Why Maintain My Septic System.

There are many reasons why septic system operation and maintenance is so important.

  • Because all systems are designed to operate with routine maintenance; like your car or truck
  • Because it typically costs $5,000 to $20,000 to replace a failing septic system with a new, alternative type of sewage disposal system which you will likely need if yours fails.
  • Because contact with untreated human waste and wastewater can make people sick and contaminate nearby wells, groundwater, and drinking water sources.
  • Because a well-functioning system protects the health of your family, neighborhood, and the environment.
  • Because it protects the financial investment you have in your home and neighborhood.
  • Because a failed septic system can bring declining property values, deny building permits, and delay real estate sales until repaired or replaced.
  • Because it’s the law; the State Board of Health regulations (WAC 246-272A) state that septic system owners shall” assure a complete evaluation of the system components to determine functionality, maintenance needs, and compliance with regulations and any permits “and for local Health Departments to educate and monitor system performance, particularly in areas of special concern.

When is a septic system failing?

A septic system is said to have failed when it no longer fulfills its function of absorbing and treating wastewater from your home. When this occurs, wastewater may back up in your yard, or (less obviously but cause for equal concern) may contaminate your well water and nearby surface waters with pathogens and nutrients (e.g., phosphorous, nitrogen).

Most drainfields have a design life of 20-30 years, at the end of which their soils are simply too clogged to accept wastewater for treatment. This clogging can happen prematurely if, for example, high amounts of solids are consistently carried over from your septic tank to your drainfield (e.g., you haven’t pumped your septic tank for years and/or you consistently overload your system). Hydraulic overloading can cause drainfield failure because continual saturation of the soil in the drainfield can affect the quality of the soil and its ability to naturally remove toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants from the wastewater. While improper care and maintenance is by far the leading cause of septic system failure, poor design and siting can also be a factor: perhaps your drainfield was sized too small for your household, or the soils are poorly drained.