Click on a question below to find the answer.
How does a septic system work?
A septic system consists of two basic parts: a septic tank and an underground disposal field (also called a drain field, leach field or soil absorption field). Wastewater flows from the house to the tank, and effluent water (the wastewater minus the solids) flows from the tank to the drain field. The main job of the tank is to intercept the solids and the main job of the drain field is to purify and disperse the effluent. The soil filters and purifies the effluent before returning it to the water table where it will absorb into the ground or be taken in by plants.
There are many variations of this basic septic design. Each system is uniquely determined by how much water the house will be using, how strong the waste will be, soil consistency, location of the groundwater table, and the property size.
What exactly is a septic tank?
The septic tank is a large container buried near the home that receives all of the indoor plumbing waste. Solids settle to the bottom and grease and lighter solids float on the top. Healthy bacteria break down these materials and allow wastewater to leave the tank and be dispersed through the leach field.
What is a leach field?
A leach field is any method of leaking the discharge water from the septic tank into the ground. Some leach fields are simple trench filled fields dug into the existing ground. Other leach fields are raised beds where proper drainage material is brought in and placed above the existing ground to allow both evaporation and absorption of effluent water.
Are all septic tanks the same size?
No. Septic tanks are sold in a number of sizes for various applications.
Are all septic tanks made of the same material?
No. Septic tanks can be made of steel, concrete, or special long-lasting polymer plastic.
Do septic tanks last forever?
No. Deterioration of both the steel and concrete type of septic tank begins immediately. Polymer tanks last the longest and without physical abuse should serve you well for many, many years. Concrete is porous and cracks by nature. Salts and chemicals are the major factors in deterioration of concrete and metal tanks.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE BEST SYSTEM FOR ME?
If you’re considering a new system, we’ve put together helpful information on How To Choose a Septic System. Click here to download the PDF, or call us at 503-925-3700 for more information.
What should go into my septic tank?
Ideally only human wastewater enters the tank. This includes bathroom sink waste and proper toilet tissue. This however, is seldom the case. In moderation, a properly working septic tank can handle some biodegradable detergents, laundry soaps, kitchen wastes and biodegradable household chemicals.
What should not go in to my septic tank?
Non-biodegradable products, including: cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, plastics, any other trash, or high levels of cleaning agents or chemicals. Some of these things kill the good bacteria the septic tank needs to breakdown human waste. Other items do not readily decompose and more importantly, may clog the septic tank.
How can you tell if my septic tank is working?
Standing wastewater where the leach field should be, or unusual odors might indicate a problem. Otherwise, visual inspection of the septic tank is best way of checking. Clarity of the effluent water leaving the outlet baffle is most important. Checking and measuring the depths of the sludge, liquid center and top scum level is also important. Checking the temperature and pH of the tank adds more information of the health of the septic tank. All of these maintenance and checkup items can be performed in our maintenance program at Speedy Septic.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY TANK BE PUMPED?
According the EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, a septic tank should be pumped once it reaches about 25% solids. For most households, that’s approximately every two to four years.
Regular pumping is extremely important. A septic tank acts as your first line of defense by accumulating solid material and preventing it from clogging up your drain field. There are usually no warning signs that you’ve let your tank go too long between pumpings – until it’s too late.
Most new septic systems have a physical filter to prevent solids from passing into the drain field. However, since 95% of systems currently in use do not have this filter, it is very important that a tank’s solids are regularly removed.
Should there be access to the top of my septic tank?
Yes. In order to inspect and maintain your septic tank, access to the inlet and outlet ports is a must. Risers and childproof access lids can easily be installed to ground level to provide for easy access.
Can I build over my septic tank?
It is strongly discouraged. Easy access to the tank is necessary for inspection and maintenance and anything built over the tank would have to be removed for pumping and repairs. The weight of anything built over a septic tank could also damage the unit causing harmful gasses to escape.
Can I build on top of the leach field?
No, this should be avoided. Even driving heavy vehicles over the leach field is not recommended. It is also not recommended to plant any trees or shrubs over the leach field as roots grow into distribution lines or even the septic tank. Grass is fine.
When do I need an emergency pumping?
If you hear strange noises, experience slow draining, notice soft spots in your yard or smell unusual odors coming from your house plumbing you should call right away to avoid having septic materials backup into your home.
Why is there a musty smell in the house?
Good News! This could be a very simple fix. Many times this odor likely is emanates from a dry drain. Each drain in your house has a trap associated with it. The trap is the U-shaped pipe you see under your kitchen sink. The purpose of this pipe is to keep the gases from your septic system from being able to come back inside the house. The trap works because water sits in that U-shaped section of pipe, preventing gases from escaping. However if that water evaporates because the traps aren't in use for a period of time, the gases are able to escape. The solution is very simple, add water to the drain. If this does not solve your problem, then you most likely have a larger issue. Contact us and we would be happy to come out to look as soon as possible.
Why are there soft or wet spots in the lawn?
This could indicate that all or a portion of your leach field has a draining problem. Draining problems can be due to numerous factors including plugged leach field lines, groundwater flooding, leaking house water, a failed septic tank, or damage done to the field by excavation or settling. It's important to seek immediate attention to determine the exact cause and also because septic bacteria and viruses are unsafe for people or pets.
Why do the drains drain slowly?
There are many reasons why this annoying issue could be plaguing your home. Most people will try a drain-cleaning chemical but often this will only provided a short-term fix and the problem will be back. The real solution could be to hydro jet your homes internal or it may be that your septic tank is full and is time to get pumped. No matter what the cause is, we recommend you give us a call and we'll gladly take care of the issue and get you flowing immediately.