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How to Repair a Failing System

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

Knowing that your septic system is failing can be very stressful. There is the expense of pumping out the tank frequently and the daunting task of finding a professional who can repair it for an affordable price. So how do you proceed? We'll walk you through the process. 


Please Note: Never work near or on the tank without a professional present. Septic tanks emit deadly gases and can collapse due to corrosion. 


1. Have your tank pumped out.


While the tank is being pumped out, keep an eye on the outlet pipe. See if the sewage running back into the tank from the absorption bed is clear or black. If it is relatively clear, that could be good news because the absorption bed may have just started to fail & can be easily rectified. But if the water is coming out black, then the pipes are probably starting to fill up with solids & the sewage isn't being treated at all. Take note of how long the sewage runs back into the tank. This can help to determine how bad the system is backing up or if the main pipe is blocked. However, some systems are arranged so the bed is significantly lower than the tank. This means that it will never back up into the tank but will start to come out onto the surface. Keep your system's arrangement in mind,


2. Have a professional find the reason your septic failed.


An unfortunate practice in the septic system industry is for "professionals" to simply walk into the yard and proclaim that it has failed beyond repair and a completely new system is required. This is a poor business practice. The proper procedure is to find the exact reason the septic system is no longer working.  ​ If the cause of a failure is not identified, then it will simply cause a brand new system to fail in the same way.  ​ What a professional should be looking at: - pH of the tank effluent - Sewer camera the main pain & header/distribution box to check for blockages or crushed pipes - Determine how compacted the soil is above the trenches - Uncover some of the pipes to determine if the whole system has failed or just a portion - Request water usage information from the owner - Check to make sure sump pump discharge is not entering the septic tank - Request information about harsh chemical use within the residence


3. Correct the cause of failure.


After performing a detailed assessment of the system & determining the main cause of failure, a long term, affordable solution can be put together.  ​ For example: ​ If the system failed due to too much water use - rejuvenate the absorption bed & reduce water use. You can do this by installing more efficient toilets, showerheads & taps.  ​ If the system failed due to harsh chemicals - rejuvenate the bed & switch to more environmentally friendly products. Such products include: oxygen bleach, liquid laundry soap, pH neutral cleaners, etc.  ​ If the system failed due to lack of oxygen penetrating the soil to feed the bacteria - install a new system that reduces the amount of soil above the trenches & takes into consideration how the oxygen will passively move through the system.  ​ If the system failed by a faulty tank, replace the tank. If it was due to the outlet/inlet baffles, replace them if it is safe to do so. 


4. Maintain the system following a repair or new installation.


Have the tank checked & pumped on a regular basis to prevent increased amounts of solids from entering the absorption bed. Have an inspection port installed near the header or distribution box so you can easily check to see if the septic system is backing up again. 


Have a question regarding our guide? Leave a comment, start a new chat or visit our Ken White Construction Facebook page.


Let us help you with your septic system repair, contact Ken White Construction today!

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