Slow-moving drains and wastewater/sewage backups are the most common symptoms that all is not well in your plumbing system. These symptoms may be caused by an internal/localised blockage or a septic system failure.
Usually, backups will start with the lowest plumbing fixture in the home, and if it affects multiple fixtures, you can assume that the problem is system-wide. Also, watch out for sewage odours, sewage-smelling wet patches in the compound or gurgling sounds from your drains. At these signs, contacting a certified plumber can help prevent disastrous consequences like walking into a room full of blackwater and sewage.
Often, septic tank problems can be prevented by proactive inspections and maintenance. This article highlights some tips to reduce the incidence of system failures in your home.
1. Maintain your leaching bed
The leaching bed is most often the culprit in systemic failure, and it's also the most expensive to fix. Often, you'll have to dig out the entire field, remove microbes (they create a bio mat to stop water from seeping into the field) and pipes and replace, then wait for the grass to grow over it again. Therefore, it's in your best interest to proactively ensure that your leaching bed is well maintained by:
ensuring roof drains aren't connected to the septic system or leaching bed, as this can saturate the field during rainy seasons
setting up your washing machine to drain into your regular (municipal) system and hence prevent detergent effluent from reaching and destroying the bed. If you solely rely on your septic tank, pre-treatment of greywater with detergent should be done before it's allowed onto the leaching bed
inspecting the septic tank at least twice a year (more often if you have a large family or smaller tank) and pumping out as necessary
not leaving any heavy objects like water tanks, portable pools or cars on the leaching bed
2. Install a backup prevention valve
Having a backup prevention valve on your main sewer line means you won't need to plug other drains into your home to prevent backwater flow. You can contact a plumber to have it installed – the best place is close to the basement toilet, which is where backflow often begins. If you have one, ensure that it is inspected at your regular plumbing maintenance visits, so that you can get ahead of problems.
3. Anticipate problems
If you have a smaller septic tank or a larger family, schedule frequent pump-outs since the usage is likely to surpass what your leaching bed can absorb. In addition, before events like parties that will have surges in usage, ensure the tank is pumped and inspected to reduce the likelihood of overflow during or after the guests leave.