Signs of a Failing Septic System (and what to do about it)
Owning a septic system is a “necessary evil” of living in the country or owning a cabin. Septic system failure is an eventual certainty, since no system can last forever.
But it can be mostly pain free if you’re able to stay ahead of issues.
Aside from the issues that eventually creep in after a system’s 20-30 year lifespan, what are other causes of septic system failure? Septics can fail because of blocked pipes (from roots or debris), installation flaws (in the mechanics or the location of the septic) or storm water backups, among other things. But if you’re maintaining regular inspection schedules and service routines, you should be able to make maximum use of your septic system and delay costly replacements for quite a long time. After all, most septic failure issues can be traced back to improper care and service from homeowners.
Here are some ways to know if you’re up against an issue with your septic system — and some things you can do about it.
Hearing Gurgling Sounds or Having Slow-Moving Water
Sometimes gurgling can happen when water is backing up due to blocked ventilation or freezing pipes. But when you’re hearing gurgling more frequently or without weather interference, you’re potentially looking at a septic system issue. You may also observe slow drains and toilets. If you’re hearing gurgling, try to clear any ventilation pipes (sometimes they can be packed with snow or debris). Also check for storm sewer backups and other external sources of water that could be overloading your system.
Rarely, however, will a failing septic system show only one symptom. Other indicators will also help you identify what’s going on.
Soggy Lawn or Lush, Green Lawn
Soggy ground or standing water around your tank or drainfield could be a sign of a septic system that isn’t properly managing or processing wastewater. Often times, this soggy ground will be accompanied by bad sewage-type odors in your drainfield and around your septic mount along with extraordinarily green grass – even in dry months. If you’re seeing these indicators around your septic system, it’s worth calling in a septic professional to see if the problem can be addressed without a massive undertaking of equipment and service calls.
Drinking Water Issues
An improperly functioning septic system can release chemicals, nitrates, or bacteria into surrounding water sources, including your well. You may notice cloudiness or murkiness to your water. You may notice smells or tastes that seem off. But not always. Sometimes water issues are undetected initially.
As you look to stay ahead of these issues, there are things you can do to be ready.
Keep Ahead of Maintenance
Don’t let too much time pass between regular inspections, scheduled pumping, and other necessary septic system services. The more proactive you are, the more effective you’ll be at preventing septic issues.
Finally, the most obvious — and unfortunately the often most neglected — piece of advice. If you’re septic system fails, you don’t want to be caught without any financial options. If you’ve done some proactive work on the front end to make sure you’re saving, then a big-dollar expense won’t be nearly as devastating to you. If you can set money aside in a “rainy day” fund to help you cover unexpected repairs and replacements around your home or cabin,
Sometimes it’s as easy as putting an extra $100 a month aside. This could even give you enough of a cushion to help you make a sizable downpayment on the repairs or replacement costs of your septic system.