When it comes to owning a septic tank, most homeowners understand that regular maintenance is a must. That being said, few understand just why it’s so absolutely important to do so and what the implications and impact a failed septic tank can have. Not only can it put your loved ones in harm’s way, but it can have a devastating impact on the surrounding environment.
What is the potential impact?
Truth be told, septic tanks are actually a green alternative to public wastewater treatment; as those facilities use strong chemicals to treat the wastewater. Septic tanks keep things simple – using bacteria to break down solids and then sedimentary filtration to clean the remaining impurities.
That being said, failing systems produce just the opposite. They can introduce untreated wastewater into the environment and that act alone can create a wide range of problems. When a septic system fails it’ll either contaminate the groundwater or the surface water – creating environmental risks for plants, nearby streams and lakes and even the drinking water supply.
In the most extreme cases, failing septic tanks can leak untreated sewage into the environment, which can spread all sorts of diseases and illnesses. In the worst cases, they can inject an excess number of nitrates into the local water supply that are particularly dangerous for children, pregnant women and anyone with an even slightly compromised immune system. They can spike algae growth and even create oxygen-depleted dead zones that endanger any animal or human being that comes into contact with it.
How do we avoid these things from happening?
Simply put – there’s four reasons septic systems fail.
The first is simply an overwhelmed system. A system that hasn’t been pumped and is being stressed due to overuse. This can cause backup and in extreme cases, can cause your tank to fail. The second reason is damage. Septic systems are stored underground and are mostly protected from the elements but they’re not immune to damage from root structures, heavy construction vehicles and the like.
The third and fourth reasons septic tanks fail is largely caused by us. Sometimes tanks are poorly designed and built. Septic tanks need to be installed with precision and a lack of quality installation can cause system failure in the not too distant future. And obviously the last one is improper maintenance. Tanks should be pumped every 1-3 years depending on use and size of your system. If you’re not conducting routine maintenance small problems could become catastrophic failures down the road.
The best thing you can do is to simply get to know your septic tank and make sure it’s maintained according to the standards laid out in its best practices and guidelines. In many cases, regular visits by a septic tank pro is not only recommended, it’s required by state law in some places. Participate in the installation and stay informed and then make sure you’re getting your tank regularly maintained and should have nothing to worry about. A little prevention can go a long way.