If a water softener is used in the home, the salt recharge solution should not be allowed to enter the system if the predominant soils in the drain field are very fine textured and drainage is very slow. In these situations, sodium in the softener recharge solution may damage soil structure in the drain field and plug the system. If you have a water softener, the size of the absorption field must be increased to accommodate the additional flow.
Water is not only a valuable resource it plays a very important role in how quickly your septic system will fill up and need pumping. The more going down your drain the more quickly your system can become full and saturated. The average residential septic tank has a 1000 -1200 gallon capacity! Limiting the amount of water going into the system can extend the time between pumping, saving you money on water and pumping bills.
Water overload occurs when the drain field is flooded with more water than it can effectively absorb. This reduces the ability of the system to drain waters and filter sewage before it reaches groundwater.
Typical indoor water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family. You can reduce the total of amount of water in the system by using some of the following tips:
- Use water-saving devices such as low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, toilet dams or low-flow toilets.
- Take short showers.
- Spreading out your laundry loads over the week.
- Never allow rain water from downspouts to enter your septic system.
A septic system should effectively accept liquid wastes from your house and prevent biological and nutrient contaminates from getting into your well or nearby lakes and streams. Anytime these do not happen, the system is failing.
For example, when waste backs up into your backyard, the system has obviously failed. If significant amounts of biological or nutrient contaminants reach your well or surface waters, the system is also failing even though it may appear the system is working fine.
By far the most common reason for early failure is improper maintenance by the homeowners. When a system is poorly maintained and not pumped on a regular basis, sludge (solid material) builds up inside the septic tank and flows into the absorption field, clogging it beyond repair.
These symptoms tell you that you have a serious problem:
- Sewage backup in your drain and toilets in the form of a black liquid with a disagreeable odor.
- Slow flushing of your toilets. Many of the drains in you house will drain much slower than usual, despite the use of plungers or drain cleaning products.
- Surface flow of waste water. Sometimes you will notice liquid seeping along the surface of the ground near your septic system. It may or may not have much of an odor associated with it.
- Lush green grass over the absorption field, even during dry weather. Often, this indicates that an excessive amount of liquid from your system is moving up through the soil, instead of downward, as it should. While some upward movement of liquid from the absorption field is good, too much could indicate major problems.
- The presence of nitrates or bacteria in your drinking water well. This indicates that liquid from the system may be flowing into the well through the ground or over the surface. Water tests available from your local health department will indicate if you have this problem.
- Build up of aquatic weeds or algae in lakes or ponds adjacent to your home. This may indicate that nutrient-rich septic system waste is leaching into surface water. This may lead to both inconvenience and possible health problems.
- Unpleasant odors around the house. Often, an improperly vented plumbing system or a failing septic system causes a buildup of disagreeable odors around the house.
Water loving trees and shrubs with deep root systems can cause major problems with your leach field. If these types of trees or shrubs exist on your property, they should be carefully removed. No leach field should be sited in a spot that already had trees and shrubs growing abundantly.
Be a good leach field gardener! Avoid planting trees and shrubs with deep root systems that can cause serious and expensive damage to your drain field. Deep rooted and water loving trees such as willows, cottonwoods and poplars are particularly risky choices for planting on or near your leach field. On the other hand, certain species of trees and shrubs (e.g. dogwoods, boxwood) have less aggressive root systems and are better choices.
If you decide to plant trees or shrubs plant them at a distance from your leach field that is greater that the typical root spread of a mature tree of a given species. Shrubs should be planted between leach field trenches if possible.