Septic Tank Maintenance and Care – Other Possible Septic Cleaning Issues
Perc tests are one way to plan for things since soil drainage is considered before the field is built and established limits prevent you from putting a septic field where the water table is too high or the soil not absorbent enough to handle all but extraordinary amounts of rain.
One thing that can destroy a drain field is a thirsty tree. Septic building experts should place the drain field where there are no tree roots likely to tap into, tear up other otherwise displace the plastic pipes that make up the leach lines. Tree roots can play havoc with a septic field, since they can travel for hundreds of feet in search of moisture, and are strong enough to tear up any kind of pipe you can lay. Drain fields should not be planted with deep-rooted plants; nor should they be used as parking or turnaround sites, since the weight of trucks or automobiles can compact the earth (preventing proper perking) and crush pipes.
Your house’s external drains are also important to the health and care of your septic. When an inch of rain falls in a storm, the roof of an average-sized house can run off over 50,000 gallons of water! If your gutters, downspouts, and outside drains aren’t planned correctly, you may be delivering astounding amounts of water to the septic field without even knowing about it. Gutters should drain away from the house, but they shouldn’t be draining into your septic field, or they will soon be overwhelmed and become useless.
One of the most important things you should know about your septic system is that, in many ways, it is like any organic body. It can’t deal with inorganic waste; that is, waste that can’t be broken down naturally. For that reason, things like plastics, rubber, solvents, and acids shouldn’t enter the septic system. “Disposable” diapers are diapers that should be disposed of by transport to a landfill rather than being flushed down the toilet because they are made with plastic that will clog drains. If plastics do make their way into the septic tank, there they sit, since bacteria can’t break them down. Only organic things should be put into the septic system, and even those things should be broken into pieces small enough that they won’t wind up as a clog in a pipe somewhere between a plumbing fixture and the septic tank. If the septic tank itself has a healthy population of bacteria, those billions of little microbes will break the organic matter down even further. However, if the bacterial population has been decimated by the use of things like chlorine bleach or by acid or alkaline drain cleaners, the organic waste won’t be broken down and the tank will fill up faster than ever.
One of the things that can destroy the bacteria in your septic system is bleach. Chlorine bleach is found in cleansers, many household sprays, and in laundry detergents.
A well-maintained septic system shouldn’t create any odor, and the smell of sewage coming from drains is a distinct warning sign that something is wrong. Coupled with toilets that suddenly flush slower than usual, sewage smells may indicate that the tank is full and must be pumped. If you have sewage smells even though your tank isn’t full and the plumbing seems to be working all right, you may have a problem with a sewer vent pipe. Sewer vent pipes vent sewer gas from plumbing fixtures to the outside of the house. If the vent pipes aren’t installed correctly, if they aren’t high enough or if they become clogged, you may wind up with sewer gas in the house. Sewer gas is dangerous on two counts: first, it contains methane, which is flammable and explosive. Second, sewer gas can suck the oxygen out of the house and cause death. Either way, you’re in big trouble, so if you smell sewer gas, don’t wait—open the windows, leave the room, and call a licensed plumber.