Why do septic systems fail? | Living the Country Life

Why do septic systems fail?

Image: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Does sewage back up into your house?
  • Is there a wet, smelly spot in your yard that is difficult to mow?
  • Is your septic tank piped to a road ditch, storm sewer, stream, or connected to farm drain tile?

If you answered yes to any of these, your septic system could be improperly designed or failing. It is not treating and disposing of sewage in a safe, sanitary manner.

In a properly operating septic system, the solid material in the sewage is settled out in a septic tank and stored until removal by pumping. The effluent from the tank is still sewage. It has a strong odor and is high in disease-causing organisms. This effluent is treated and absorbed in a soil absorption (or leach) field.

No matter what the cause, septic system failure is a nuisance and a health hazard that should be corrected promptly. Failures can result in pollution of wells, lakes, and streams. Some of the more common reasons for septic system failure are discussed here. These failures can be attributed to several causes. A trained sanitarian should diagnose the problem and make recommendations for corrective action.

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