The Challenge with Septic

According to the EPA, over 2 million septic systems fail every year, polluting ground water as well as streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Even systems that are functioning and meeting regulatory standards are at risk of polluting ground water, because the traditional system design does not address removal of contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorous.

To make things worse, most homeowners don’t notice a failed septic system until it pollutes for months or even years.


Common Septic System Failures


What is Septic System Failure?

In simple terms, a septic system is failing when it does not effectively accept liquid wastes from your house, or when it allows biological and nutrient contaminants get into nearby water sources, polluting groundwater, wells, streams, ponds and lakes.


Different Types of Septic System Failure

There are four basic categories of septic system failure:

  1. Sewage Backflow – Sewage backflow occurs when the septic system rejects sewage until it backs up into a home.
  2. Sewage in the Yard – Poorly treated sewage surfaces in the yard or elsewhere in the immediate environment.
  3. Decline in Water Quality – While a septic system drainfield may appear to be working properly, water supply sampling may indicate significant problems with groundwater quality.
  4. Gradual Environmental Degradation – Computer and long-term modeling indicate that septic system use in certain areas will result in gradual environmental degradation.

Why Do Septic Systems Fail?

Septic systems are designed to have a lifetime of 20 to 30 years, under teh best conditions. Eventually, the soil around the absorption field becomes clogged with organic material, making the system unusable.

Many other factors may contribute to septic system failure such as roots blocking pipes, soils saturated by storm water, crushed tile, improper location, poor original design or poor installation.

By far, the most common reason for early failure is improper maintenance by homeowners. When a system is poorly maintained and not pumped out on a regular basis, sludge (solid waste) builds up inside the septic tank, then flows into the absorption field, clogging the septic system beyond repair.