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Septic system turf color

The color of your grass could be an indicator to septic trouble.

Radio interview source: Brad Lee, Associate, Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

 
It's not always necessary to dig into the septic system to look for trouble. The color of the turf on top can tell you what's going on underneath.
 
Brad Lee is an associate extension specialist with the University of Kentucky. He says the color of the grass over the septic system absorption field is a key indicator of performance. In warmer months and during dry periods, grass over the trenches can turn brown. But Lee says this is simply an aesthetic problem. 
 
"I don't want homeowners to think that because they have these brown stripes in their lawn, they need to water their lawn," he says. "That is the crux of seeing a brown color. The reason is, if you have brown stripes over your septic system and the turf grass, it's operating as it should be. That's fantastic. That means the soil is accepting the water at a rate fast enough that you don't have water that's backing up into the trenches."
 
On the other hand, lush green grass over the septic system trenches may look nice, but Lee says it could be an early sign that serious problems are looming. 
 
"If it's green relative to the rest of your lawn that would mean that you've got water that is ponded in that soil absorption field," says Lee. "And it doesn't necessarily mean your septic system is failing, just means that your trenches are getting full of water. So it's an indicator that your storage capacity is diminished, and there's a chance if you have excessive water use, you could have surfacing or ponding of waste water effluent."
 
If you see green stripes, Lee recommends taking a hard look at your water use.  Keep a daily log for at least a week. Cut down on the length of showers and loads of laundry, and see if that changes things. If you've cut back on water but the green stripes continue for a few months, contact a septic system professional.
 

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