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Septic System FAQs

We hope this report will be able to answer and enlighten you on some of the many questions we get on a daily basis. Feel free to contact us with questions. (386) 738-3030

One of the most popular comments that are made when I first begin talking to these callers is “I don't know anything about septic tanks or systems, and this is my first experience with a septic system. What is going on?” “Can you help me please?”

With over 46 years in the business we are happy to try and walk you through and answer some of the questions you may have.

First a short lesson on what is a septic system. You have a small waste processing plant on your property. If properly maintained a good “Rock and Pipe” type of drainfield should last well over 20-25 years up to 30-35 years. There are other systems on the market and we will not go into the differences here as they are covered in a different article.

Every system starts out the same:


When you flush your toilet or take a shower or clean you dishes, or run the laundry or use any other water system in your house that water and product goes into a septic tank in your yard. It could be located in the front, back or side yard. Regardless of what is put down the drain, if it is solid body waste or just plain water in most cases it goes into the same tank. The septic tank provides the first step in treatment.

As waste water flows into the tank the heavier solids sink to the bottom to form a sludge layer, and the lighter solids, along with grease, oils, and paper float to the top to form a scum layer. The septic tank provides some biological treatment of the sludge and scum layers that accumulate there.

This is a photo of our concrete septic tank with the black filter port installed in the tank.


The drainfield is where the effluent enters the soil and is treated as it percolates into the ground water. The soil acts as a biological and physical filter to remove harmful substances, including disease-causing bacteria and viruses, toxic organics and other undesirable wastewater items remaining in the effluent.

Outlet filters and baffles located in the tank also help in this process by preventing the sludge and scum from flowing into the drainfield.

Picture of a bed drainfield without the pipe installed.
Good clean sand and soil below the drainfield is a must.

Picture of septic drainfield bed with pipes installed. Waiting for rock to be installed.
Notice the filter port in the background in the tank.

This is a photo of a trench installation with the pipe ready for rock.
Notice the two feet of separation of soil between each row of pipe.

The pipe is checked by laser before the rock goes in and again after the rock is installed.

Rock going into trench drainfield.

We use a rock truck with a 19 foot long conveyer belt to lay the rock down in the drainfield. The clamps are used to suspend the pipe off the bottom of the drainfield, assuring you of the correct amount of rock under the pipe around the pipe and on top of the pipe. The clamps are removed and used on our next job.

Installing rock in a bed drainfield.

Checking a bed drainfield with a laser to assure you of every pipe being level to all the other pipes in the drainfield. Notice the filter port in the tank in the left background.

A photo of our patented header pipe connecting the lines in a trench drainfield.

Pictured is a system we installed by putting the header in the middle of a trench drainfield. Notice the back section of the drainfield is already covered with fabric paper.
If the tank is not pumped regularly to remove the accumulated solids, the tank will fill with sludge and scum and the solids will be washed out into the drainfield or clog the filter. This usually results in back-ups in the house.

There are systems where laundry water is engineered to go to a different septic tank. Laundry water must never go to a separate septic tank without a permit from the local environmental agency; you could be sited and fined if these are found to be happening at your home. Laundry water contains germs that can spread disease. These separate systems must be state approved with separate septic tanks and drainfields installed. Most homes do not have the yard space for this.

In regular households with one tank, when the drained and flushed items reach the septic tank the heavier solids settle to the bottom forming a sludge layer, the lighter items such as grease, oils, paper, body waste and other items float to the top forming a scum layer. Our natural body waste creates the correct type of Bacteria to begin eating up these items turning it into sludge which sinks to the bottom. Gases will rise and exit back through the vents on your roof.

Homes that were built after January 1st of 1998 that are on septic systems were mandated to be built with a septic tank that has two compartments along with a filter installed in the outlet end of the septic tank. Filters and baffled tanks began to appear in 1994, so it is possible if your home was built in the mid 90's it may have a baffle or filter. As the liquid level rises in the tank it passes through an opening in the baffle to the outlet side. The outlet side of the tank should have nothing but liquid in it. As the level rises it then slowly flows through the filter into the drainfield. From there it is distributed into a system of pipes and disbursed from the pipes into the soil below.

Another view showing our newer tank with a built in easy access filter port, which is the black item extending up out of the tank on the outlet end. This tank also has a baffle in it.

This is a photo of our competitor's tank. Here you have to dig up the tank and remove a 100 pound man-hole lid to access the filter. Don't get any Hernia's lifting that lid. Please don't fall into the tank.

Another note of information, the septic tank should never be full to the top. There should always be an area of at least 8 to 10 inches of air space above the water level. This allows the smell, gases and odor to escape through your vents on the roof.

A septic tank full to the top with the man hole lid removed ready to be pumped out.
Note the inlet pipe is half under water; the water level should be below the pipe.

The soil acts as a biological and physical filter to help remove harmful substances, including disease-causing bacteria and virus, toxic organics and other undesirable wastewater items remaining in the water.

If the tank is not pumped regularly to remove the accumulated solids, the tank will fill with sludge and the solids will be washed out into the drainfield and clog the outlet filter in the process. This can cause an expensive replacement of your drainfield.
The sand under your drainfield is one of the best ways to treat this water as it slowly moves into the ground below.

The action of the septic tank is designed in such a way so that when five gallons (as an example) of water and waste flows into the tank, five gallons do not immediately flow out. It may take a matter of minutes or even a half hour before the water flows out of the tank. The water flows into the tank from the house under pressure, but exits via gravity. In a system with mounds, the water is pumped under pressure to the raised drainfield.

A note on earlier septic tanks. The tanks in use before 1998 were all one compartment tanks. On the outlet end of the tank there should be what we refer to in the industry as a “solid deflection device.” What this device does, it is a solid piece of either PVC or other material, usually with a 90 degree fitting. This pipe extends about 18” down into the water level area off of the bottom of the tank. Water rises up inside this pipe and exits out towards the drainfield. Also many tanks built before 1998 have what we call a “D” box or distribution box that was built into the septic tank. This diverted the incoming waste downward into the tank towards the bottom. On the outlet end the “D” box also built into the tank had an opening near the 18” mark where water rose up inside it and exited out towards the drainfield. These tanks with the “D” boxes helped keep solids from going into the drainfield, but if the tanks got full from not pumping them on a regular basis, solids could move into the drainfield clogging it up.

One last thing we have found on many tanks, sometimes a homeowner took it upon themselves to repair a drainage line, by installing a new line and chopping a hole in the side or end of the tank to accommodate it. The law only allows one entrance line into the tank and only one exit line out. When we find these issues, the old tank must be replaced, so we caution you about attempting any quick fixes. On your own.

Questions

Note of caution: Use good heavy rubber gloves when attempting any of these repairs or inspections.

How often should my septic tank be pumped and cleaned?
Answer: a minimum of every 3-5 years regardless if it needs it or not.

I'm getting a bad sewer odor coming into the house.
Answer: this can be a multi answer because the problem could be from several sources:

#1 There were a number of homes built with an under the sink removal filter. Look in this area of the “P” trap. It can be a small 3-5 inches high attachment connected to your drain. In many cases this filter can be removed and cleaned.
#2 It could be caused by your roof vent being clogged, by leaves or squirrels or birds or other debris. Be very careful going up on the roof to check it. We recommend a licensed plumber do this for you.
#3 When was the last time you had your septic tank pumped, is it overdo?
#4 Go outdoors and locate your clean-out cap which is usually white about 3” inches in diameter with a square top, located close to the house. This is an access point in the main wastewater line going from your house to the septic tank. Unscrew it very carefully as it could be under pressure and filled with water wanting to blow up at you. If it is full it is time to pump your tank. You could have a clog between the house and tank.
#5 Check your yard in the area of the drainfield, is it soggy? The odor can be coming from there. If it is soggy, stay out of that area keep your children and pets out of the area, as it can be contaminated water. Also check around the septic tank as it could be overflowing. Normally you would be expecting backups in the house.

My toilets don't flush like they used to and it backs up in the shower or toilets?
Answer: This could be a big problem.
# 1 First of all check and see if your children are missing any toys? We see a lot of clogged lines with unbelievable things stuck in the line. We even pumped a large beach towel out of a septic tank. Don?t ask me how it got there? we have no idea.
# 2 See number 5 above. Check your yard in the area of the drainfield and tank.
# 3 When was the last time you cleaned your filter? It must be done on a yearly basis. Just today by phone we helped a customer who bought a home with a filter in the tank and knew nothing about it. Cleaning the filter saved her an expensive service call and she was one happy customer.
# 4 A short word about drainfields and septic tanks. If the drainfield has failed and it is full of roots or water then nothing can come out of the pipes in the drainfield, if nothing can come out of the pipes, then nothing can come out of the tank, and if nothing can come out of the tank it can?t come out of the house. So then you begin to have backup problems.
# 5 Is it time to pump out your septic tank?
# 6 Remember the septic tank should be pumped every 3-5 years. We can help you with your pump-out needs.
# 7 Check your outside clean-out cap (the white 3 inch cap). If it is full then it is not flowing into the tank. It may be time to call a plumber or you can do it yourself. Get a “snake” and start at the clean-out and go toward the tank and then go toward the house to help dislodge the clog. You can try using a high pressure hose with a small nozzle on it and try and blow it out with water. Be careful that you don?t push water back into the house where it can come out in the shower or toilet. Those with more experience can snake the line from the roof vent or from the toilets inside. BE CAREFUL doing this.
# 8 It may be time for a new drainfield. Call us 386-738-3030.

I've noticed wet spots in the yard in the area of my drainfield what's going on?
Answer: wet spots in the area of the drainfield (leach field) should not appear.
# 1 most of these problems have been addressed above.
# 2 It usually is a sign of a failed or saturated drainfield.
# 3 Make sure your house downspouts do not empty onto the drainfield. They should be diverted away from the drainfield.

When the laundry empties it gurgles in the toilet.
Answer: These are indications of obstructions in the line.
# 1 something is impeding the water flow.
# 2 tank needing pumped. Are you missing a sock?
# 3 It is a good idea to space your laundry loads out over a number of days. Some washers can put close to 50 gallons of water into the tank on each load. The septic tank can only drink so much water at a time.
# 4 This is a good time to mention you should change to liquid laundry soap. We have found powered soap has a tendency to cake up once it is in the tank, which can cause clogging in the lines if it makes its way into the drainfield.

This is an excellent picture showing a clogged filter. Was it any wonder why the customer was having back-ups in the home? Nothing could flow through this filter into the drainfield. It should be cleaned at least once a year.

Gurgling sound when flushing and slow flushing.
Answer: Again here you could have an obstruction between the house and tank.
# 1 Is it time for the tank to be pumped?
# 2 Clean your filter.
# 3 Check your house roof vents.
# 4 Another thing under the rim inside of the toilet is located small holes where water flows out to create the flush. It is possible for these holes to become clogged with calcium. It is possible to clean these holes with a straightened coat hanger.

The grass in the area of the drainfield is greener than other areas of the yard?
Answer: A couple of thoughts here.
# 1 Is it saturated with water? It could be a sign of what we call "Hydraulic Overload” indicating way too much water is down there and working its way to the surface from the drainfield. A sign of drainfield failure.
# 2 Another answer could be a natural occurrence. With the bottom of the drainfield being damp and the sun shining like it does here in Florida evaporation of this water is drawn up by the sun to the surface thus watering your yard from below the ground.
# 3 Another reason why we don't recommend putting sprinkler systems that spray water onto the drainfield. It will get enough moisture on its own.

There is a depression in the yard near the tank or drainfield?
Answer: This could be the sign of a tree rotting out underground, or a hole in the tank where sand is slowly sinking in. it may be time for a professional inspection.

Now might be a good time to mention a few Don'ts. But first a couple of “Do's”
Do- Have your tank pumped at least every 3-5 years.
Do- Clean your filter every year.
Do- Go easy on your water usage.


A few dont's
# 1 Please don't plant trees near your tank or drainfield. We have seen roots travel over 50 feet yes way beyond the canopy of the tree to get to water. Roots can and will get in the tank and drainfield. Once they get a taste of the nutrients in the water it is like a tree on steroids. It will grow like mad and very fast. Adding “Copper Sulfate” into a septic tank in Florida is against the law. Yes you can add it to the drainfield, and yes it may kill the roots, but the roots remain in the drainfield and tank although dead they still impede the operations of the system.


Roots from a Magnolia tree right next to a bed drainfield.

Here is an example of a root that naturally made two (2) 90 degree turns around a “D” box on the tank. This root wrapped itself around a “D” box on a septic tank trying to get into the tank. Once those roots get a taste of that septic water it is like a tree or bush on steroids. They will do anything to get to that water.


“D” box roots completely covering the “outlet deflection device.”

A completely clogged up “D” box.

A septic tank completely full with roots.

A real example that “Copper Sulfate kills the roots but where do they go? Let me repeat.
Yes you can add it to the drainfield, and yes it may kill the roots, but the roots remain in the drainfield and tank. Although the roots may be dead they still impede the operations of the system.

View of tank completely full of roots.

Removing roots from the tank before abandoning it and installing a new tank.
We know where the trees are, where does the roots go? They go everywhere.


In this photo we have Ron's plumbing of Orange City showing a root that grew up inside the pipe all the way to the toilet. Notice the “O” ring seal from beneath the toilet where the root grew right around it. Please don't plant trees and bushes near the septic tank or drainfield

# 2 Do not drive vehicles and trucks and boats over the drainfield and septic tanks. Riding lawn mowers are okay. We make a good living replacing crushed in tanks where drivers have done this. Put barriers up to stop this practice.
# 3 Do not put fats, oils, and grease down the drain, or down the sink or down the toilet. It creates a scum inside the pipes and grows larger as more of these items are introduced into the system. When pumping the tank we have seen chunks of grease as big as basketballs in the tank and we have pictures of grease logs over 18” long lodged into the pipes from the house to the tank. See pictures below.

This is what happens when you put grease down the drains in your home.
Please don't do this, yet everyone says they don't put grease down the drain, but the proof is in the pictures. This can create a very expensive repair of your drainfield, as you can image what these customers had to say.

This was an 18” long log of grease caught in a pipe going to the septic tank.
Over the years a lot of grease had worked its way into the tank and then entered the drainfield damaging it to the point where it had to be replaced.

If there is any one factor that causes more trouble in septic tanks and drainfield it is grease. Followed by using way too much water and also not pumping your tank on a regular basis.

All animal fats solidify at room temperature. The very same thing happens when the leftover fat is poured down the sink drain or into the garbage disposal. It begins to congeal in the septic tank and sewer lines. Please wipe your plates off with a paper towel and dispose in the waste basket before washing them.

Another view of a different clogged pipe of grease.

Here is a different job where the same thing happened. This grease had completely clogged up the pipe going to the septic tank.
Looking up inside the pipe. It had a very narrow opening in the bottom of the layer of grease, causing slow drainage and flushing. Again resulting in a new drainfield.

# 4 Go easy on using your garbage disposal, please keep it to a minimum as the septic system does not like left over foods thrown out of the refrigerator, or banana peels or egg shells, potato peels, or lettuce ends or any other raw or non-digested food items. It likes food that has been through our system first.
# 5 Do not put out of date or old medicines down the drain. Florida has a proper way of disposing of these items. Check with your local Environmental Health Department for proper disposal. These medicines have been found downstream in waters affecting the fish and other environmental species.
# 6 Don?t allow your water softener back flush to enter the septic system. Harmful chemicals can interrupt the bacteria action in the septic tank.
# 7 Don?t waste your money on additives. Again our natural body waste creates the correct type of bacteria for the septic tank to work properly. Additives can suspend solids causing the drainfield to clog. Additives only profit those who are selling it.
# 8 It is not necessary to pour yeast down the drain. Again it is a waste of money. Let me ask you three questions. Did you have toast for breakfast? Did you have a sandwich for lunch? Did you drink a beer last night? The system will get yeast.
Just think about it!
# 9 Clean out your shower drain, I have seen very large clumps of hair stuck in the drains. Bacteria does not like eating these items.

One other note on Dixie Septic Tank Inc. We make our own concrete tanks, (and yes we sell them to other installers,) we make our own pipe, our own fitting, our own header and crush our own concrete for use in the drainfield. We may be the only company doing this in the United States.

We hold a number of patents on our pipe and systems which we call
“Equal Distribution™ ®” meaning when we are distributing the water in the drainfield the whole drainfield is used, not just one end. Other systems on the market are designed to just drop the water at the beginning of the drainfield, and hopefully it will work its way down the line.

We are a green company recycling to save our planet.

Feel free to call us with your septic problems. We don't have all of the answers, but with over 46 years in the business we do have many years of experience we can share.
With this knowledge we hope to inform the public and try not to make it such a taboo subject. With experience comes knowledge.

You have by far a more superior system than even many public sewer systems. One big reason is you can control what goes down the drain, with this information you are helping save the environment. Even the public systems break down from time to time.
Remember the toilet is not a waste basket.

Septic System FAQs

We are pleased to offer a few articles we have written over the past several years. We hope they might offer tips and answers to questions or issues you may have in regards to septic tanks, septic systems and drain fields. Please contact us directly with specific questions for a personal consultation.

Septic System FAQs
Smart Septic Systems
Going Green
Aggregate Rock System
Equal Distribution™
Pre-Contract Checklist
Septic Systems 101
Septic System Maintenance
Bio-Mat 101
Flushing Medication
Facts and Folklore
Pipe and Rock System
Septic Tank Installation
What is OSTDS?
Fat, Oil and Grease
Septic Industry Problems?
Sewer or Septic System?
Time to Take the Gloves Off!
Failing Septic Systems
Eye Opening Definitions
On-Site Estimate

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Dixie Septic Tank, Inc.

335 N. Boundary Avenue
Deland, Florida 32720

Phone: (386) 738-3030
Fax: (386) 740-7666
Lic# SRO991327
Contact Dixie Septic Tank

     
Home Page Failing Septic Systems Septic System Maintenance What is OSTDS?
Septic Services Going Green Bio-Mat 101 Fat, Oil and Grease
Smart Septic Systems Aggregate Rock System Flushing Medication Septic Industry Problems?
Concrete Septic Tanks Equal Distribution™ Facts and Folklore Sewer or Septic System?
Septic System FAQs Pre-Contract Checklist Pipe and Rock System Time to Take the Gloves Off!
Contact Us Septic Systems 101 Septic Tank Installation Failing Septic Systems
Septic Tank Cleaning Eye Opening Definitions
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