Signs of Septic System Failure

Possible Causes of Septic System Failure?


Your septic system was designed based on the number of bedrooms and square footage of your home. A two bedroom home septic system is designed for four persons or less. As your family grows so does the waste; the septic system your home was originally installed for will eventually become overloaded. The drainfield will become saturated and the septic tank will receive solids faster than it can dispose of.

A faulty plumbing fixture such as a running toilet can force hundreds of gallons of waste water to go through the septic tank and into the drainfield, thus causing saturation of the earth under the drainfield and failure of the septic system.

Residential washing machines are often connected to septic tanks. Washing machines are responsible for the highest volume of water going out of your house at one time. Some of the newer machines discharge as much as 65 gallons per cycle; compare this to flushing your commode, using two to five gallons. Washing numerous loads of laundry at one time can overload your septic system with water; remember this goes into your septic tank and into the drainfield. Try spacing your laundry over several days.


Remember that solid waste in your septic tank is decomposed by bacteria. The type of bacteria that lives, eats and multiplies in septic tanks does not thrive at all in solidified grease. Grease is the leading cause of trouble in septic tanks and drainfields. Do not pour grease down your sink it will end up in your septic tank. Remember, grease is not sewage it is garbage and should go in your garbage can.


Driving over your septic tank or drainfield will damage your septic tank and compact the drainfield.


Do not plant tress and shrubs near or on the septic system. Roots will damage and clog the lines and seals.

Warning Signals of Septic System Problems

  • Sluggishness when flushing toilet.
  • Any plumbing backups.
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing.
  • Grass in the yard growing faster and greener in one particular area.
  • Ground mushy underfoot.
  • Obnoxious odors inside or outside.
  • Low spots beginning to appear in the yard.
  • Pump system alarming.

Things To Avoid:

  • Detergents, kitchen wastes, laundry wastes and household chemicals in normal amounts do not affect the proper operation of household sewage treatment systems. However, excessive quantities can be harmful.
  • Avoid the disposal of cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, plastics, trash, etc., into your household sewage system. These items are not readily decomposed.
  • Septic tank additives are not recommended. Additives are unnecessary to the proper operation of household systems and may cause the sludge and scum in the septic tank to be discharged into the absorption field, resulting in premature failure . Some additives may actually pollute groundwater.
  • Garbage grinders substantially increase the accumulation of solids in the septic tank, as well as the solids entering the absorption fields and pits. Their disadvantages outweigh the convenience they provide and are not recommended for households with their own sewage treatment systems. If used, the septic tank size should be increased.
  • Connecting your laundry wastes to a separate waste system, while not normally necessary, will reduce the load on the regular system and help permit the long term survival of the system.
  • All roof, footing drainage, and surface water must be excluded from the system. This drainage water can be discharged to the ground surface without treatment; make sure it drains away from your sewage treatment system. Roof downspouts should not drain toward the drainfield.
  • Backwash from water softeners and/or iron/manganese removal equipment may be discharged to the septic tank and drainfield system or to a separate system.
  • Roots from trees in the immediate area of the drainfield lines may clog the system. If roots enter the drainfield a total replacement is needed.