Is my system failing - FAQ's

Is My Septic System Failing?

How do you know if your septic system is failing?  First, answer the following questions:

  1. Do your drains empty slowly for reasons other than old, clogged pipes?
  2. Does sewage back up into your house?
  3. Have you noticed a wet, smelly spot in your yard?
  4. Is your septic tank piped to a ditch or stream?
  5. Is your washing machine or sink piped to a road or stream?
  6. When it rains or the ground is wet, do you experience problems with your  drains?
  7. When you do laundry, does a wet spot appear in your yard?
  8. Do you frequently have to pump your septic tank (more than once a year)?
  9. Is the grass over or around your septic tank greener than the rest of your lawn?
  10. Is the area around your septic tank or drainfield wet or spongy even when it has not rained for a week or more?


If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, your septic system has failed or is near failing. This means that it is not treating and disposing of sewage in a safe, environmentally sound fashion. You may also be able to tell your system is in trouble if noxious bacteria (fecal coliform) or large amounts of nutrients (particularly ammonia) are found in both nearby wells and surface water.


Tips for proper maintenance of a septic system:

  • Limit the use of garbage disposals.
  • Do not use too much water. (A good limit is 50 gallons per person per day.)
  • Do not add materials such as facial tissues, hygiene products, or cigarette butts to wastewater.
  • Do not pour cooking oils or grease down the drain.
  • Maintain a grass or other vegetative covering over the drainfield.
  • Keep autos and heavy equipment off of the system.

What should not be flushed through a septic system?

The following substances should not be put in the septic system:

  • cooking grease, oils, or fats;
  • pesticides;
  • paints;
  • paint thinners;
  • solvents;
  • disinfectants; and
  • other household chemicals.

Cooking grease, oils or fats should be placed in a container and put in household garbage that will be landfilled. Pesticides, paints, paint thinners, solvents, disinfectants and other household chemicals are toxic substances that threaten ground water quality. They may also kill the microorganisms that help purify the sewage.