My septic drain field failed last year and I had to re-route it to a
different location. The septic was approx. 13 years old with only moderate
use (ie. no more than 2 people living in the house). I see most of the
houses around me are having to redo theirs as well. The soil is a very
sandy soil (we live in New Mexico). I have heard that adding bleach to the
drain field (not the tank) will help to break up the field as it becomes
saturated and thereby keep the field intact for some time. I don't really
like the idea more so from an enviromental standpoint but was wondering if
this is true? I've heard a lot of stories of how to keep a septic working
well including throwing a dead rabbit into it once a year so naturally I'm
skeptical about this latest "remedy". Any advice?
Septic fields fail over time because the suspended matter in the fluid
eventually plugs up the field. Nothing is going to prevent that. The field size
requirements have greatly increased over the years, so new fields will last
longer than the smaller older ones.
The best thing to do to preserve a field is to make sure nothing besides toilet
paper, body waste and water go into the septic system...
On Fri, 20 Apr 2007 20:47:47 -0600, "James \\"Cubby\\" Culbertson"
You need to examine the evidence and see why it failed. My first
guess was that it was improperly built with inferior parts and
And while you are examining the evidence, you have already started
the repair process. Grab your shovel and get busy.
As I said in my OP, the system has already been re-routed...about a year
ago. When we opened it all up, all the install work was fine. It's just
a matter of the soil solidifying way too fast. Most of the houses around
me are having to dig their's up as well.
This is one of those "you'd have to live here to know what I'm talking
about" situations. NM soil is VERY sandy - I've poured a 5 gallon
bucket of water on the ground and wet an area the size of a dinner
plate. Plus it is very alkaline (similar to LOTS of lime). So what
Cubby is saying is that all the ingredients for concretion (lime,
sand, & water) are in his, and everyone elses, septic field. That
being the case, I doubt anyone outside a similar area would be able to
give good advice. My advise is to follow whatever the local
"experts", who have lots of experience with the problem, recommend.
Consider it a price you have to pay for living in the area of your
There is something very wrong with your septic system. I can't imagine
how a drain field could get plugged that fast, unless there are no
baffles in your septic tank. If you haven't already done it, you need
to have it pumped and inspected. Your drain field failed because solids
somehow got pushed out of the tank into the lines. All solids are
supposed to stay in the tank, where they can be pumped out periodically.
The only thing that is supposed go into the drain field is liquid.
This makes it even more astonishing that your drain field failed. How
often are you having the tank pumped? Two people on a 1500 gallon tank,
no garbage disposal, should be good for 7 years between pumping. If you
waited 13 years, that was obviously about 5 years too long.
Wait -- are you talking about a sand filter system? Those require
regular user maintenance, including back flushing and annual sand
It should take many years for a drain field to become saturated. It
should last at least 50 years. There is something wrong with your
system. I have heard that air injection will open up a plugged drain
field, but haven't ever seen it happen.
There are dozens of state-sponsored sites on the internet that give
excellent directions for maintaining a septic system. Only throw dead
animals in the septic system if you eat the animal first. My septic
system is mostly treated with dead cow and chicken, with the occasional
goose, turkey and sheep.
For email, replace firstnamelastinitial
with my first name and last initial.
I have a baffle system in the tank and we pump it yearly. The folks that
came out to inspect/quote replacement explained that with this soil, the
effluent mixes and basically forms a concrete around the pipes. I agree,
13 years is way too soon to see a failure but most of the neighbors around
me are having the very same issues.
Every year. In fact that is soon to be a village ordinance as well that
tanks are pumped yearly.
Are your septic field lines buried in the sandy soil, in direct contact with
In my replacement field, I laid the field line on a one foot bed of pea
gravel, then backfilled the top of the line with another foot of pea
gravel. The trench was a foot wide, resulting in my 4" field line in the
middle of a square foot of pea gravel. I topped off the bed of pea gravel
with landscape fabric to allow any moisture to drain into the surrounding
ground and not permit any soil to pass into the top of the pea gravel bed.
The job was finished by backfilling the trench and planting grass on the
the company that re-did the field did a number of things. One, they
changed it to a two line field whereas before it was only a single line as
far as I know (and even then, I'm not certain). It is certainly longer
than the previous one. Two, they dug it with a backhoe, set the pvc lines
(directly ON the soil), then put about 2ft of gravel over the top and sides
of it. On top of the gravel, they laid rosen paper and then backfilled
with soil. In retrospect, I probably should have asked them to put a layer
of gravel UNDER the lines and then put fabric over the gravel vs. rosen
Yes, the rock goes UNDER the drain line, not on top of it. The quantity
of rock was about right. Two feet of rock in a 2 foot trench by a
couple hundred feet long gives plenty of storage for water surges. I
assume your house is only 2-bedroom. A 3-bedroom house would need 300'
of drain line. The rock should also be 2 inch washed drain rock, with
no fines, with only enough covering the pipe to keep soil away from the
pipe. Rosen paper will eventually break down. Modern standards spec
geotech fabric, a porous synthetic that will be good for the life of the
For email, replace firstnamelastinitial
with my first name and last initial.
It's a 3 BR house. They laid two lines each at 150' or so. The gravel
they used was the bigger stuff and it looked pretty consistent (ie. no
fines). I just wished I had known more about all of this when they did it
as I would have insisted they put the rock under the line and a fabric vs.
the paper. They are a reputable company here so I assume the methods they
used are the same they use pretty consistently. I suppose at this point,
one of my better options to extending the life of the field is to remove as
much water discharge from the house as possible. I'm looking at diverting
my clothes washer's drain into a grey water system. I'd do the showers as
well but unfortunately, it's a slab on grade house so that's probably a near
imposibility. Thanks for the help.
I had a septic field fail due to the output pipe breaking off inside the
septic tank. When the output pipe broke, it allowed soid matter to fill up
the field. We fixed the output pipe and replace the field with PVC pipe.
The original field was about 45 years old at the time. We moved out of the
house about 5 years ago and as far as I know, the field is still working
fine. A good running septic tank and field is the most enviromentally safe
system of waste disposal.
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