Replacing a Septic System
How to Know When Your Septic System Needs to Be Replaced
Most homeowners don’t know if their septic system is failing until it’s too late. Systems can back up, leading to very undesirable failures, including a mess of sewage in your yard, basement, or elsewhere.
What are the warning signs?
- PLUMBING ISSUES. Your pipes may begin to gurgle, back up, or emit foul-smelling gasses into your home. This is a telltale sign that your system is failing.
- SIGNS IN YOUR YARD. You might notice puddles in your yard, or greener strips of grass. These can be caused by the backup of sewage. Be careful here: This area is not safe for human contact! If you notice these signs, call an expert immediately.
- FAILED INSPECTION. You should have routine maintenance service or inspections performed on your septic system to ensure it is working properly. Keep the records from this work. In most states, if you’re buying or selling a home, it must pass an inspection. If it fails, it likely will need to be replaced before the home can be sold. If you are buying a home, it’s a good idea to ask the previous owner for any records of septic system service and inspection, and also ask directly if they have observed issues similar to those mentioned above.
If you discover that a septic system needs to be replaced, you will need to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, to find a new area on your property for wastewater dispersal and a treatment system appropriate for this site. Keep reading to know how to take the next steps.
How Much Land Do You Have to Work With?
When you bought your property, the original design should have allowed for a replacement site that could serve as another leach field when the first one plugs. Even though a soils analysis may have been done originally, a new one will be needed to make sure the particular area meets any updated requirements.
Unlike on new properties, in most states, an additional replacement dispersal area is not required when it is replaced. This is helpful to allow continued use of the property, but it also sets the clock ticking on when you will run out of space for further replacements. Remember, when you replace a dispersal area, you cannot reuse the original area again, and it should remain off limits from other uses for a period of time. Check with your state regulations to understand how long until something can be built on this area, or when it is considered safe for unrestricted access for people or pets.
You can see how this can become a problem as you continue to use up valuable acreage for wastewater leaching.
But what if you don’t have enough land with adequate soil and topography remaining for a new leach field?
You have options. If you have a smaller area than is needed for a below-ground leach field, you may be able to haul in sand and soil to install a mound. If you do not have the space for this, you still may have enough room to add a pre-treatment system that uses an aeration device to partially treat the wastewater before dispersing it into the soil. But keep in mind, even if you install a pre-treatment system, it’s only partially treating the waste before sending it out to the soil. Unless you request it, it most likely does not have a disinfection sub-system capable of removing all bacteria and viruses before they get to your yard. (Read more about the safety of your system.)
If you want to save the most land you can from being used for effluent dispersal, you should consider a system that prevents that untreated, partially treated, or not-disinfected, wastewater from being discharged. The LandSaver® MBR is one such system. It provides fail-safe, full wastewater treatment.
Depending on state rules, the better the treatment, the more dispersal area land can be saved. To help where below-the-surface disposal is difficult, some states allow for restricted or unrestricted surface spray irrigation and typically have requirements that this water exceeds standards acceptable for public beach access. The pathogen-free water from the LandSaver® MBR can meet the toughest dispersal standards. It is safe for areas of your yard where people and pets will be. Regardless of dispersal method, the specified system design for your property must follow state guidelines that separate dispersal areas from wells, buildings, and property lines.