Some of the most serious signs that a septic tank system may be in the early stages of failure may go unnoticed by many homeowners. For instance, standing water near the drainfield or around the tank may be overlooked or misidentified as runoff or the result of recent rainfall; backups and slow draining can sometimes be mistaken for interior plumbing problems rather than an overfull septic tank system. Correct identification of septic system issues can help homeowners avoid the expense of a full replacement and the added regulatory requirements of a new installation. Here are some of the most commonly misdiagnosed septic system issues and some hints on how to prevent or remediate them before they become major problems with consequences for health and for household budgets.

Overflowing septic tank

One of the most common septic tank problems arises when the distribution box is damaged or clogged, preventing the flow of water from the septic tank into the drainfield. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest problems to remedy; broken pipes can be replaced or mended and clogs can be dislodged to allow proper function of the septic system once more. If water is backing up from the septic tank or collecting around the tank or distribution box area, chances are the culprit is a broken or blocked pipe leading to or from the distribution box. In most cases, a qualified plumber can fix this problem quickly and easily before it becomes a serious issue for the household septic tank system.

Inefficient or insufficient bacteria

Some septic tank issues are caused by the use of harsh chemicals inside the home that kill the anaerobic bacteria that naturally live in the tank. In other cases, however, the problem may lie with the bacteria themselves. These beneficial bacterial organisms break down the particulate materials and impurities in household wastewater, allowing it to pass through the distribution box and into the drainfield for filtering. However, anaerobic bacteria are relatively inefficient and cannot always keep up with the quantity of wastewater delivered to the septic tank. In many cases, installing a high-quality septic aerator can boost the efficiency of bacterial decomposition and reduce the need for frequent septic tank pumping. This can prevent unpleasant backups and overflows from the septic tank into the yard or, worse yet, inside the home.

Flooded drainfield

If only one area of the drainfield is flooded, the problem most likely lies within the distribution box. Blockages and broken pipes can cause all of the water from the septic tank to flow into a very limited area of the drainfield, creating an overload on that portion of the field while leaving the rest of the drainfield dry and unused. Repairing or replacing the distribution box can provide a low-cost solution for this annoying septic system issue.

By understanding and addressing the early warning signs of septic system failure, homeowners can protect themselves against the high cost of septic tank replacement. This can save money and protect the health of family members throughout the life of the septic tank system.