Complications of not emptying your septic tank; solutions | prevention

Do you know one of the reasons grasses are greener is because there might be excess manure underneath that area; plenty of wastewater and effluent buried under the soil in between the roots of those grasses. So it’s either you’re trying to germinate crops by adding excess manure or you just have a constantly overflowing septic tank underneath the ground surface.

Septic tanks/ sewage systems are bound to fail when they are not maintained or emptied properly. This could lead to the back-up of sewage discharge, cause bends and fracture to pipes, contaminate the surrounding environment and ultimately causing collapse to septic tanks or soakaways. Very possible outcomes considering the weight and toxicity of sewage waste. As time goes on, it weakens the water holding capacity of the tank.

According to resolves; the time limit for concrete septic tanks filled with sewage is to last for about 9- 10 months before total rupture; however if you persist on using the sewage system, not only will your experience be quite negative. You shorten the time limit to about 7- 8 months before collapse.


Hence, if you are having difficulties flushing down faeces, or your toilet bowl surprises you with plenty of wastewater sitting comfortably inside the bowl, there are chances you might have a sewage crisis my friend.

Septic tank failure doesn’t just affect the toilet. In a combined plumbing system, kitchens, bathroom sinks and drains are not spared. They will clog up pretty soon enough. Then, their drains won’t be able to handle running water.

Therefore, to avoid getting caught napping when this happens, it is important to know how the septic tank works.

Furthermore, it is important you know what should and shouldn’t go into your septic tank, why you shouldn’t delay pumping when it is full, and what to do when it fails. If these and many more are some of the questions you need answers to, then you just got yourself landed on the right page.


What is a Septic Tank?

In a combined system of plumbing, everything and anything that goes down the drains of your toilet, bathroom, kitchen, even your washing machine ends up in a separate contained area called the Septic Tank.

A septic tank is an enclosed space or container that is buried underground. It is where sewage waste is collected and treated before they are disposed in the drain field.

Solids from drains are reduced to liquid through anaerobic actions. Concrete, plastic or fiber glass are popular materials used to make the Septic tanks.


How does the Septic Tank Work

Understanding how a septic tank works, first, requires proper maintenance. Let’s dive down, and we’ll explain the engineering behind how your septic tank works.

Bacteria are the lifeblood of any septic tank. They are responsible for breaking down the solid wastes into liquids.

The septic tank has to have passage ways– an inlet that’s connected to your sewage pipe, and an outlet leads to the tank’s drain field.

  • All wastes through drains are collected by the Septic tank.
  • Effluent also referred to as watery waste fills up most of the tank.
  • Any solids contained in the effluent are devoured by anaerobic bacteria. Their job is to break those solids further down.

The rest of the solids usually inorganic that cannot be consumed settle at the bottom of the septic tank with some byproducts of the bacteria forming “sludge”

Scum, a thin layer of oils, greases and fats float to the top, above the sludge.

Like a large mixture of sand and water in a large container, solids in the septic tank fall to the bottom, while liquids and lighter sewage materials float to the top.

  • The rest of the waste remaining after the separation flows out through the septic tanks’ outlet to the drain field. Most septic tanks have filters that prevent solids from flowing out from the tank into the drain field.

The drain field is where the bulk of the work is done in a septic system.

Bacteria in the septic tank are somewhat limited in actively breaking down the waste component because this requires enough oxygen.

On the drain field, this is very possible. This is why there are more bacteria working on the effluents on the field than in the tank.

A Drain field also known as leech field requires a percolation test in areas they are to be installed. This is to ensure that wastewater from the tank can percolate into the ground soil without hassles.

Drain fields have a network of pipes with holes that spreads the effluents throughout the field.

  • When effluents flow into the drain field, they escape through the holes in the drain field pipes into the surrounding gravel and leech into the soil.
  • Aerobic bacteria in the gravel and the soil begin to act on the effluents and finally complete the waste decomposition.
  • After this, clean water is seeped down into the ground. Some form aquifers. Some are evaporated. Others are used up by roots of plants.

And then, the cycle repeats itself.

           septic tank-side view                                                     septic tank- top view

How to know if your septic tank is full

For newbies, just physically inspecting the site where your septic tank is buried is a good starting point. If you find sludge and waste water around the area then you should have it checked.

Secondly, if your toilet starts popping bubbles or gurgles during a flush that’s a sign your tank could be full.

Finally, when your water from kitchen or bathroom drains slowly, you may have a “full septic tank” situation at your hands.


It is recommended that your septic tank be pumped every 3-5 years to help maintain a long streak of proper sewage disposal.

Some of these will help you maintain a clog-free Septic tank:

  • Pump and clean out your septic tank periodically. Every 3-5 years is very okay. Doing this prevents pipes and drains from clogging.
  • Stop using Chemicals;

Stop flushing chemicals down your toilet, bathroom or kitchen drains when cleaning them. In fact, it is advisable you avoid them all the same. Strong chemicals like pesticides, anti-freeze, and even soaps that contain agents that are non-environmental friendly should be avoided. They kill the activities of bacteria, and reduce their numbers when they get in the septic tank.

  • Do Not Flush Materials that are Non-degradable and Environment friendly.

Non-degradable materials like diapers, cotton swabs, plastics, clothes should not be flushed down toilet drains. These things cause clogs in the septic tank.

  • Map Out Parts of Your Septic System;

Single out the components of your septic system using stakes. This way you know exactly where they are and how to keep them properly maintained.


Where is my septic tank located?

As a homeowner or a potential one, learning where your septic tank is located is important in case it develops any kind of fault.

Below are 5 ways to find your septic tank:


Follow the sewer lines:

Since every drain pipes in your house leads to the septic tank, locate your sewer lines. They are usually made from heavy PVC pipes or cast iron. Next, follow the length of your sewer pipes to where they end. Since sewage flows better down hilled, your septic tank should be within that area too.

The surface ground around the tank maybe wet since that area doesn’t percolate easily.


Use a metal detector

Since most septic tanks are built from concrete, they are often reinforced with steel bars. When you switch on your metal detector, these steel bars are easily picked up the detector.


Ask your neighbors where their septic tanks is located

Asking your neighbor where you can find their septic tank can help you locate yours. If your house is similarly structured like theirs, chances are your septic tank will be in the same area as theirs too.


Enquire from the house contractor

If your house was built say within the last 4-9 years, asking the house contractor for the information shouldn’t come off as hard.

However, if your house is very old, then, they may need the overall architectural sketch of the house before they can provide you with such information.


Ask the previous owner

If you bought the house from someone else, and you missed asking this before, during or after the purchase, you still can. And what better way than putting a call through or sending an email to them, asking them to help you locate the septic tank in your new home.

They should be able to give you the exact spot. But even if they can’t, they should be able to remember the area it is located.



Can heavy rainfall cause my septic tank/septic drain field to fail?

The rains are coming down hard. So hard the bang on your roof sounds like the rapid steps of school kids down a hallway.

But, it doesn’t bother you because you are all couched and covered. You prepared for this. However, what about your septic tank?

Oh?! THAT! Can the pelting rain do any damage to your septic tank and septic drain field?

As unraveling as the answer that follows that question, it is the reality of things.

And that’s an ABSOLUTE YES.

A heavy rainfall can cause a clog in your septic tank even if everything seems fine.

Septic backup are very common during and after heavy rainy periods. Additionally, if your septic tank is in a beat up shape already even light showers for few hours can complete the damage.

Huge amount of rainfall can cause flooding. Flood can sit directly above your soil absorption area also known as your drain field. Due to this, the whole area above your drain field eventually becomes soggy.

Because the drain field area has been slightly submerged by flood, effluents from your septic tank cannot flow out into the field. As a result, the flow of wastewater from your septic tank to the field is now impeded, and wastewater can only go back to where it’s coming from.

Thus, back flowing happens. Water goes through your drains, and back into your toilet, bathrooms and kitchen. In turn, this is followed by the pungent stench off the sewer gases.

A flooded drain field is a recipe for disaster. It is catastrophe served on a golden plate unleashing various serious health hazards.

Untreated sewage from a flooded drain field and a backed up septic tank can leech into the groundwater and into streams and rivers. This in turn can cause serious water and environmental contamination.


But, this doesn’t have to be the case if you use the safety tips we have shortly explained below. These tips are for: before, after and during heavy rainfall.


What to do before a heavy rainfall

Before the rains arrive there are usually signs. There’s the weather forecast, the months you should expect rainfall etc. When you have an idea of all these, make sure you have your septic tank inspected. And within that period, let it be properly maintained.

  • Keep you gutters completely clear of debris. Debris causes clogs in gutters.
  • Direct runoffs including drains from your gutter away from the drain field area to prevent it from getting soggier.
  • Do not attempt to plant or drive heavy equipment on the drain field. This will reduce the field’s absorption rate.


What to do during rainfall

At this time, your plumbing system may begin to show signs of stress like the gurgling of your toilet when you flush; water is backing up your drainage into your sink and shower pod and the stench of sewer gases.

A heavy downpour leaves you totally or partially paralyzed as you are left with little or no options at all.

However, you can try the following below as this will help relieve the strain on your septic tank and drain area.

  • Rope in the urge to flush every time you use the toiler. Only do it if it is necessary.
  • Avoid too many baths within that period.
  • Calling a septic service will provide relief but only for a short while.


What to do after rainfall

  • If your drain field is still covered with water after the rain has suspended, then we suggest you call in a professional septic service to have a check at your drain field and septic tank.
  • If silt and debris have clogged the holes in your septic tank after inspection, call in a professional. However, we advise you open your septic tank when the water has receded and the area is less saturated than before.


How far should you put the septic tank from the house?

Usually, the specifications for the distance between your house and the septic tank depend on your community’s local codes and regulations.

It varies from one place to another. But a common rule is: your septic tank should be at least 10 feet away from your house. This is considered to be the normal minimum distance.


A good sewage system is a clog free sewage system. This means less headache and lesser worries over expenses. Always remember: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”