Finding Your Septic System

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Your septic tank, drainfield, and reserve drainfield should be clearly designated on the “as-built” drawing for your home. (An “as-built” drawing is a line drawing that accurately portrays the buildings on your property and is usually filed in your local municipality building department’s records.) You might also see lids or manhole covers for your septic tank. Older tanks are often hard to find because there are no visible parts. An inspector/pumper can help you locate your septic system if your septic tank has no risers.

What Roll does Bacteria Play in my Septic System?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

The Role of Bacteria

To understand how bacteria treatments work, you have to understand how your septic system works.

Beyond flushing the toilet and having the tank pumped out periodically, there is a lot going on in the unseen world underground.

Both the tank and drainfield rely on helpful bacteria to process waste. In the tank, these bacteria help digest and continually reduce the volume of solid waste so that pumping isn’t required as often, and in the drainfield, bacteria are actually responsible for decontaminating wastewater making it safe to re-enter the fresh water supply.

When you flush the toilet, wash laundry or simply take a shower, all of the excess water runs into your tank, and whenever you use any sort of chemical that goes down a drain, it ends up in your tank. These chemicals can wipe-out helpful bacteria.

Here are some of the main offenders:

•Bleach and Laundry Detergent

•Toilet Cleaners/De-cloggers

•Anti-Bacterial Soaps for Dish Washing or Bathing

•Paint/Paint Thinner

•Motor Oil


•Chlorine-Treated Pool/Hot Tub Water

•Old Prescription/Over-the-Counter Medication


Crystal Clear Septic Treatments are aimed at replenishing these helpful bacteria to give the system a boost.  When your septic tank’s bacteria numbers are reduced by the use of bleach, anti-bacterial soaps and other chemicals, Crystal Clear Septic’s Treatments can replace and replenish those good bacteria numbers.

Clogg Septic Lines – Causes and Solutions

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

A clogged septic line can refer to multiple situations. For the most part, sewage in the yard is the major symptom of all these problems


The line from the house to the tank is clogged or damaged

If the line is clogged, then your toilets and drains will overflow, and you’ll simply need to hire a plumber with a rooter tool who can push the clog through the line. If the line is damaged, you’ll notice sewage in the yard close to the house, and you’ll have to hire a contractor to dig up and replace the line. Both of these are rare problems.

If a large amount of water goes through the system at one time, then sludge and scum can flow into the drain field: During heavy rains the drain field may have a sewage smell because the ground can’t absorb both the rain and effluent from the house. There may not be an actual clog; however, excess water from the house can cause a true clog. Having house guests or draining a hot tube too quickly can reduce retention time inside the tank leading to line clogging. Having the tank pumped before house guests come should insure enough capacity and draining the hot tube in stages should both help to keep the retention time up.

The line from the tank to the drain field or distribution boxes is damaged

Running cars or machinery over the fragile distribution lines can crush them leading to a backup. Similarly, accidently paving or building on top of the distribution box or lines can also cause problems.

Tree Roots of trees growing too close to the drain field can unbalance the distribution box, break distribution lines, or cause poor absorption of effluent.

The most common problem is the tank being too full leading to decreased retention time and sludge and scum flowing out into the drain field

Not pumping the tank often enough, putting too much in the garbage disposal, or using too many harsh chemicals can all cause it to become too full. The first two are obvious, but it’s important to remember that the tank relies on bacteria to constantly digest the sludge. Harsh chemicals can kill off your helpful bacteria causing sludge levels to rise much more quickly than usual.


If you haven’t had your tank pumped in several years, the first step is to get it pumped. In most areas, pumping costs between $200 and $300. Just having it pumped might fix the issue.

If the septic line still seems to be clogged, be sure there aren’t any trees whose roots could be interfering with the line. If there are, it’ll probably be best to cut down the tree and use a root killer product.

If the problem continues, then you probably have damaged your tank bacteria, and/or your distribution lines are actually clogged with small solids and grease. It’s easy to damage your helpful bacteria by putting too many harsh chemicals down the drain. These helpful bacteria are constantly digesting sludge so that it doesn’t build up too quickly. On the other hand, it’s easy to clog the distribution lines, by putting too much down the garbage disposer and not having a lint filter for your washing machine. For either of these situations, use Crystal Clear Septic Treatment; it contains billions of bacteria and enzymes that help breakdown grease and almost anything else that’s causing the problem.

If you follow all these suggestions and still have a clogged septic line, then it’s probably time to call in an inspector to tell you where the issue is.


Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

High-Efficiency Toilets

 Do you know how many gallons of water your toilet uses to empty the bowl? 

Toilet use accounts for 25 to 30 percent of your household water use.

Most older homes have toilets with a 3.5 -to- 7 gallon water capacity.  

Newer high-efficiency low flush toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush.  

Since, older toilets were not designed with water conservation in mind, they require 3 to 7 gallons of water per flush. (Can you even imagine dumping 7 gallons of Poland Spring water down a toilet, multiple times per day? (Yikes!) So, until you get around to installing new toilets in your home, here’s a great solution:



There’s an easy way to turn your regular water-guzzling tank-style toilet into a water-conserving machine:

1)  remove the lid from the tank, and check out how much space you’ve got in between the float, pipes, and tubes. 

2)   find a plastic beverage bottle (i.e. ½ gallon plastic milk container with a screw cap works nicely) fill it with water and cap it. Insert the bottle into the tank, replace the lid, voila, your Done 

In one minute, you just saved 16% on your water bill and 7,500 gallons per year.  

Let your friends know, this tip will save all of you money and your septic system too.  Happy flushing!


Check this Out – What NOT to flush down your toilet!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Your Septic System is not meant to be used as a Trash Can, so…

DO NOT FLUSH these items down your toilet:

  • baby wipes
  • dental floss
  • feminine hygiene products
  • condoms
  • diapers
  • cotton swabs
  • cigarette butts
  • matches
  • coffee grounds
  • cat litter
  • paper towels
  • napkins
  • medications
  • paints, pesticides, or other hazardous chemicals into your system


In other words, nothing BUT septic safe toilet paper, should be flushed into your septic system


What is a Septic System and How Does it Work?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

The way in which a septic system works is pretty straight forward. They use natural processes and time to effectively break down household waste. This protects not only homeowners and their families, but also their property and the environment.

Keeping your septic tank in proper working order begins with good septic tank maintenance.

Basically, a septic system is smaller version of a municipal sewage treatment plant.

These types of systems are common in rural settings and areas that do not have easy access to city municipal services.

The key to this type of sewage system is the septic tank, without it, the outhouse would still be a common site along the many back roads and country lanes.

A septic system is made up of two main components; the drain field and the septic tank. It works by running the waste effluent through various stages inside the chambers that separate its internal makeup. The first chamber is the largest as it collects all the household waste water from the inlet pipe. As organic solids, commonly called sludge, enter the first chamber, they settle to the bottom. The sludge is then broken down and digested by different bacteria, some anaerobic but mostly facultative bacteria that produces a combination of carbon dioxide and methane gas. This helps stabilize the sludge and stops it from rotting. Most of the sludge will stay on the bottom of the tank, but a small amount will float forming a layer of scum.

All septic tanks are designed to allow the sludge to spend a maximum amount of time being exposed to the digestive bacteria’s. They do this by locating the inlet, overflow and outlet pipes diagonally across from each other. The pipes for the overflow and outlet are also vertically placed, forcing waste material to flow upward between stages. This makes the effluent travel a longer distance before entering the next phase of processing, furthering the break down of waste products during each phase.

After the semi-processed waste water leaves the first chamber via the vertical pipe overflows it enters the second chamber, forcing the waste water to go upward preventing large solids from getting into the second chamber. The same process is in place in the second chamber as in the first, as the organic matter is further digested and settled by bacterial microorganisms. The second chamber is normally about half the size of the first chamber and as a result, the effluent only spends about half as long processing before being discharged into the drain field.

The outlet to the drain field is located in the opposite corner from the overflow into the second chamber. Only waste water should be flowing into the drain field as all solids should have settled out into one of the two septic chambers. The waste water is further filtered and purified by the soil in the drain field before it is taken in by plant roots or filters downward to any ground water that exists in the area. The size of the drain field will be dependent on soil types and porosity.

Most septic tanks and systems are designed to use the pull of gravity to allow a natural flow of waste effluent from the home to its final destination in the drain field. In some instances, the lay of the land may not be conducive to a gravity fed system so a pump or pumps may be needed.

Septic Tank Pumping – Why and How Often?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Establishing a septic tank pumping schedule is one of the most important aspects of maintenance, and a well-maintained system will provide years of good service.

How often a company will need to be called will vary. Based upon the size of the tank and the number of people living in the home, you can make your decision on the frequency of pumping. Taking this information into consideration:

Typically, a residence occupied by four people with a tank capacity of 1,250 gallons would need to be pumped out every 3.4 years. These numbers are based on homes that are occupied throughout the year.

Other Factors Affecting Frequency

Helpful bacteria live inside the tank and continuously feed on the waste material. Even though they’re not able to digest all the material, they reduce the amount of waste material enough to reduce the pumping frequency. On the other hand, material from the garbage disposal is much harder for these bacteria to breakdown, so basically, every food scrap that goes down the drain will sit in the tank until its pumped.

However, simply cleaning the tank is not the end of your maintenance.

If you pay a little extra and have your system inspected at the same time it’s cleaned you can ward off potential problems. Many issues can be inexpensive to fix if caught early, but if they linger they can cause problems in the drainfield, then the repairs become much more expensive. For example, the baffles can come loose and allow grease to flow into the drainfield. If this problem is caught quickly, the only expense would be reattaching the baffle; however, if the baffle is not repaired, grease will eventually clog the drainfield causing it to fail. Removing and replacing the drainfield could literally cost fifty to a hundred times more than reattaching the baffle.

Septic System Failure – Finding the Cause

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Septic System Failure – Finding the Cause

There are two main signs of septic system failure:

1. Water backing up into the showers, bathtub, other drains and toilets not flushing.

2. Sewage rising to the surface somewhere in the yard.

Failure usually occurs in either the tank or field.

It’s important to remember that there are different degrees of system failure. Your system could seem to be failing but still be easily fixed because there are a variety of failure causes. In other words, you could have a temporary and inexpensive issue, or a more permanent and expensive problem.


Here are step-by-step instructions for finding the cause:

1.  Homeowners can jump to conclusions and think there’s a failure if one or more drains are backed up. Be sure to check all drains in the house. If multiple drains are backed up but some still work, there might be a clog in a main drain branch inside the house. If all the drains are backed up…

2.  Open the tank. If the tank is not flooded, you can check drains inside the house, one at a time, to see where the clog is, and you know that the issue is somewhere between the house and the tank. If the tank is flooded, then check the outlet tee. If the outlet tee doesn’t appear to be clogged or broken…

3.  You’ll have to either run a plumber’s snake through and/or dig up the tightline (pipe between the septic tank and the drain field). This line frequent breaks do to settling of the heavy concrete tank. If the tightline isn’t clogged or broken…

4.  The problem is probably the dreaded failed drain field.


Identifying Cause Based on Symptoms

The common sense approach…consider the “symptoms” of the system. Where is the problem and how bad is it? Use the table below to help answer these questions:

No Drains Backed Up

Drains Backed Up Sometimes

Drains Backed Up Completely

No Effluent in Yard

Partial clog in house drain, line to septic, or tightline (pipe from tank to field), tank nearly full, distribution box damage or shifting

Severe clog in house, severe clog in line to septic, severe outlet tee clog, severe tightline clog, tank full

Effluent close to house sometimes

Roots intruding in line from house to tank, partial break of line from house to tank, crack in tank

Partial break/root intrusion in line to tank

Complete break/root intrusion in line to tank

Effluent close to house always/flooding

Large crack in tank

Complete break/root instrusion in line to tank, break in line from house/tank junction

Complete break/root intrusion in line to septic

Effluent further from house sometimes

Partial break/root intrusion in tightline, distribution box shifting/damage, partial drainfield failure

Distribution box shifting/damage, distribution lines clog/damage, partial drain field failure

(Unlikely) Severely clogged distribution lines, partial or complete drain field failure

Effluent further from house always/flooding

Complete break/root intrusion in tightline,   severe distribution box shifting/damage, complete drain field failure

(Unlikely) Distribution box shifting/damage,   distribution lines clog/damage, complete drain field failure

(Unlikely) Complete drain field failure

A couple points to keep in mind: (1) The system is meant to be a water tight until it reaches the distribution pipes in the drain field; some of the above conclusions might not make sense without realizing this.(2) You could have more than one issue. For example, you might have a crack in the tank cause effluent close to house sometimes, and a partially clogged line to septic causing drains to be backed up sometimes.(3) It’s unlikely to have the yard completely flooded away from the house and drains completely blocked because the yard being flooded implies that effluent is exiting the house.(4) Since all these observations are judgment calls (difference between sometimes/always and close/further from house), this table is only meant to be guidelines in how to think about issues and isn’t meant to replace the advice of a licensed professional.

Restoring the Natural Bacteria Balance in my Septic

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Septic Bacteria and Enzyme Treatments:   Restoring the Natural Bacteria Balance

A septic bacteria and enzyme treatment replenishes the helpful bacteria inside the tank to digest grease and organic particles in the drainfield.

At the bottom of the tank, bacteria constantly breakdown a layer of solid waste known as the sludge layer. This layer is stored in the tank until its pumped, and the bacterial action is crucial to prevent the sludge layer from rising too quickly.