Variety of reasons for septic tank failure

Septic tanks are commonplace in Lake and Sumter Counties. The most daunting sound any homeowner can hear is a gurgling sound coming from the drains of their home. This is usually followed by a slowdown in drainage, which leads to a sewage protection in the tub, shower or toilet.

As you can imagine, the cleanup is disgusting. The repair costs are even worse. The homeowner’s first call is to the septic tank company, which will spend approximately $ 300 on inspecting, pumping, and cleaning your septic tank to determine the problem.

The normal sewer system that exists in most homes in the area is a pure gravity situation from the home to the sewage tank and then to the drain field. The liquids and solids flow from the house into a multi-chamber septic tank, which breaks solids into liquids, and flow from one chamber to another through a septic tank filter over several rows of drain field pipes.

One reason a septic tank becomes clogged is because the solids overwhelm the septic tank. As a result, the system has to be pumped. Another reason a septic tank becomes clogged is because its filter is filled with solids, disposables, and paper products that are not septically safe. Sometimes the drain field is ruined because oils and fats overwhelm the system and this sewage enters the drain field, creating a biocrust that does not allow the sewage to get into the soil.

Essentially, oil and grease build up in the drain field causing the system to stop working properly. In this case, the only remedy is to replace the drain field and dirt in the area. For this reason, a homeowner should never add grease or oil to their sewer system as it could destroy the drain field.

While there are other drainage systems with pumps and other precautions for special circumstances, every homeowner should understand their system and seek expert advice in the event of a failure.

Last month I came across a couple who had a septic tank failure related to the drain field not resulting from any of the conditions described above. In fact, these Marion County homeowners got it right and still had a bill of nearly $ 3,000 for the drain box replacement.

These particular homeowners built their home in 2006 and installed a sewage treatment plant based on a runoff field with three drains. There were three rows of drainage fields to treat the sewage from the tank in their front yard. A few years later, this young couple added a child to their family, and at that point they had problems with their septic tank.

It seemed like the system would start gargling when the washing machine was running. Often times they had to call a septic tank to pump the tank and they were accused of flooding the system – too much water in the drain field. After their second child joined the family, the problem worsened. They were told that they had damaged the drainage field and were spending most of their time limiting water use.

Last winter, the problem became unsustainable and the couple spent the money to have the sewage treatment plant replaced. The family feared the problems with the sewage system. While the wastewater treatment plant was being replaced, the couple asked the septic tank to evaluate what had gone wrong with the drainage field – was the failure caused by biocrust, flooding, or some other reason?

To her surprise, it wasn’t one of those reasons. Rather, your original sewer system failed because it was incorrectly installed. As I mentioned earlier, septic tanks are fed by gravity. In this particular system, two of the drain field outlets were installed too high, preventing the sewage from flowing into them. The sewage cannot flow uphill. In fact, the septic tank company said these drainage fields were completely dry.

An improperly installed drain field caused problems, fears and costs for these homeowners for 15 years. The installer of the original sewer system took no responsibility as there was no evidence and the people who installed and inspected the system had long since disappeared. This septic tank failure was not the homeowner’s fault, and this situation clearly shows how poor installation on anything around the home can cause problems for a lifetime.

A good lesson for everyone – next time something goes down in the house, double-check the original installation and make sure it was done properly. Don’t be quick to blame yourself, your spouse, or others for failure.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and the host of Around the House, which can be seen on

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