Is My Septic System Failing?

What is Septic System Failure?  Why do Systems Fail?

Having your septic system fail is no fun. Replacing your current system is sure to be a messy and expensive endeavor.  Expect to spend between $4-12 thousand dollars for the privilege of having someone bring very loud machinery to your house and completely destroy your backyard. Spending that much money should be fun, right?

Let’s give that price tag a second look.  Consider the cost of your septic system with the cost of  being on city sewer.  My monthly city sewer bill runs about $30.00.  Over 15 years, I’m paying $5,400 for city sewer and another $2,300 for city water.  That adds up to paying $7,700 for the combined services over 15 years (about the life span of your septic system).

If your septic system is 14 years old (or older), don’t be surprised if begins to show signs of failure (or start texting at the dinner table).  Over time, all septic systems fail and yours is no exception.

Septic system failure can manifests itself in a number of ways.  Wastewater going into a system faster than it can be absorbed into the ground will look to escape through the path of least resistance.  This path determines where and how the system fails.  Sometimes wastewater will seep up to the ground surface over the tank or absorption field.  Other times, it will back up into the house.   This may cause your pluming to slow, toilets to not flush properly, drains to gurgle, offensive odors to radiate and your Mother-In-Law to avoid your house completely.

As I mentioned, all systems have an undetermined life span but hydraulic overloading (using too much water) or putting high strength wastewater into your system can shorten the life-span of your system causing premature failure.

Usually, failure that occurs in a system over 12 years old has failed because of the accumulation of a bio-mat in the trench/absorption field.  The growth of a bio-mat may be icky but is normal.  However, a  quick developing, growing and prosperous  bio-mat is not normal and is extra icky.

Now, let’s look at how Indiana regulations define failure…

Septic system failure as defined by the Indiana State Septic Code 410 IAC 6-8.2

Sec. 31. “Residential on-site sewage system failure” means a residential on-site sewage system that exhibits one (1) or more of the following:
(1) The system refuses to accept sewage at the rate of design application thereby interfering with the normal use of residential plumbing fixtures.
(2) Effluent discharge exceeds the absorptive capacity of the soil, resulting in ponding, seepage, or other discharge of the effluent to the ground surface or to surface waters.
(3) Effluent is discharged from the system causing contamination of a potable water supply, ground water, or surface waters.
A failed residential on-site sewage system is a health hazard.”

Your next step is to get your system fixed! See Indiana Septic System Installation Proceeding Guide

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