A septic system is designed to dispose of wastewater from the shower, toilet, sink, and other plumbing fixtures of your home. Statistics show around twenty percent of all households in the United States use septic systems. A sewage network design consists of a septic tank, drain field disposal facility, and an inlet pipe integrated with your home’s plumbing system. At the same time, an outlet line connects the tank to the drain field’s distribution box.

Clogged septic systems may account for plenty of problems, and a small sign of malfunctioning can be critical. Replacing a septic system can be a costly affair, so your safest bet is to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place. Your home’s septic system requires routine maintenance should it provide reliable service for many years to come. Septic systems have an operational lifetime, eventually needing to be replaced.

A clogged or malfunctioning septic system is a risk to human and animal health and can pollute the environment. A responsible homeowner must be attentive to the signs of septic system failure and respond quickly when any are discovered. A quick response will save the owner a lot of money in costly repairs and may prevent illnesses.

Signs of Septic System Clogging:

• Water and sewage from toilets, drains and sinks backing up into your home.
• Bathtubs, showers, and sinks draining slowly.
• Gurgling sounds present in the plumbing system.
• Bad odors coming from the septic tank or drain field.
• Algal blooms in nearby ponds or lakes.
• High levels of nitrates or coliform bacteria accumulating in water wells.

What are some common reasons a septic system doesn’t work properly?

Clogged pipes from the house to the tank
When your pipes get clogged, water drains very slowly (perhaps slower on lower levels of the building) or stops draining completely. This is usually an easy problem to fix. One can prevent a clogged line by watching what is flushed down the drain and having the septic system inspected annually.

Inlet baffle to tank blockage
This is very similar to when the inlet pipe from the house to the tank is clogged. If you have access to your inlet baffle opening, you can check to see if there is any clogging.

Outlet baffle or effluent filter clogged
An outlet baffle or effluent filter blockage may result in sewage backing up into the home or surfacing near the septic tank. This might be a sign that the tank is receiving too much water too quickly.

What happens when a septic system fails?
A septic system failure causes untreated sewage to be released and transported to places it shouldn’t be going. This might cause sewage to surface around the tank or the drain field or back up in the building’s pipes. The sewage might also find its way into the groundwater without anyone ever seeing it. The sewage carries pathogens and other dangerous contaminants. Exposure to these pathogens and pollutants can make people and animals sick.

How can I prevent my septic system from clogging?
Routine maintenance will help your septic system have a long and trouble-free life. If your septic system has been efficiently designed, sited, and installed, the rest lies on your shoulders. Inspect your system annually and pump it as needed (usually every 3-5 years). Avoid excess water use, and watch what you throw into the drain and flush down the toilet!