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Causes of a Failed Septic System

Causes of a Failed Septic System

Septic systems are a type of wastewater treatment system that is found in many rural and suburban areas. They are popular due to their efficiency and low cost of installation and maintenance. However, if not properly maintained, septic systems can fail and cause significant damage to the environment and human health. 

Causes of Septic Tank Failure

If you are looking for more information on why septic tank systems fail, you have reached the right blog post.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

The most common cause of a failed septic system is a buildup of solids due to a lack of regular maintenance. When a septic system is not serviced regularly, the organic material in the wastewater can accumulate in the tank and clog the drain field lines. This can cause a backup of sewage in the tank, which can lead to contamination of local groundwater. In addition, if the tank is not emptied regularly, anaerobic bacteria can build up in the tank and cause the breakdown of organic material, resulting in a foul odor and even disease-causing pathogens.

Damage to the Tank

Other causes of a failed septic system include damage to the tank or drain field, root intrusion, flooding, and tank overloading. Damage to the tank or drain field can be caused by age or environmental factors such as heavy rains or flooding. Root intrusion can occur when tree or shrub roots grow into the drain field lines and block the flow of wastewater. Flooding can also cause a backup of sewage, resulting in contamination of local groundwater. Finally, tank overloading can occur when too much wastewater is sent to the tank at once, overwhelming the system and causing a backup.

Improper Installation

Improper installation is also a common cause of a failed septic system. Poorly designed and installed systems can lead to a variety of issues, including clogged drains, overflowing tanks, and even structural damage to the tank or drain field. Additionally, improper installation can result in a system that is not able to handle the amount of wastewater it is receiving, leading to an overflow or backup.

Flushing or Pouring “Harmless” Objects Down the Drain

It is important to be mindful of what is being sent down the drain, as even seemingly harmless objects can cause a septic system to fail. Items such as paper towels, feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, and cooking grease should never be flushed or poured down the drain, as they can clog the pipes and lead to a backup. Additionally, chemicals such as paint, motor oil, and cleaning products should never be sent down the drain, as they can damage the tank and drain field.

Due to Biomaterials

The buildup of biomaterials, such as bacteria, fungi, and algae, can also cause a septic system to fail. These biomaterials can clog the pipes, leading to a backup or overflow. Also, they can cause the tank to become overloaded, failing the system. To prevent this from occurring, it is important to have the system serviced regularly and to avoid flushing or pouring anything down the drain that could contribute to the buildup of biomaterials.

A failed septic system is caused by a combination of different factors such as incorrect installation, lack of maintenance, and overuse of the system. In addition to this, external influences such as inadequate site drainage, water table levels, tree roots, and soil type can cause a septic system to fail prematurely. It is important to be aware of these potential causes of failure and to take steps to ensure the proper installation and maintenance of a septic system. By properly caring for a septic system, the probability of failure can be greatly reduced and the life of the system can be extended.

If you need help cleaning septic tanks, contact A-1 Septic Tank Service. We are a septic and non-hazardous pumping service provider in Alameda County and the surrounding areas. Call and let us know how we can help today!


Common signs include foul odors emanating from drains or the drain field, slow draining fixtures, sewage backups in toilets or drains, lush green patches or pooling water in the yard near the drain field, and gurgling sounds coming from plumbing fixtures.

Several factors can contribute to septic system failure, including lack of regular maintenance, improper use of the system (such as flushing non-biodegradable items or excessive water use), soil compaction or saturation, tree root intrusion, damage to the system components, and age-related deterioration.

If you suspect your septic system is failing, it's crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage and potential health hazards. Steps to take include contacting a licensed septic system professional for inspection and assessment, avoiding the use of water and limiting wastewater generation to prevent further stress on the system, and following any recommendations provided by the professional for repairs or replacement of the system components.

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