Leach Field Failed? How to Spot Warning Signs

Leach Field Failing?  Check the Warning Signs

Leach field failing is a common part of owning a septic system, at least on a long enough time line.  The way that a septic system is designed, combined with the maintenance / household consumption determine just how long a leach field will last.  If you catch the warning signs, it is rather easy to avoid having to spend thousands on leach field replacement.  Read along as we take a closer look at the leach field in general and what causes failure, and just how you can spot the warning signs.

Before we can discuss the warning signs, we must first cover a few septic system basics.

OK, waste water and waste are deposited into your septic tank.  In the septic tank, naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes break down the waste and liquefy it.  This liquid then travels out the lateral lines and into the leach field, where it drains into the soil.  Soil acts as a natural filter and purifies the water before entering into the water table.  That is the basic rundown of the septic system process, when the system is working, that is.  The problem is that as homeowners we tend to use anti bacterial cleaners, laundry detergents, hand soaps and about a million other products that once they enter the septic tank they begin to kill bacteria.

When bacteria and enzyme levels are reduced, septic waste is not able to be digested and broken down as easily.  This results in floating particles of waste in the liquid that drains into the drain field.  It seems harmless enough, some particles that float leaving the septic tank, but when those particles reach the soil, they are caught in the natural filter.  It is there, in the leach field, that these particles accumulate and develop what is called Bio Mat.  Overtime, this is what causes leach field failure.

So how can you spot this process before its too late?

First and foremost take a moment to think about how old your septic system is.  In many cases the biggest warning sign of them all is the age.  Just because your septic system is still working does not mean that you have avoided the above description, it just means it hasn’t caused significant enough blockage to be deemed leach field failure.    Old septic systems always need to be treated and maintained.  If your system is over 10-12 years old, adopt a septic maintenance routine at once, that is all the warning signs you need.

Read more about Septic System Problem

Second, examine the leach field itself.  Take the time to walk the leach field area on the property.  Can you see discoloration in the area, perhaps in the pattern of the drain lines, or in parts of the leach field.  Many times homeowners think that bright green strips means that the system is working well…it does not.  It means you have bio mat developing in the leach field.  And just as with all fecal matter, it fertilizes the grass making it grow bright green and thick.  If you have bright green or thicker grass in leach field then that is a warning sign.

Finally, take a stick or a small shovel and probe the leach field.  Is there moisture present in the soil?  More than recent rain should allow for?  In many cases, the top soil will be dry but just below the surface will be a moist layer.  This is where the bio mat will be.  If  you notice water just under the surface, or a black or deep green wet layer to the soil, that is all the warning sign you need, act immediately to rectify the situation.

In most cases, the best septic treatments are strong enough to do the job, however some homeowners opt to replace the entire leach field.  Either approach will work, although septic treatments are significantly less expensive.

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