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Question DetailsAsked on 10/1/2013

What does it mean when septic leach lines are saturated? Why does that happen?

About 5 years ago,We had the septic tank pumped out and the leach lines videoed and were told the leach lines out to the leach field were saturated. We now need to have the tank pumped again because it is overflowing.

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I would guess that the wrong term was used to describe your problem. What was probably meant was that the leach field was saturated. This is to say that the soil around your leach field is saturated with solids from the septic tank and you may have to have it replaced. If you do not have the tank pumped often enough this can happen as well as just aging of the system. Many people ignore the septic till there is a problem do to out of sight out of mind or the false belief they are saving money. If you have a large family you may have to have the tank pumped every 2 or three years. Some of the towns around here have passed laws to that effect to avoid such problems.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


Leach Line Saturation is actually a term used in the business - it means the flow of liquid into the soil is so slow due to plugging with sewage particulates, that the leach field perforated pipes or lines are full of liquid instead of the about half or less full they should be, which will fairly quickly cause backup in the tank and overflow from the tank and leach field.

Depending on how old the field is, it may be able to be rehabiltated with a jetting operation that cleans out the pipes and opens up the soil around the leach field pipes - in other cases, you have to put in a new leach field (if you have adequate space and clearances from wells and property lines and house), or if short of space and in more severe cases you have to either build an elevated leach pad on top of the existing field or dig up the leach field to about 3-6 foot depth, truck away the dirt to a landfill, and bring in new permeable leach field fill and rebuild the leach field.

Unfortunately, without soil testing you don't know if the soil in the leach field is plugged up, or only the pipes. You need a civil engineer experienced in septic design to run soil percolation tests a couple of places in the field and tell you - typically about $500-1000 range for this.

Your other alternative is to spend the $500-1500 to have the leach field jetted and vacuum pumped out (which usually also involves pumping the septic tank dry) - which should gain you a year or two at the worst, or may make the field good to go another 10 years or so if it was only plugging at the soil interface with the pipe.

The prior comment about pumping is critical - a 4 person house typically needs to have the septic tank pumped every 2-3 years, an 8 person house yearly or even more, a 2 person can go 5-8 years usually. The smart thing to do is get it done on a short interval the first time, and ask the operator how badly it needed it - if close to full of solids, had quite a way to go, etc - if you tell him how long it has been since the last pumping, he should be able to give you a pretty good idea of what you interval should e for your size family - and of course interval changes if family size changes.

A MAJOR factor in the time between pumpings is the design of the septic tank (number of baffles and flow distance from inlet to outlet primarily), and how much grease and food material goes down the drain - the more grease, the shorter between pumping, and the shorter the field life, as grease floats into the field easily, and degrades into a gooey impervious slime in the field and pipes.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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