Septic Tank Backups, Leaks, Odors
If sewage is backing up inside your home’s drains or surfacing outside, or if you notice odors around your home, your septic system may be failing. The most likely culprits:
- Lack of maintenance — If solid waste builds up too high, it can be forced out of the tank and into the drainfield, where it clogs the gravel and soil. This can cause wastewater to back up or erupt from the ground.
- Missing, broken or worn fittings — Tee fittings and baffles are tank parts designed to slow down the inflow and outflow of wastewater. The goal — to give bacteria time to digest waste and allow for separation of solids, grease, and scum from liquid. If these fittings are broken, the system fails to work as it should.
- Age — Some septic tanks that were permitted under the outdated "perc" soil testing method are installed in soils that would not pass a site review today. Also, some older tanks may have been placed deeper and closer to the underground water supply (water table) than DHEC would allow today.
- Incorrect installation — Tanks facing backward, unlevel drainfield parts, soil compacted by heavy equipment — a lot can go wrong during installation. DHEC site visits and post-installation inspections have helped correct many problems.
- Improper use — When more people live in a home than the home was designed for, it can create problems. For instance, a septic tank designed for a three bedroom home that is later converted to rental property that “sleeps 12” will be prone to failure.
See our septic tank maintenance tips.
Flooding - What to Do
When grass outlines the tank or drainfield, it’s a sign of a leak or other problem.
An exposed septic tank pit filled to ground level with nasty looking backed-up septic tank waste.
Your Legal Responsibility
If DHEC receives a complaint about a failing septic system or tracks a pollution issue to a septic tank, the owner will receive a notice telling them they are in violation of Regulation 61-56 and must repair their failing septic tank system. We usually allow 10 days for the repair. If the homeowner refuses to cooperate, we can take legal action through the local magistrate’s office.
South Carolina does not provide any funding or financing options for individual homeowners to help repair or replace failing septic systems or new home septic system installation.
Regular inspections and pumping are the best and cheapest way to keep your septic system in good working order.
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