If you live in a suburban or rural area, there is a good chance you own a septic tank. You may not think very often about this vital underground system, but it is always there working hard to treat your wastewater in a safe, environmentally-friendly way.
Now that spring is here, so are the rains! Heavy rainfall can also wreak havoc on your septic system. Rain can saturate the drain field, making it impossible to for water to drain from the septic system. This causes the water to travel backward, moving through your pipes and into the toilets and drains inside your house. Flooded drain fields can also send untreated sewage into the groundwater and local bodies of water, which can lead to environmental contamination.
Septic System Fundamentals
A septic system consists of two parts, the holding tank and the drainfield. The holding tank has two main chambers and is buried in the ground near the house. Waste water from the home enters the tank where the first and second stages of separation, settling, and decomposition take place. These steps are the initial stages of water treatment. After the treated water (or effluent) has passed through the second of the two chambers it enters a series of perforated pipes that is buried on a layer of gravel and a layer of soil. Sometimes an additional layer of clay surrounds the pipes.
This whole network is known as the drainfield. The effluent inside the drainfield pipes will slowly trickle through the perforations and into the gravel. The gravel further separates solid from liquid. The microbes present in the soil perform the final stage of natural water treatment. From there the water is safe to re-enter the local water table. The layer of clay that is present in some septic system drainfields helps prevent the intrusion of untreated water into the water table. It provides a strong natural barrier that helps treated and untreated water remain in the right places and protects existing ground water sources from contamination.
What Causes Leach Field Problems in Spring
April showers may bring May flowers, but significant rainfall or over-watering will flood your leach field and block off the natural flow of water (sewage) out from your septic system. During spring, you should be trying to dry out your leach field in the spring.
When the extra water has nowhere else to go, sewage can start to back up into the plumbing system in your home and cause smelly, costly problems you would much rather avoid.
Don’t worry. There are some efforts you can make before, during, and after spring (or heavy rainfall/moisture events any time of year) that will help you steer clear of serious septic problems.
How to Protect Your Leach Field From Flooding
Let’s look at the solutions before, during, and after the wettest times of the year.
Pump Your Tank
If your tank hasn’t been pumped in a while, you should consider pumping it early in the spring. A mostly full tank will have to work hard to perform well. When your septic system is dealing with excessive rainfall, a mostly full tank could push the system over the edge, leading to flooding, backups, and even leaking sewage in your yard. To avoid these issues, you should pump your tank early on in the springtime.
Reduce Water Usage
If possible, reducing the water usage in your home can help reduce the stress on your septic system during the springtime. Especially after a big storm, water conservation can help prevent your system from flooding. There is no need to take drastic steps, but small things such as running dishwashers and washing machines only at capacity and turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving can help. Reducing water usage can help lower the risk of a flooded septic system after a storm.
Check for Pooling
After it rains, you should watch for pooling in your yard. There are a few different reasons for standing water in your yard, but one of the most common for septic system owners is a flooded drain field. Watch for pooling in your yard in order to catch the problem before it becomes severe. If your drain field floods, it can lead to permanent damage to your system if not addressed properly.
Check Your Tank Filter
Your tank filter is an important part of the overall functionality of your septic system. After the winter, your filter can become clogged with scum, debris, and other items left over from winter storms or spring rains. If your tank filter does become clogged, it can disrupt the overall workings of your system. For this reason, you should check your tank filter to make sure it is clear of debris to ensure that it is functioning properly.
To prepare for the excess rainfall of the springtime, you should redirect your gutters. It’s important to make sure that they are facing away from the drain field and any other septic system components. Gutters that point toward your septic system will carry water to the system and lead to flooding. It’s important to direct water away from your septic system to avoid flooding during the springtime.
With the right knowledge, you can avoid serious leach field problems from heavy rains or overwatering in the spring season.
At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you do not have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system is being affected by excessive water, please give us a call at (951) 780-5922 right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.