Septic systems rarely take up much time or attention when they are performing well. It is only when they begin to show signs of breakdown or fail to process waste products efficiently that they become a topic for discussion or a cause for concern. By the time these symptoms become obvious, unfortunately, the septic tank system may already be in the process of failure. Prompt remediation is necessary in order to save these failing systems and should be approached in a systematic way in order to achieve the most effective results.

1. Identify the problem. Some septic system problems may be as simple as clogged or broken pipes leading to the tank; others may require pumping of an overfull tank before any further evaluation can be done. Flooding or standing water around the tank typically indicates an overtaxed tank, blocked pipes leading to the drain field or, in some cases, a failed or failing drain field. If necessary, enlist the services of a trained plumber or septic system professional to determine the scope of the current issues. Getting a clear picture of the problem is the first step in creating a strategy for managing these problems effectively.

2. Take steps to address the immediate problem. Repair pipes and ensure that they are free of all blockages and obstacles to the free passage of water. Pump the tank to remove excess water and ensure that all mechanical systems within the tank are functioning properly. Even if pumping the tank seems to resolve the problem, making a thorough examination of all working systems is essential to maintain the proper function of this vital household system. Testing and monitoring after the immediate repair work has been done can help to identify any further problems and issues that may be present or developing in the pipes, tank or drain field components of the septic tank system.

3. Consider converting to an aerobic septic system. Aerobic bacteria are much more efficient at breaking down particulate matter than the anaerobic bacteria typically found in septic tank environments. This added efficiency can help remediate failing septic systems and can provide long-term improvements in function and capacity. Aerobic systems can often provide useful remediation even in failing septic tanks and may allow them to return to normal function in a remarkably short period of time.

Once the immediate issues have been resolved, homeowners can often prevent future problems by performing regular maintenance on the septic system and avoiding the use of harsh chemicals in and around the home. Antibacterial compounds and bleach should never be introduced into the septic tank system. These substances can kill both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria and prevent them from breaking down impurities and solid waste. Reducing water usage by installing low-flow toilets, showers and faucets can also have a significant impact on the efficiency of the septic system. These simple steps can often add years to the life of aging septic tanks and reduce the likelihood of costly septic system failures.