Many people experience problems with their septic system due to infrequent pumping, but poor maintenance isn't the only way that septic systems can fail. Homeowners who purchase property with a septic system may not fully understand how the system operates or where it's critical components are located. In these cases, ignorance can lead to costly repairs.
One potential issue comes from drainfield compaction. This problem often arises when homeowners don't know the location of their drainfield and then park cars or heavy equipment on top of it. The weight on top of the field pushes the soil down, compacting it over time. Eventually, this behavior will lead to the total failure of the drainfield.
Why Does Compaction Matter?
Your drainfield is part of a complex system that filters harmful pathogens from your home's wastewater. As the effluent from the septic tank passes through the medium around the drain pipes, bacteria help to clean out the waste and leave safe water behind. These helpful bacteria are aerobic—meaning that they require oxygen to survive.
Surprisingly, soil can hold quite a bit of oxygen. Loose soil with many pores provides the oxygen-rich environment that your drainfield's aerobic bacteria crave. When you compact the ground, you remove oxygen and ultimately reduce the efficiency of the filtering medium. Compacted soil also tends to drain water less effectively, leading effluent to pool to the surface more easily.
In addition to harming the filtering properties of your drainfield, compacting this area can physically damage the drain pipes. Frequently parking over drain pipes or installing patios, decks, or other structures over the area may crush the pipes or force soil into their perforations. Damaged pipes can cause effluent to back up elsewhere in the system, potentially causing more damage.
How Can You Address Soil Compaction?
Soil compaction isn't an easy problem to diagnose, and you'll need a septic system expert to determine if it is the underlying cause of your septic issues. If compacted soil turns out to be the culprit, then your drainfield can likely be salvaged. Once your contractor confirms that the drainpipes are still in good condition, they will proceed to loosen the soil in a process known as decompaction.
The purpose of soil decompaction is to reestablish proper porosity for aerobic bacteria. Loosening the soil also helps to allow effluent to flow more freely, draining away any moisture stuck near the surface. Different contractors may use different methods to break up compacted soil, but pneumatic devices are a common approach.
Once repaired, your drainfield should function normally again. To avoid similar problems in the future, keep vehicles, structures, and other heavy objects away from the site of the drainfield. Learn more by contacting septic tank drainfield repair companies.