How To Fix a Saturated Leach Field?

Knowing how to fix a saturated leach field is vital for ensuring that your septic system functions as expected. It will save you the money and time it would take to construct and commission a new leach field for your septic system.

Not every structure has access to the municipal sewer system. Some people rely on septic systems, which are subterranean waste treatment infrastructure. A septic system is a complicated system of parts that work together to safely handle solid and liquid wastes that are flushed down a building’s drain. The septic system will fail if any of these components fail.

The leach field is the final component in both residential and commercial septic systems. The organic content in the liquid wastewater produced from the septic tank is filtered out by the leach field. The soil in the area allows wastewater to percolate through it. Organic materials are absorbed into the ground and transformed into nutrients, with the liquid being discharged into surrounding groundwater reservoirs [1].

If the leach field is adequately maintained, it can last a long time without failing. However, the drain field might get saturated and stop absorbing water due to a variety of reasons. When this occurs, immediate action must be taken to return it to its previous state of operation. Otherwise, the effluent will overflow the field, causing a foul odor to spread throughout the compound.

It is therefore essential to understand what this means as well as how to fix a saturated leach field in case you encounter such a scenario.

Causes of a saturated septic drain field

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A saturated septic drain field can be caused by several factors. The most common causes are outlined below.

  1. Aging of the leach field

Even a well-maintained leach field will clog over time and need to be replaced. Several factors influence how quickly it has to be replaced. The kind, materials, and quality of the original construction, field size, and septic system utilization level are all factors to consider. Additional factors include soil characteristics, soil water or groundwater control, and septic tank pumping frequency to avoid sending sediments into the fields.

  1. Accumulation of biomat

A dark, gelatinous layer forms under the distribution pipes as the wastewater travels through the leach field. This layer is made up of “biomat,” a biomaterial muck. The biomat’s water tightness limits effluent percolation into the soil, causing the leach field to become saturated [2].

Organic debris and anaerobic bacteria attach to the soil and crushed stone to form the biomat. The organic matter in the effluent provides food for these bacteria.

The more the black gelatinous sludge builds up in the trenches, the harder it will be for wastewater to permeate and eventually percolate into the soil. Even a minor hydraulic surcharge might result in sewage backups and spills.

  1. Driving vehicles or heavy equipment over the leach field

Heavy traffic over the drain field, as with any septic absorption system, might compress soil or break pipes, rendering the leach field wet and thus unworkable. Even if it’s just for a single job like building a nearby structure or doing other site work, driving vehicles over the leach field is likely to damage the system and necessitate costly repairs.

Heavy equipment compaction of soil results in the production of an impervious soil layer, which not only damages pipelines but also causes them to break. Because the layer prevents water from soaking into the soil, the area will get saturated. It’s also a good idea to keep grazing animals like horses, cows, and other livestock away from leach field systems.

  1. Conversion of Septic tank to an aerobic system without proper design

It is not possible to convert a standard septic tank to an aerobic system by simply installing an aeration device in it. If this is done, suspended solids will be discharged into the leach field in single-chamber septic tanks in particular. As a result, the septic drain field will become waterlogged. When switching from a conventional to an aerobic septic system, settlement chambers, septic filters, or something equivalent will be required.

  1. Leach field construction mistakes

When a leach field is built incorrectly, it can get saturated before its time. Improper site selection, particularly on rocky, inadequately drained sites, is one of the typical construction mistakes that could result in leach field saturation. Similarly, improper trench grading and routing or extending piping over variations in trench grading without proper bedding, which causes pipe settlement, can contribute to this as well. The end result is a short-lived leach field.

  1. Improper surface and subsurface runoff control

When building a leach field, ignoring site runoff and groundwater levels is a recipe for disaster because it could result in a saturated septic drain field. Some properties have improper leach field siting due to the builder’s failure to address site runoff or natural groundwater channels.

The leach field’s capacity to absorb wastewater from the septic system may be reduced if it is flooded with surface or roof runoff. [3]

Similarly, when groundwater interacts with sewage near to the surface in leach fields built on land with a shallow water table, the area can quickly become saturated.

How to know if you are dealing with a saturated septic drain field

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  • The flow of wastewater in the drains and toilets is slow

You may notice that water is draining more slowly through the home before the drain field entirely stops operating. The pipes may continue to function as long as there is space for water. Water may, on the other hand, be draining more slowly.

If you overlook this issue, which is caused by standing water in leach field, it will worsen over time. The septic tank may overflow, and the water will be unable to seep into the ground. Of course, there are other plumbing issues that might cause clogged drains, so it’s a good idea to check for those as well.

  • Septic odors

The smell of a septic tank can be detected near the leaching area or within the house. It’s yet another sign that the leaching field is full. Because it is so uncomfortable, this is arguably one of the easiest indications to spot. If you detect a rotten egg odor, check to see if the source is a buildup of organic debris in the plumbing system. You can use an environmentally friendly leach field cleaner or inspect your septic tank for unusually high water levels. You can conclude that the drain field is the most likely culprit if the odor persists.

  • Sewage backing up in the house

The water level in the tank tends to rise when water is returned owing to the clogged drain field. The effluent will flow back through the opening or into your home if there is no more space in the septic tank.

If you detect an unusually high water level in your septic tank, your leach field is almost certainly wet. The water level in the drainpipe linking the septic tank and the leaching field should always be at the same level.

If the water level in the leaching field is higher than the drain line, it signifies the leaching field is full, and water is backing up into the septic tank. The soil must then be checked to see if it has become saturated as a result of excessive rain or snowmelt.

It’s also worth checking if there’s been a recent hydraulic overload. This could explain why the water level is higher than usual. However, if the problem persists, it’s possible that the leaching bed isn’t working effectively (it is most likely clogged).

  • Greener and taller grass around the drain field

If you notice higher, greener grass in the area where your leach field is located, it means your leach field is saturated and may not be working effectively. Pressure can cause wastewater to rise to the surface if it can no longer absorb the soil. It results in the leach field leaking in one spot. This can cause the grass to grow faster and make it appear greener.

  • Puddles of water in the yard

If you find puddles on the field, it’s probable that the water has risen to the surface due to a hydraulic overload. The pressure in a clogged leach field causes the water to rise. When wastewater is discharged in enormous amounts, it can literally puddle on the ground.

If the water has a smell similar to rotten eggs, keep away from the area. The perforated pipes in the leach field may become disconnected or break in some instances. It’s possible that a large car has driven by and caused the sewage to back up. Otherwise, a clog is more likely to be the culprit.

  • Soil sinking or collapsing over the leach field

If you observe that the soil around the leaching bed is unusually wet, it’s a sign that the leaching bed isn’t working correctly.

How to Fix a Saturated Leach Field in 3 Steps

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You need to understand how to fix a saturated leach so that you are prepared when the problem occurs. The methods discussed below are commonly used to improve a saturated drain field.

  1. Use of additives

To restore functionality to a saturated drain field, biological, organic, and inorganic additives can be applied. While all three types of additives can provide results, septic specialists usually recommend natural additives to their clients.

Strong acids and bases found in organic and inorganic additives contribute to septic tank corrosion. Biological additives are made up of different bacteria strains that assist the soil in absorbing organic waste better.

A biological additive’s bacteria also aid in the septic tank’s processing and separation of solid waste from liquid effluent dumped into the drain field. Shock treatment is the process of repairing a saturated leach field using biological enzymes and bacteria. The workload placed on the drain field is reduced as a result of better septic tank efficiency, allowing the field to function more efficiently over time.

  1. Mechanical Aeration

Anaerobic bacteria aid in the decomposition of waste in traditional septic tanks. Switching to an aerobic septic system instead of a leach field when it becomes clogged or malfunctions can be advantageous.

Aerobic septic systems use aeration to produce a higher-quality liquid effluent, which is then discharged into the drain field. To give the oxygen needed for aerobic bacteria to survive, a compressor blasts air into the main septic tank. These bacteria decompose waste 20 times faster than anaerobic bacteria in the septic tank. [4]

When waste is digested more quickly, there are fewer organic elements in the liquid that is released into the drain field. The soil can more easily handle the liquid waste, restoring the leach field’s functionality.

  1. Replacement

The function of an existing drain field cannot always be restored. It is necessary to abandon leach fields that have grown too congested to process waste. To ensure that the system continues to eliminate and treat waste properly, a second field can be connected to the septic tank.

To avoid future leach field issues, build a new field. Because this can be expensive, speak with a specialist to see if new construction is good for you. The bacteria in the clogged drain field will ultimately die off, resulting in less saturated soil. For this to happen, you will need to know how long it does take for a leach field to dry out. [5]

If the second leaching field has any problems in the future, the septic tank can be properly reconnected to the first.

A working leaching field is required to handle raw sewage in your septic system successfully. If the current one is operating sluggishly, you should act quickly to resolve the issue. An experienced septic technician can examine the damage and offer the best repair strategy to help you prevent a major plumbing disaster.

How to fix a saturated leach field – Final Word

A blocked leach field puts the entire system at risk. Septic odors, sewage backflow in the house, sewage leakage in the yard, and groundwater contamination are all possible outcomes. To avoid these and other issues associated with a saturated leach field, shock treatment should be used to unclog it.

Biological additives are used to introduce billions of bacteria and enzymes into the septic system during shock treatment. The goal is to allow microorganisms to digest organic waste more quickly, clearing the system of clogs. Because the shock treatment product is formed of bacteria and enzymes, it is a septic-safe solution for unclogging your drain field!

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