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3 Ways to Prevent Septic System Flooding

Septic System
For those who live outside of city sewer lines, septic systems offer an effective means of dealing with residential waste. Yet septic systems also come with a unique set of potential problems, with flooding being one of the worst of all. A flooded septic system may cause sewage to back up into your home. In addition, your drain field may turn into a soggy and unsanitary swamp.

Fortunately, homeowners can keep flooding at bay through a combination of regular maintenance and pertinent knowledge. If you own a home with a septic system and would like to learn more about preventing flooding, keep reading. This article outlines three effective strategies for keeping your septic system flood-free.

1. Have Your Tank Pumped Regularly

Unlike city sewer systems, septic systems have a fixed capacity in terms of solid waste. Such waste accumulates over time inside of the septic tank. There, anaerobic bacteria break the waste down into a compact layer of sludge. Liquid waste, meanwhile, flows out of the tank and into your drain field through a series of perforated underground pipes.

Your drain field can only process a certain amount of liquid waste in any given time span. Excessive water use — for instance, when you have a houseful of guests — often leads to backups and flooding. The drain field simply cannot handle liquid as quickly as it builds up. Tank volume plays a key role in determining how well your septic system manages water.

As your tank fills up with solid waste, its available volume grows smaller. This decrease in size leaves less room for liquid waste holding. The risk of flooding grows as tank volume shrinks. For that reason, have your tank pumped at least once every two or three years. If you do not know the last time your tank was pumped, call a professional to come take a look.

2. Protect Your Drain Field

As noted above, drain fields have a distinct capacity in terms of their liquid capacity. The wetter your drain field, the less liquid waste it can process. People often experience septic system flooding during periods of intense rainfall. If the ground becomes saturated enough, rain water may even back up into your septic tank.

Those with septic systems must take steps to ensure proper storm water management. Your goal should be to minimize the amount of water entering your drain field. Take a close look at where your gutter systems release water. Use longer or angled downspouts to route water away from your drain field.

Also avoid using your drain field for parking or heavy equipment storage. The weight of vehicles compacts the soil, decreasing its ability to absorb waste water. Likewise, avoid planting bushes, trees, or shrubs on your drain field. The root systems of such plants further decrease the capacity of the drain field’s soil, making flooding more likely.

3. Minimize Water Use During Power Outages

Not all septic systems move water from the tank to the drain field in the same way. The simplest systems use gravity, placing the drain field pipes at a lower elevation than the tank's outlet pipe. Other systems don't have the depth to work by gravity alone. Such systems use electrical pumps to push liquid waste through the outlet pipe and into the drain field.

Those with pump-based septic systems often experience flooding during electrical outages. Without electricity, the pump cannot move water out of the septic tank. At such times, minimize water use as much as possible. The less water you send into your septic tank, the lower the chances of it overflowing.

In most cases, you can avoid septic system flooding through a combination of regular maintenance and smart water management. For more information about how to keep your system working correctly, contact Lancaster's septic experts at JT Sanitation.