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Question DetailsAsked on 9/7/2011

what do we need to know to guide us in getting septic tank work done?

We have been told we may need a new drain field. We don't know how to judge if this work is necessary or not.

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1 Answer


There are a lot of different symptoms you will see if your drain field is not working properly. A drain field that is not working properly may have a clog or other 'maintenance' issues that does not require replacing or relocating the field, so make sure these other options have been checked/exhausted first.

Signs that your drain field is not able to handle the volume or is clogged can be actual dampness/swampy, greener grass/ faster growing grass just over the field, odors, and/or your plumbing continuously backs up or slowly drains.

The age of your system is one factor to consider if you need a new field. An old septic system that has never been pumped or re-built can make the drain field look like it is the problem.

The use is also one; if your house typically only has 2 or 3 people living in it, but recently had 4 more people move in, your system might simply not be sized for the increased use. (A perk test would have established how many bedrooms when your house was built- if you have more than 1 or 2 people per bedroom, you might be overworking the system).

Changes in the area also affect perk tests; if you added a lot of new pavement (new driveways, etc) or added an addition, etc. If the lots around you were recently developed, they all could be adding to the stresses of the site to handle storm water and septic requirements.

What have you tried so far?

Sometimes just having your septic tank pumped will relieve the pressure on the drain field. After time, the grease and soaps and 'non-flushables' that are dumped into your septic system will coat the sand/gravel bed where the bacteria are supposed to be breaking down the solids. Since the bacteria isn't getting new material (it is blocked by the junk on top) and isn't getting oxygen, they start to die / stop working. Then your septic system isn't working anymore, and your drain field is just passing waste / odor out to the ground.

There are also cleaners that can be 'flushed' to help disolve and add new bacteria to older septic systems. They claim to help eliminate the odors and disolve the grease and soap that often form layers to stop the septic system from working well. This might be the cheapest thing to try first.

Actually replacing the drain field is the last step if your septic system is not working properly. There are a lot of struggling contractors out there who need work; so be careful about jumping into a fix that will most likely be $10,000 to $35,000 to fix. Get multiple opinions, don't ask for an estimate on replacing the drain field, ask for an estimate to 'fix the symptoms'. A good plumber or contractor will recognize, as an example, that if your older system has never been pumped, that this is a more likely solution than replacing the system, etc. A less good one will replace the drain field and septic tank, solving your problem but generating several thousand dollars in work that were not actually needed.

Good luck!

Answered 9 years ago by Kenny Johnson

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