Septic Tank Care

It can be quite easy for folk to forget about the need for a regular septic tank care program. As septic tanks are buried into the ground, often camouflaged, a distance away from the main building and, let’s face it, full of rather unpleasant things; it’s all too easy to forget about them - to the point of negligence. Regular maintenance and paying proper attention to septic tank care will guard against any damage to the septic tank and problems arising when it needs to be emptied.

The manufacturer of your septic tank will advise you about the sort of septic tank care you should be routinely carrying out. However, at any time you might suddenly become aware of a problem with your septic tank such as; having unpleasant odours arising from it, a sewage back-up in the pipe-work or even worse effluent emerging at the septic tank covers.

Foul Smells from a Septic Tank

The following assumes that your septic tank is the correct size for the purpose it was installed for and that it has been de-sludged within the last 12 months. Any foul smell around a septic tank can often simply be due to the cover becoming dislodged, in which case simply re-fitting it will solve the problem. If that’s not the case and the cover seems to be fitting correctly then you may need to consider adding an external vent to the inlet pipe and then fitting a new flap for the unit.

If an additional vent is required you’ll need to consult with your septic tank supplier. However, fixing the new flap can be done by DIY enthusiasts themselves as it only really involves concreting a new moulding into place. Whether you needed to re-fit the existing flap or fit a new one - the foul smells should disappear within a few days.

If the smell doesn’t go away, you need to keep in mind that the septic tank is one unit in a waste disposal system in your home. It’s not inconceivable that an apparent problem with the septic tank could actually be due to a fault back inside the main building in an air-trap or even the stack pipe. Another cause of foul smells from a septic tank can be the soak-away/drainage field.

Septic Tank Soak-away or Drainage Field

Potential problems here are most likely due to the collapsing of the pipes distributing the discharge from the septic tank or the sub-soil permeability. Whilst the former of these two things is most likely to occur with an older septic tank system, the latter is almost certainly to be associated with a newer system.

If collapsed pipe-work is the problem then simply excavating and replacing the pipes will resolve it. Simple porosity tests can establish if the permeability of the soil is the problem, this is likely to arise in areas where the soil has a high clay content or if the local water-table rises. There are several options to resolve this problem.

If you have the space simply expanding the area that the soak-away/drainage field covers is probably the cheapest solution. Alternatively you may need to add a pump to the septic tank system in order to move the discharge to another area or change the septic tank to one of the aeration treatment unit tanks; so that the discharge can drain directly into a water-course.

De-sludging a Septic Tank

Whilst you should frequently inspect and check a septic tank, if it is the correct size for the purpose of its installation, it should only need de-sludging once a year. The term given to the sludge removed from a septic tank is septage. You will need to use a licensed septage hauler to remove and dispose of the sludge for you.

See Also: Types of Septic Systems