5 Septic Tank Problems — and How to Fix Them in an Environmentally-Friendly Way

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Efficient and eco-friendly septic tank management plays a vital role in preserving the health of our environment. However, not all homeowners know and understand how septic tanks work and their potential dangers if handled incorrectly.

Therefore, today, we’ll delve into common issues homeowners face with their septic systems and the environmentally-conscious solutions that ensure sustainable waste management practices. 

We’ll also provide tips, expert advice, and innovative strategies for keeping your septic tank functioning optimally while minimizing its impact on the environment, so make sure to read until the end!

1. Groundwater Pollution & Contaminated Soil After a Spill

Septic tanks can overflow or leak, and when this happens, harmful bacteria and viruses can contaminate the surrounding groundwater and soil, which affects the environment and nearby water sources.

Moreover, if the soil is contaminated, this can harm plant life or spread harmful bacteria to animals and humans who come into contact with it.

The Solution

Regularly maintain the tank and the drain field, ensure the tank is properly installed, and that you are not overusing water. Also, avoid flushing non-biodegradable materials down drains, and don’t pour harmful chemicals that can disrupt the biological processes within your septic tank.

However, if the worst happens and your tank does leak, you’ll need the help of a company specialized in cleaning up contaminated soil. They can dig up the tank, fix the leak (or replace it), and remove the solid around it to avoid health issues.

2. Surface Water Pollution

In some cases, improperly maintained septic tanks or the ones installed too close to bodies of water (such as rivers or lakes) can contaminate surface waters. When this happens, entire ecosystems can be impacted and destroyed.

The Solution

If you suspect your septic tank may be the cause of any ecosystem imbalance, take immediate action and have a professional inspect it. Make necessary repairs or replace malfunctioning components as recommended.

Next, make sure your septic tank and drain field are located at a safe distance from nearby bodies of water, creating a buffer zone to limit direct contamination. If this is not the case, moving your current tank to a better area is best.

You may also want to build barriers such as berms (raised earthen structures) or swales (shallow drainage channels) around the drain field’s perimeter to help capture potential runoff or pollutants before they reach nearby bodies of water.

3. Overloading the System

Overconsumption of water can overload a septic tank in several ways, potentially causing various issues with its functioning and the surrounding environment. For instance, if you’re using more water than your septic tank can handle, this can result in an overflow of waste material back into your home fixtures or onto surrounding land.

Large amounts of water also mean that your septic tank will take longer to effectively treat and separate waste materials. This also dilutes the concentration of bacteria responsible for breaking down solid wastes, which can lead to an accumulation of solids that may require more frequent cleaning or maintenance.

The Solution

Start by adopting water conservation measures, such as turning off taps when not in use, shortening shower times, and repairing leaks promptly. You should also invest in high-efficiency appliances designed to consume less water.

Next, upgrade your conventional septic system with advanced treatment technologies like aerobic treatment units or constructed wetlands, which provide higher levels of wastewater treatment and reduce pollution.

If your current housing situation permits, you may also want to consider a composting toilet. This type of waste management is quite common for living off the grid and reducing reliance on a centralized sewage system.

4. Lack of Regular Maintenance

sustainable septic tanks

Septic tanks must be cleaned and inspected regularly to ensure everything runs according to plan. Failing to do so increases the chances of blockages within pipes and leach fields and fosters unhealthy bacterial growth within the tank environment.

The Solution

The obvious solution here is to ensure you keep up with the scheduled maintenance jobs for your septic tank. If any blockages occur, act as quickly as possible to clean and free the area. Also, try to identify the main cause of the blockage to avoid repeating the situation in the near future.

If you’re looking for a more advanced solution, you may want to look into eco-friendly waste management methods, like the solar-powered toilets proposed by the Bill Gates Foundation.

5. Chemical Imbalance

Many people are not aware of the harmful effects that chemicals can have on their septic systems and local water bodies when disposed of inappropriately. As a result, the drain becomes a convenient place to dispose of unwanted chemicals such as paint thinners, pesticides, solvents, and other hazardous materials.

Harmful chemicals are also found in cleaning solutions (such as bleach, ammonia, or disinfectants), pest control solutions (such as pesticides or insecticides), and others. Overusing these solutions can disrupt your septic tank’s natural balance of helpful bacteria. 

These bacteria are essential for effectively breaking down waste materials, so a chemical imbalance can lead to reduced efficiency and, ultimately, septic system failure.

The Solution

Don’t pour harmful chemicals down the drain, and learn how to safely dispose of the chemicals you have around the house. Also, make sure not to overuse the cleaning solutions and find environmentally-friendly options.

Key Takeaways

Septic tanks are not the ideal waste management solution, but you can make sure they do their job without causing too much harm to the environment. Proper maintenance and regular inspections are essential for this, but you should also implement water conservation measures and mindful waste disposal practices.

You may also want to consider upgrading to advanced wastewater treatment technologies for enhanced performance and reduced environmental impact.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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