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Septic systems have been in use in the United States for nearly 150 years, and because they’re buried in the soil near the home, some people may wonder what’s involved in managing your septic drain field. In recent years, homeowners have become concerned about the environmental impact of their septic systems.

Tips for managing your septic drain field

Septic systems provide a very efficient way to safely dispose of human waste in the absence of a municipal sewer system. Even so, septic systems still produce a significant amount of biodegradable materials, and effluent that is laced with bacteria. A functional drain field addresses these issues, and allows effluent to safely discharge into the ground.

With proper maintenance, your septic system can last 20 to 30 years before major reconstruction is needed. Failure of a septic system is usually declared when waste water from the system pools on the surface of the septic drain field, or when the contents of the septic tank back up into the home.

Managing your septic drain field is essential to promoting health, protecting the value of your property and avoiding larger-scale environmental damage. In most cases, major septic failures don’t happen at the tank. Instead, they occur when the septic drain field – the filtering system that controls the way effluents seep back into the soil – no longer performs as it should.

A functioning septic drain field consists of perforated pipe that directs discharge from the septic tank to a larger area of land. The discharge (effluent) seeps slowly downward through the soil. The soil acts like a filter, and traps suspended solids and removes bacterial agents that may be in the water. The ground purifies the water as gravity pulls it toward underground aquifers.
Soil in the drain field is like a sponge, and at some point it can become completely saturated. When this happens, it can no longer accept any more water from the septic tank and water – having nowhere else to go – begins to pool on top of the drain field. If the septic field consists of trenches, the water may collect in the last trench when the field fails.

You may be wondering, “How can dirt fail?!” The bacteria that thrives in the septic tank can also thrive in the soil. Bacteria are busy, and they create a slimy residue called “biomat.” The biomat actually builds up over time and prevents the effluent from seeping into the soil.

A large number of factors can affect the performance of your drain field. Its location, design and construction can all help or hinder your septic field. The amount of water that’s discharged from the septic system, rain and snowmelt, landscaping, tree roots and vegetation growth, vehicles driving over the field and breaks in the underground pipes can all impact bacterial growth in the drain field. All of these considerations are part of managing your septic field, and they should be carefully evaluated if your septic field fails. After all, identifying the problem is the first step in correcting it.

In a future post, we’ll look at other things that can cause a septic field to fail, and how managing your septic field carefully can help you avoid problems.

If you’d like more information about septic system maintenance, please contact us at Clear Drain Cleaning at (330) 343-7146 to schedule a visit!