5 signs your septic has a problem

Have you ever had that sinking feeling that your septic isn’t working properly? The tip off might literally be a sinking feeling – or a stinking feeling, for that matter.

This pump chamber was completely full due to a failed pump. The home owner knew something was wrong when his toilet wouldn’t flush and the ground around the septic was saturated.

It’s important not to turn a blind eye – or nose – to the tell-tale signs that you’ve got a problem. Doing so could pollute the environment, make your family or pets sick and could even lead to sewage backing up inside your home.

Here are some possible signs that your septic system may have an issue and should be inspected by a licensed septic installer as soon as possible.

  1. Odour – If you smell sewage when you’re out in your yard, you may be smelling sewage seeping  from somewhere in your septic system. When a system is functioning properly, there should be no solids entering the septic bed from the tank, and your septic bed should filter the liquid matter. Bottom line, if it’s working, any fluids have been filtered before entering the soil in the ground around the septic.
  2. Puddles – If your septic bed area is wet, that’s not good. It means, for one reason or another, the liquids are not flowing through the septic system where filtration happens. Instead, they are ponding.
  3. Spongy ground – In extreme cases, the ground around a septic bed can actually feel like Jell-O. If you step in one area and see the ground literally jiggle nearby, your septic needs help ASAP.
  4. Sewage backing up – If there is a blockage leading into your septic bed, eventually the holding tank will become full. When that happens, the liquids and solids – sewage – will have nowhere to go and will back up into your house.
  5. Visible damage – If someone has driven a vehicle over your septic bed, for example, you may see the ground sunken in where the pipe or shell has been crushed.

If in doubt, have someone come out and take a look. Some issues can be easily corrected, saving you money while also keeping things clean and green.

Bleach and your septic

If bleach is in your arsenal of cleaning products, be careful about how you use it. Did you know that if you pour it down the drain, it can be harmful for your septic system?

While bleach is known for its ability to kill germs, that’s exactly what makes it so harmful to your septic. Septic systems rely on bacteria to break down solid materials. Essentially, bacteria are your septic’s friend and it depends on them to thrive.

If the bacteria die, the solids cannot be broken down, resulting in your system getting clogged or backing up. That’s a situation no home or cottage owner wants to endure!

Cleaning your effluent filter

If you have a septic, you should have an effluent filter. Older systems may not be outfitted with an effluent filter, but you can – and should – add one.

A plugged effluent filter, causing a back up in the home.

What is an effluent filter? It’s a filter in your septic tank that prevents solid waste (yep – it’s exactly what you think it is) from entering your septic bed. Here’s an example. It needs to be cleaned at least once per year, or more depending on the usage of the system.

One side of the filter is clogged. Note the clean side. The filter prevented solids from entering the septic bed.

So why is it so important to clean your effluent filter? If it gets clogged it cause a blockage (think constipation for your septic tank), which can cause sewage to back up into your house. That’s not something any home owner wants to deal with!

To clean your effluent filter, open the lid of your septic tank to access the filter. If the lid of your septic is covered in soil, you will need to locate it and expose it by carefully moving soil aside with a shovel.

Carefully rinse the filter off. Don’t splash yourself!

Wearing latex gloves, a face mask and eye protection, carefully remove the effluent filter from the tank. Spray the filter clean with a hose until any residue has been removed. Put the filter back into the filter cartridge inside your septic tank and replace the lid. Ensure pets and children are kept clear during the cleaning process for their safety.

When replacing the filter, note the direction on the top. “Out” should be pointing in the direction of the flow.

Regular maintenance of your septic system is essential for good functioning. Give us a call if you need assistance and be sure to check out the Septic Smart! Guide to understand your septic system.  

The effluent filter has been cleaned and replaced. Clean them every six months, or as needed.