The pipes that take water out of your septic tank will be re-directed to the new drainfield. This is a fairly simple job for an experienced plumber.
Your drainfield is essential to the proper functioning of your septic tank. You can keep it working properly by getting your septic tank pumped regularly and by being careful to not use too much water. If you think your drainfield is already failing, call a plumber right away or find one by going here.Share
17 June 2015
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