Can You Extend The Life Of Your Failing Septic System?

As your septic system nears the end of its life, you need to start putting money aside to replace it. However, what happens when it fails suddenly and you don't have the money? You still need to use the kitchen and bathroom in the meantime. Before you start couch surfing, see if a stopgap measure will give you the time you desperately need.

Pump It Early, Pump It Often

Most septic systems fail as solid waste starts to back up into the drain field, not because the system collapses. If this is the situation you are in, you can indeed give yourself a temporary reprieve by pumping the tank. Since this removes the solid waste, it will stop the waste from continuing to plug the field. Unfortunately, this does not allow the system to "heal" itself, and the solid waste already stuck in the field will continue to cause issues down the road.

However, the tank is going to start filling up again, so water conservation is key to making this solution work. If you continue to use water recklessly, you will need to pay to have the tank pumped again and again, which will eat into your savings for a new system. In fact, water saving measures are one of the best ways to maintain the health of a septic pumping system, so you should continue to apply your new water conservation techniques to your new system to prevent future problems.

Install a Temporary Fence Around the Drainfield

Everything you flush or rinse down your drains goes into your septic system. Now that the system is failing, all that waste is going to start coming to the surface. Definitely not a pleasant thought, but it is the harsh reality of your situation. If it is going to take more than a couple days to get the issue addressed (and it probably will even if you do have the money), consider installing some temporary fencing around the drainfield. This will keep your family members from accidentally walking into toxic sludge. Unlike the movies, this is not going to give them super powers, only make them sick.

In addition, aging broken systems like this are in danger of caving in on themselves. Not only is this a seriously dangerous situation, it will take away the option of pumping the tank to give yourself a slight reprieve. A tank or drainfield that has collapsed is not repairable, and you will have little choice but to completely replace your septic system.

Prevent the System From Failing in the First Place

While septic systems do have a limited lifespan, much of it is determined by how you care for it. While it might not help you today, taking care of your new septic system can prevent you from being in this situation ever again.

  • Learn to conserve water, and avoid dumping chemicals down the drain that could hurt the bacteria in your tank.
  • Don't plant trees near the new tank, since the roots will bury in and block the pipes.
  • Have your tank pumped regularly, according to the septic service's recommendations. If you don't, you are guaranteed to have problems again within a few years.
  • Listen to the installation professionals when they talk about the location and size of the new system. While it might not be the most convenient spot, this is all about making sure the system lasts as long as possible.

Having a septic system critically fail is no joke, and replacement is expensive. Stopgap measures are only going to give you a few days to pull the funds together for replacement, but they may be just what you need to handle the situation safely.

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