Septic System Myths and the Truths to Set You Straight
Septic Systems are used by roughly 25% of Americans, however the systems are most commonly used in rural areas. Despite the large number of systems out there, there is far too little trustworthy information about septic systems out there for homeowners to read. Neighbors and community members often exchange tricks and insight that may have worked for them in the past, however that advice is neither based upon science or a full understanding of how septic systems work.
Here are some of the more common myths. While not a complete list, we did our best to cover the most common mistakes that homeowners make when maintaining their septic system.
Myth – My septic system is designed to last forever.
Truth – While many septic systems have been known to operate for 50 years or more, there are countless others that have failed within a year. The average for a septic system to continue performing is roughly 20-30 years. With increasing knowledge and understanding of system sizing and design importance, new septic systems should be able to last even longer. The main characteristic for long lasting systems is that the owners of the system take the time to do proper maintenance and upkeep.
Myth – Pumping my tank will take care of the current problems.
Truth – A few problems can be corrected by pumping and cleaning the tank. Clogged tanks due to soap crystals or greases and fats can be corrected. Most problems, however, are caused by saturation of the drain field. This plugging or blocking of the soil is not going to be corrected by pumping out the system. A proper evaluation of the system is necessary to determine the extent of the damage and to decide which option is the best next step for your system. Pumping is a tremendous asset to maintaining your systems performance and preventing a problem, it seldom does the trick however when you are looking to fix a problem.
Myth – If I call the health department to ask questions they will target my property and force an expensive system install.
Truth – In most instances, the health department is there to help prevent health hazards. Recognizing that you have a problem and being aware of the proper next steps to take is an important part of that process. While each health department may function differently, they are a resource that can be utilized to help you take the proper course of action for your particular situation.
Myth – My septic contractor said the drain field is failed, so it must be failed.
Truth – While most septic contractors are honest and tell the truth about the condition of the system, they are directly compensated by any repairs you may ‘need’ to have done. This puts their advice in a conflict of interest with yours. While your septic system may absolutely need some repairs, it is best to do some homework yourself before you fork over your hard earned money to replace the system.
Myth – The best way to maintain your septic system is to follow the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ motto.
Truth – Many homeowners forget about their septic system that serves their home. Most only think about it when experiencing a problem with the system. Maintaining your septic system is a necessary part of homeownership. You wouldn’t own and drive a car without at least periodically changing the oil. The same is true here, you have to give the system some love in order for it to last, otherwise you will spend considerably more money on repairs or replacement.
Myth: My septic tank has never failed.
Truth: Most septic system failure occurs in the drain field and not the tank. The septic tank is just a tank or reservoir that holds 4 or 5 days worth of daily water use. The real purpose of the tank is to have the solid waste settle out of the liquid so that only the liquid goes to the drain field. When solid particles make their way into the drain field, it causes failure. Pumping the tank is required in order to prevent that, it is not a step that you wait for problems before doing.
While there are countless other septic system myths, these are the most common that we hear. An important part of owning a home with a septic system is to understand the system and how to properly maintain it. Problems can be very costly to repair so it is always better to take steps to prevent problems before they arise.
If you are experiencing a problem, do your own homework first, then seek out any assistance you may need once you have a good understanding.