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
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.
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
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.
(substitute strickland in the obvious location to reply directly)
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