In the last post, we looked at septic field management, and what can cause septic field failure. Today we’ll look at septic field design and some strategies for avoiding disaster.
Avoiding septic field failure
Many things can cause a septic field to fail, but the primary culprit in septic field failure is overloading, either from too much water or biological overgrowth. Flooding the septic system – and eventually the septic field – with too much water can cause field failure.
Most septic systems are based on the number of bedrooms in a home. The size of the tank is usually related to the size of the house – not the size of the household. If a household increases significantly in size over time – the septic system may find itself fighting a losing battle against overconsumption of water. Expanding the tank is only part of the answer. The drain field will also need to be resized to prevent flooding and avoid septic system failure.
Characteristics of the soil are also taken into account when a septic field is initially designed. Although these tend not to change much, if the initial assessment was incorrect, it could cause problems later. Analyzing the construction and composition of the drain field may reveal correctable design flaws.
The second type of septic field overloading is biological, and is probably the most common reason for septic failure. Biomat growth poses a real problem for septic drain fields because while you don’t really want it, you also don’t want to disturb it! Depending upon the design of the septic field, you may be able to design a second drain field in the same area as the location of the septic field failure. And failed septic fields aren’t write-offs, but it does take them some time to recover.
Reducing water use can help ease the load on a failing drain field, but sometimes drastic reductions in consumption – as much as one-third – may be required to reverse an impending septic field failure. Reversing septic field failure also takes time – measured in years. Most people don’t have years to rehabilitate a septic field.
One approach to reducing the likelihood of septic field failure is to build a septic system that’s tied into alternating septic fields. The system is switchable, so it uses one septic drain field for two years or so. The owner switches the system to use the other drain field for the next two years, allowing the first field to dry out completely and “rest.” At any time, one of the septic fields is on a two-year rest. That’s enough time for the biomat to die off and allow the drain field to recover its absorbency.
Compaction of the drain field is also a problem. Compacted soil is much less absorbent so if compaction is the problem, mechanical intervention to relieve compacted soil may be in order. The homeowner must also take steps to prevent further surface damage. Drain lines can clog, or be damaged by tree root invasions, and may need to be cleared, repaired or replaced to head off septic field failure.
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!