Homeowners and business owners know that when their septic tank backs up, it is a major inconvenience. The potential mess due to the waste involved can be daunting, and it can also be expensive to clean up. Removal of the septic tank waste and repair of any damage can cost thousands of dollars.
Septic systems are an important part of our infrastructure, and they need to be properly maintained. That is where we come in. We are a septic tank service company that provides commercial and residential septic tank cleaning services. We have a team of experienced and certified professionals who will come to your property and clean out your septic tank.
Keep reading to discover the signs that your system is in distress and learn what you should do when unfortunate disaster strikes.
What is a Septic Tank and How Does It Work?
Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry.
A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drainfield, or soil absorption field.
The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.
When the septic tank is maintained correctly, it can serve your home well, generating all the wastewater from your home.
Specifically, this is how a typical conventional septic system works:
- All water runs out of your house via one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.
- The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. The tank is responsible for holding the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, while the oil and grease floats to the top as scum.
- The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drainfield (a shallow, covered, excavation made in unsaturated soil). Pretreated wastewater is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter though the soil.
- The soil accepts, treats, and disperses wastewater as it percolates through the soil, ultimately discharging to groundwater.
- Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients. Coliform bacteria is a group of bacteria predominantly inhabiting the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of human fecal contamination.
Here are some of the early warning signs you should look out for to avoid a costly septic emergency.
What Are the Signs of a Septic Emergency?
Because most septic components are buried underground, they tend be out of sight and out of mind for many homeowners. Knowing the early signs of a septic emergency can help you know when to take action to prevent further damage to your system.
Blackwater Overflow or Backup
When you use your sink, you may inadvertently wash biological materials down the drain, such as hair, skin oils and soap, which grows bacteria that is black. Some of these biological materials cling to the sides of the drain body as well as the drainpipe, forming a layer of film. This biological film provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which turns the film black. Sometimes the black film comes loose, for instance, when you pour drain cleaners or other harsh substances down the drain.
In many septic emergencies, blackwater (i.e., sewage) may backup into your home’s lowest level toilets and drains or overflow into the area around the septic tank. This can be caused by an overfull tank blocking exit baffles or by clogs in the pipes leading to the septic tank. Be very careful not to touch blackwater with your bare hands if you see it backing up into your home or overflowing the septic tank.
Slow, Gurgling, Bubbling, or Clogged Drains
When properly functioning, your drains should clear about one gallon of water every 30 seconds. If your drains are draining slower than usual, it could be a sign that your septic tank needs to be pumped. When the tank is full, it can cause a blockage that prevents water from flowing through as quickly as it should. If you notice one drain slowing down, it may just be a clog in that pipe, but if drains all over your house are slower or gurgling after the water has drained, it could be a sign of serious septic trouble, especially when accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
A bad odor coming from your drains or near your septic tank could mean a leak somewhere in the system or an obstruction preventing waste from flowing freely through your pipes. Either way, you should have a professional inspect the area as soon as possible before it turns into an even bigger issue.
Wet or Flooded Drainfield
If the ground above your drainfield or septic tank is wetter than the rest of your yard, it could be a sign that your septic system is flooding. Because of the nitrogen in septic effluent, a precursor to this symptom is often overly green, lush grass above your septic drainfield. If you have a localized pooling of water above your drainfield, it could be a sign of a broken drainfield pipe. More widespread flooding may indicate that your drainfield has failed completely.
If there is a high concentration of nitrates in your septic tank, it could be a sign that you need to have it pumped. High levels of nitrates can be dangerous, so it is important to have the tank professionally cleaned out if this is the case.
What to Do During a Septic Emergency
Once you realize you may be dealing with a septic emergency, there are a few things you can do to hopefully prevent making the situation worse until your septic provider arrives for an emergency service visit.
Call Trusted Septic Provider for an Emergency Service Visit
A properly working septic tank is essential to ensuring the health and safety of your family. This makes septic tank maintenance a very crucial exercise. After every 3 years, always make a point of hiring septic tank specialists to inspect and service your septic tank to avoid any future trouble.
A thorough septic inspection and maintenance by one of the best septic tank companies near me will ensure that your septic tank is in perfect condition to serve you for many years. After septic inspection, the RV septic tank pumping near me will either recommend the installation of a new septic tank, replacement, or repair.
We are a reliable septic tank cleaning near me service provider that has invested in state-of-the-art equipment to inspect and clean your septic tank in the shortest time possible. We have a dedicated team of septic tank specialists that are skilled and motivated to handle any type of septic tank.
Immediately Stop All Water Usage
The first step you should take if you have a septic emergency is to stop using all water in the home. Do not do laundry, take showers, or even flush toilets. While this can, obviously, be inconvenient, it is important that you avoid compounding the problem by adding more water to the system.
Assess the Situation
Next, you should assess the situation and determine exactly what is happening.
If sewage has backed up into the home through drains or toilets, it is important to locate the source of the backup to confirm that it is related to your septic system and not a different kind of plumbing issue.
If there has been an overflow or spill of sewage onto your property, make sure all people and pets stay away from the area.
If there is an extreme backup of sewage into the home or business, take measures to protect your health. This includes wearing protective masks and clothing to avoid contact with contaminated water or air.
It is also a good idea to turn off all electricity in affected areas so that no one is put at risk of electric shock due to standing water.
Thoroughly and Carefully Disinfect Affected Areas
If your septic emergency involves blackwater overflowing the septic tank or backing up into your home, you want to be sure to thoroughly disinfect any affected areas. Blackwater is considered to be a contaminant, which means it can carry dangerous bacteria that could make you or your loved ones sick. Wear protective gear (gloves, rubber boots, and a facemask) and dispose of any contaminated items in a strong plastic bag in the garbage. If groundwater contamination is suspected in a home that relies on well water, immediately stop consuming your home’s water and contact the local health department to ensure your water is safe to drink.
If you ever do find that you have sewage in your home, lift up the lid of the septic tank and inspect the water level. You can also call a professional septic services company to check the water level for you. You might have to call a plumber if the water level is lower than the outlet since there’s a chance that a pipe that runs between your tank and your house could be clogged.
If you look and see that the water level is higher than the outlet, your problem is either the tank or something beyond it. Get your tank pumped so that you will have a bit of extra time to decide what to do next. Not only that, but having your tank pumped will give the pumper a chance to see whether or not the issue is an easily apparent one or one that is more complex.
In the event that the drainfield is filled with water, it is best that you put off getting your tank pumped since emptying the tank out can cause it to float, which can lead to broken pipes. If you notice that the drainfield is soggy or has a foul odor coming from it, make sure that you keep people away from the area since there is a chance that you might have a biohazard on your hands. Think about putting up a fence if you have any pets or children in order to make sure that they stay away from the area. You will also want to have your tank pumped and use as little water as you can in order to help with the odor.
Call West Coast Sanitation Today!
The fact is that many homes and septic systems were not designed to handle the load put on them from modern appliances and modern lifestyles. But, with a little care and awareness, you can manage this impact and help to avoid increased maintenance problems and the need for costly system repairs and replacement.
At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you don’t have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system has reached capacity, please give us a call right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.