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Why Do Drainfields Fail?

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One of the most disheartening things for a homeowner to discover is that their septic system has failed. Septic system failures can lead to a variety of stinky, costly, and potentially hazardous problems. Serious septic problems often require ground excavation and they can be both expensive and disruptive. Of the many problems that commonly occur with septic systems, few are as frustrating as drain field failures.

Understanding Your Drainfield

Your drainfield, also known as the leaching field, is the last stop for wastewater from your house. The job of your septic tank is to allow waste solids to be contained within the tank while effluent is discharged into the drainfield. The field itself is a series of holed pipes installed in gravel and sand. The wastewater escapes from the pipes into the surrounding field, where it is naturally filtered away. This is an important final step for your septic system, since it ensures that the fluid level within the septic tank stays at the correct level.

Signs of a Drainfield Failure

Symptoms of a failing drainfield can range from subtle to incredibly obvious. If wastewater is backing up into your drainfield, then you may notice unpleasant odors outside of your home. Depending on where the drainfield is located, however, it may be some time before the problem is serious enough to be noticeable. In addition to odors, water may begin to pool on the surface of your lawn near the drainfield. Even before this happens, you may notice your lawn looking unusually healthy in the general vicinity of the leaching field. While everyone loves green grass, this is usually a sign that your lawn is enjoying the excess moisture and nutrients being provided by your backed up drainfield.

Causes of Drainfield Failure

Drainfields can fail for a number of reasons. The most common failure is simply due to improper septic system maintenance. If your septic tank is not cleaned on a regular basis, solids can build up over time and these can eventually be discharged into the drainfield. The drainfield is only designed to handle liquid waste, so solids will inevitably create clogs and cause the system to back up. This usually requires the pipes in the drainfield to be cleared.

In some cases, the drainfield itself may become damaged. This can happen if heavy vehicles are routinely parking above the drainfield or if the lawn above it has recently been disrupted due to landscaping or construction work. As with sewer pipes, tree roots can sometimes find their way into leaching field pipes. Trees naturally seek out moisture and nutrients, so the area around your drainfield is ideal for them. Ultimately, these problems will usually require your drainfield to be dug up and repaired.

Keeping Your Drainfield Happy

While not all problems with a drainfield can be avoided, regular maintenance of your septic system can save you from the most common and easily avoidable failure. Having your septic tanked pumped every every 2-3 years is important to prevent backups and to keep your system operating smoothly. Ignoring this important home maintenance step can lead to many problems with your septic system, including an expensive drainfield failure.

Reach out to a septic services company for assistance.


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