Septic system health


Is there a way that I can measure the health of my septic system? The toilet has started to gurgle when flushed. I have heard that this can be an indicator of a bad system. Can a truck or tractor driving over the tile bed (not the tank itself) cause damage? How about a tree falling hard onto the ground above the tile bed? I also heard that there is a bacteria or enzyme additive that I can pour into the system. Is this additive any good? As a side note, the tank has been pumped within the last year or two.
Thanks for your input.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 13 Dec 2006 12:39:40 GMT, Sherman wrote:

Can't say that it's necessarily a sign of a bad system, but I'd say you have a problem somewhere in the plumbing.
Age and care are usually the determining factors in septic system failure. Usually failure is a result of the drainfield becoming clogged or damaged. On older systems, the concrete pipe leaving the house can get clogged with roots or even break down and collapse. About a year or so ago, my Dad had a problem with the tiles in his drain field breaking down and collapsing, but his field dated to the early '60s. Replacement was his only option.
Clogging can occur over long periods of time if proper care is taken of the system - regular pumping and watch what goes in - or it can occur pretty quickly without proper care. Dad's field lasted 40+ years and the one at my previous house was 30+ years old and working fine when we moved. Where I live now the house is fairly new (built it about 10 years ago), so the system is young yet...
Make sure to pump the tank before solids build up to the point that they're passing the baffle in the tank and going into the field. I know that you said in your post that it'd been done in the last couple of years, just make sure to do it from time to time - time between pumpouts depends on use.
The fella that pumps the tank can tell you about how long you can wait before calling again - assuming continued similar use of the system. Some localities require pumping ever so often, others (like where I'm located) have no requirements. I recommend about 4 or 5 years the first time and ask the pumper if it can go longer in the future. I have to admit that I went 7 years the first time, but I put in an oversize tank (500 gallon capacity above requirement) and only 3 people using it (and trying not to put bad things into the system). Pumper told me to call back in 10 years.

Yes to the truck question the wheels on the vehicle concentrate the weight into 4 small areas. A tractor is less likely to do damage as the tires are designed to spread the weight a little more - a lawn tractor would do no damage unless the field isn't buried as deep as it should be. Dunno about a tree. Although the impact is strong when a tree falls, it is spread over a large area. I would think that a large tree (over 12" diameter) falling lengthwise down the field directly on top of the line might be a problem, but crosswise, I wouldn't think so but I'm no expert. I would try to drop any large trees away from the field and away from the tank if at all possible, just as a precaution.

The best additive comes from your own backside - should provide all that's needed for proper system operation. I have used Rid-x in the past, but the fella that pumped my tank said it's not worth the cost.
Main things to watch are:
*The amount of water sent into the system - water is a septic tank's worst enemy when in large quantities. Large quantities of water can stir up and flush solids and/or scum into the drain field causing it to clog prematurely. I personally recommend a dry well for the laundry to keep the excess water out of the septic system. This may not be up to code - some areas require a tank and field for grey water just like for septic system.
*Do not use a garbage disposal. It adds solids much faster than they can be broken down if you use it with any regularity. I have seen some that say they're safe for septic systems, but I'm very skeptical. Much safer to just dispose of food scraps in the garbage.
*Do not pour grease down the drain. Grease adds to the scum (floating) layer and, if it gets too thick, it can move past the baffle in the tank into the drain field clogging it.
*Don't put excessive amounts of paper into the system - particularly no kleenex or paper towels. Paper is slow to digest so lots of it can make for too much solids in the tank until it breaks down.
*Don't use large amounts of harsh cleaning chemicals that can kill the bacteria in the tank. Look for septic friendly cleaners, it'll say on the container. Even then, don't use excessive amounts.
*Don't pour bleach into the system in large quantities. Small amounts with a load of laundry once in a while shouldn't pose a problem, but the smaller the tank, the less it'll take to kill the bacteria.
*Don't put feminine products into the system - shouldn't do that on sewer either as they can clog the pipes on both systems. Since they don't break down, feminine products in the tank contribute to the solids which means you need to pump sooner.
HTH
Later, Mike (substitute strickland in the obvious location to reply directly) ----------------------------------- snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net
Please send all email as text - HTML is too hard to decipher as text.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Sherman wrote:

I would look at the drain vent first.
Then pull the tank inspection cover and check the water level.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Just an FYI:
The Septic System Owner's Manual By Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, & Julie Jones
http://www.shelterpub.com/_shelter/ssom_book.html
or here:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.