Leaking Septic Tanks

Closeup of leaking cinderblock septic tank

Closeup of leaking cinderblock septic tank

We found another leaking septic tank.  This septic tank was homemade with cinder blocks.  This homeowner had never had it back up into the house, so assumed everything was okay.  During a routine inspection we had to tell them the tank has never worked like a tank and needed replaced.  The sewage was leaking out the septic tank and going straight to ground water.

Leaking Cinder Block Septic Tank

Leaking Cinder Block Septic Tank

Now I understand that there are those that would say, “well, if the sewage leaks out the tank, or the drainfield, what’s the difference?”

Please remember that there are three types of bacteria and pathogens, in human waste, we need to kill before releasing the wastewater back into the environment.  I know this is a hard concept to get a handle on, but when we release the water back into the environment it is recycled.  It heads back down to groundwater, wells pull it back up and it’s fresh water again.  I’m sorry if that grosses anyone out, but it is the truth and is fact.  We must take care of how we treat our wastewater onsite.

What does Septic Mean?  It means that the environment in the septic tank is void of all oxygen.  Or it’s gone septic.  Why is this important?  Well, we have to remember why we are treating wastewater.  There are three important types of bacteria in wastewater we must destroy before releasing into the environment.

1. Aerobic Bacteria and Pathogens:  Need oxygen to survive

2. Anaerobic Bacteria and Pathogens:  Need absence of oxygen to survive

3. Facultative Bacteria and Pathogens:  These are harder to destroy, because they don’t care if there’s oxygen or not.

Now how do we treat all three.  Well.

1. Aerobic Bacteria and Pathogens:  The septic tank is the best place to destroy these.  See being a septic tank, if you took a dissolved oxygen measurement out of the wastewater, it would read zero.  That’s right, there will be no dissolved oxygen in that water.  So the Aerobic Bacteria perish here.  But let’s not forget the other reason we need a septic tank. It’s to separate liquid from solids and only allow liquids to enter the drainfield.  If you allow your septic tank to get too full, it will lose that ability and will send solids out to the drainfield, essentially plugging it up and needing replacement.  (Now I have been asked this)  If the septic tank is leaking out the bottom why is it that it needs repair.  What’s the difference if the sewage gets out of the septic tank or the drainfield.  Please remember, the sewage needs 72 hours of septic tank treatment for clarification and to kill aerobic bacteria found in human wastewater.  If we simply flush the water down to a leaking tank, it’s going to head straight down to ground water without adequate anearobic, anaerobic, or facultative treatment.  We cannot skip any one of these steps as we can hurt our environment and make others very sick. Oh, and possibly contaminate your very own well water.

2. Anaerobic Bacteria and Pathogens:  These don’t like oxygen and will die in the presence of oxygen.  In a traditional septic system’s drainfield.  It is the drainrock that was installed that they die here.  Pretty much as soon as they hit the drainrock.  Now beneath the drainrock there is soil, but that’s the next and final step.

3.  Facultative Bacteria and Pathogens:  These don’t care about oxygen at all.  They will survive either way.  But through plain old friction alone, in the soil beneath the drainrock, they get hung up.  And die.  All within six inches of leaving the drainrock.

Pretty cool stuff huh?

Now it can be a bit hard explaining to a homeowner that they are experiencing problems.  Here’s why.  A homeowner like this one, will say, But I’ve never had a problem.  We’ve never even had to pump it.  In over 40 years.  And now I get to try my hardest to educate and explain to them that the septic tank was not built as a tank at all, and it’s never backed up or needed pumped because it is just leaking into the ground without the 72 hours of septic tank treatment to kill off the harmful aerobic pathogens and bacteria.  But once I can get them to understand how all this is supposed to work, it doesn’t take much for them to let us replace the tank.  And get their wells tested.

 

Thanks for Reading,

 

Ronnie

 

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4 Responses to “Leaking Septic Tanks”

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  3. leeanne says:

    we are in the process of selling are grandparents home. they built it in 1947, before any type of regulations. there are no plans or paper work from the county that we can find. I remember my grandfather describing a tile lined block septic system. The problem is we are having trouble locating the septic. Any information would be helpful.

  4. Ronnie says:

    Hi There,

    It’s time for electronic locate. That’s where we flush a transmitter down the toilet, and locate the tank. We do it all the time. Easy as pie.

    Thanks for writing,

    Ronnie

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