Troubleshooting Septic Systems

If you ever run into any of these issues with your home’s septic system, it’s important to know what to do.

My toilet isn’t Flushing Or sewage is backing Up into the House

These are the things that nightmares are made of, especially as they never seem to happen at a good time. There are a few things you can do to sort out what is happening and sometimes provide a quick fix to your problem.

Word to the wise, never open the clean out in the basement. The water and sewage that is backed up is going to come out as soon as you remove the cap, and sometimes under a bit of pressure causing a mess that will likely catch you personally.

First, do you have an effluent filter? More often than not when a tank is backing up, the homeowner forgot to clean it, and this is causing the back up. SOLUTION: Clean the filter!

Is the level of the tank just below the pipes coming from the house or going out to the leaching bed? If the levels are below the horizontal pipes (they may be hidden a bit behind the baffles) then it means it’s not the septic causing your issue(s). This would normally mean that there is a blockage in the pipes, often between the house and the septic. SOLUTION: Call a good plumber.

Is the level of the tank just above the horizontal pipes coming from the house or going out to the leaching bed? If this is the case, it means that the water is not exiting the septic tank. There can be a few causes:

  • You may have an effluent filter and forgot to clean it, if you are able to clean it now, the tank will start draining again (but might take a bit of time to get back to the proper level).
  • You have a pump and pump chamber between the tank and the leaching bed. If the pump has failed, the water will not get away. Normally there is an alarm system to indicate when the water level in the pump chamber is too high to let you know that the pump has failed (assuming it was installed correctly and is still working properly). In these cases where the pump has failed – check to make sure that the pump has power first, it could be just that the breaker/fuse has tripped (including the GFI, the plug that the pump plugs into) and needs to be reset. If power is not the issue, you will most likely need a plumber to replace the pump (and depending on the setup, may need to have the tanks pumped for the plumber to be able to access the pump).

Last but not least, if the above situations do not apply, it is not good news. It means that the leaching bed is experiencing a problem.

  1. It could be that the leaching bed is simply done and needs replacing (this means contacting a licensed septic installer).
  2. It could also mean that the groundwater or ground saturation is causing problems with the leaching bed and not allowing water to exit (in the worst case, it may actually be draining into your septic tank – for example when there is a flood).
  3. Finally, it could be that your leaching bed has frozen. If these last few cases occur, it means that your septic tank is now a holding tank until the problems can be resolved (it may drain slower than before or not at all until the problem is rectified).

My filter is plugged or needs cleaning

If your filter has become plugged or is in need of cleaning, it is possible to do so yourself and is fairly straightforward.

You will want to wear waterproof gloves and will need a garden hose which is connected to a water supply. Filters generally have a handle on the top of them, and either pull straight up without much effort, or may need to be turned to unlock; you can then pull straight up.

Once you have the filter out of its holder, place it on the lawn and use the garden hose to rinse it off. If there are a lot of solids on the filter you can gently tap it against the side of the tank (the access to the septic tank) to try to dislodge the solids back into the septic.

Once the filter is clean, check the top of the filter to see if there is an arrow indicating the direction which it should point (normally arrows point to the septic bed, and not back into the tank). Place the filter back into its holder the same way you removed it (either push straight down, or with a twist at the end to lock it depending on the type you have).

One note of caution: Do not put your head or face into the septic tank, there could be gases in the tank which you do not want to breathe in. Always keep your head above the level of the lid on the tank. Also do not smoke or have open flames while working around the lid of the septic tank, as some of the gases may be combustible.

I have a broken lid!

Unfortunately this does happen and can be fixed.

Septic tanks can produce sulphuric acid which eats the cement above the waste water level of the tank, and tends to affect the lid above the outlet to the leaching bed the most.

From the top of the lid you will not be able to tell, but the lid will be weaker and often breaks (or cracks) when removing it from the tank.

If it’s an old style lid (buried), there are not a lot of manufacturers still making them, but we can point you to those who do. We sometimes have used lids that we have saved from tanks that have been replaced and if the size is correct can provide it to you for a small cost.

If you are unable to get a replacement lid in the same style that you currently have, risers can be installed instead, bringing the lids to the surface (no more digging needed when pumping). This is the more expensive option, but tends to save you time in the future.

SOLUTION: If you’re unsure what to do, just give us a call: 613-257-3164

Water is pooling outside / smell of sewage

Something else which is to be taken seriously and handled immediately is the smell of sewage or waste water pooling on top of the ground or in surface waters.

These are signs that your system is not working correctly and needs immediate corrective action.

SOLUTION: Just give us a call: 613-257-3164