Drains and Plumbing

Common Septic Tank Problems

Clogs, smells, leaks and pipe breakage are among the more common drain problems: septic problems include dangerous sewer gas, bad smells and problems with lines and tanks. If a septic tank is well built and relatively new, the main problems that will arise will most likely be ones that can be prevented. An overloaded septic tank can make a big mess, as the extra water in the tank leaches out into the drain field until the ground is saturated with wastewater. A properly running drain field sends the normal amount of water soaking into the soil from some inches below the surface where the pipes have been buried.
When the field is planned, the builder should take into consideration things like soil composition, trees and ground water levels that may interfere with the field's freedom of movement. Furthermore, before a septic system is constructed, county regulations require the soil have a "perc" test. The percolation test is a way of determining the amount of time and space required for the soil to effectively clean the draining water before the water reaches the water table. Places with heavy clay soils may not "perk" properly, so that any wastewater sent into the ground might just puddle up and sit. Some building sites can't be approved for septic systems because the soil just won't allow enough water to run through—any sewage would then become a health hazard, polluting the area and leading to diseases such as typhoid and cholera. (If you've ever wondered why slums often breed such diseases, it's because some countries don't regulate the sewage in poverty stricken areas, and people bathe in the same water they drink).

When the septic tank gets too full, it overflows, sending untreated sewage onto the surface of the ground. This even doesn't go unnoticed for long, since a messy, smelly pool of water and who-knows-what will appear in the drain field. This can be expensive as well as distressing, since the tank will need pumping and the ground that has been contaminated with raw sewage will need to be cleaned up as well as possible and then left to recover. Sometimes the drain field has to be moved to another location, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Septic tanks can get too full when they aren't pumped regularly; they can fill up fast if the homeowner does load after load of laundry without giving the tank time to recover and send the gray water to the leach field; they can become full very quickly when the leach lines have become plugged. There are any number of reasons for a tank to overflow, but if you pay attention to your water usage and keep the bacteria populations in the leach lines and septic tank, there shouldn't be a problem with overflow.

Maintaining a septic system is easiest when you do a little preventive maintenance. Nothing could be easier! Once a week, using a bacterial drain cleaner like Drainbo, clean your toilet. Brushing Drainbo under the rim of the toilet deposits the beneficial bacteria that will kill other, odor-causing bacteria that will otherwise make your plumbing fixtures smell bad. Once the toilet is flushed, the bacteria travel along the plumbing lines. Some will cling to pipes or joints where material has built up, where they will digest the material, removing potential clogs before they start. Other bacteria will make its way to the septic tank, remaining to digest solid waste in the tank or cleaning out the leach lines in the drain field. The Drainbo bacteria do what the natural soil bacteria do when wastewater enters the drain field, but they do it faster, keeping the plumbing clean and clear.

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Natural Drain Cleaner for Clogged Drains

The first thing you need to know before working on a clogged drain is that the drain cleaners you see advertised on TV or on the supermarket shelves are made of dangerous chemicals that will eat through rubber gloves, skin, certain kinds of pipe, wood and anything else they touch. If their fumes are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lungs, nose and mouth. If they are eaten, they will kill, even in small amounts. Even when they are used "properly", they can ruin septic systems, pollute groundwater, and destroy pipes.

For a more healthy and safe alternative, try a natural drain cleaner, such as Drainbo, that is made from natually occuring bacteria that will fix a clogged drain, but won't hurt your drain pipes or the environment.

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