Do you know how to tell your septic tank is full? Recognizing the signs of a full septic system can help you avoid several health and safety hazards. If you suspect your tank is full, you need to have it pumped as soon as possible.
1. Floor Drain Overflow
If there is more wastewater than the tank can hold, it will flow backward to the drains. Due to their lower elevation, floor drains are especially susceptible to this backup. When your main floor drain overflows, it will not just smell bad but also pose particular health and safety hazards. Wastewater increases the risk of waterborne diseases and infections by exposing the building’s occupants to pathogens and contaminants in the sewage. Wastewater can also lead to wet and slippery floors, which increase the risk of slip-and-fall accidents. If the overflow reaches electrical appliances or outlets, you could be at risk of electrical shock.
2. Standing Water or Spongy Ground
Standing water or spongy ground near your septic tank could be a sign of trouble, including your tank overflowing. The excess wastewater seeps into the earth surrounding the tank when it is full. Once the wastewater exceeds the drainage capacity of the drain field, it will pool on the surface of the ground. This can lead to groundwater pollution, which is a major health hazard that contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases. The weakened soil can also jeopardize your home’s foundation and compromise its structural integrity.
3. Slow Draining Fixtures
Sinks and showers that take a long time to empty could indicate your septic tank is full. Since the water doesn’t have anywhere to go, it stays in your home’s drain lines, backing up into the sinks. Once the tank can’t manage the inflowing water, you will need to have the tank pumped. The standing water in the sinks and showers poses health risks due to the possibility of bacterial contamination. Slow drainage can also cause leaks, which pose the threat of water damage. These conditions significantly affect the home’s indoor air quality, leading to foul odors and unclean conditions.
4. Gurgling Sounds
Gurgling noises mean the tank is almost full or there is some type of obstruction. The fuller the tank gets, the more you’ll hear gurgling noises as air tries to escape. As it moves toward the exit, the air forms gas bubbles. The gases released when these bubbles pop, including methane and hydrogen sulfide, can be harmful to your health. Exposure to these gases can lead to asphyxiation risks, explosion hazards, and certain neurological effects.
5. Algae Growth
Once the septic tank reaches its capacity, nutrient-rich wastewater starts to escape, promoting the growth of algae in nearby water bodies. If you notice this problem, contact an expert for help. Your septic tank can contaminate water sources with harmful microorganisms, which feed the algae. The wastewater can also affect nearby aquatic ecosystems and lead to catastrophic consequences for wildlife, domestic animals, and your own family. If you reside near lakes or other major bodies of water, the risk is substantial.
6. Sewage Smells Indoors
As organic materials decompose, they release gases like hydrogen sulfide and create a variety of foul odors. Odors that smell like rotten eggs are a sign of tank overload. Not only can these gases contribute to poor indoor air quality, but they also cause health problems, including headaches and respiratory ailments. The putrid smells can even trigger nausea. Other odors that indicate a full septic tank are raw sewage, ammonia, and moldy or musty scents. The ammonia smell occurs due to the presence of ammonia in the gases released during the decomposition of organic matter. Moldy and musty odors are a result of stagnant water and the growth of mold in the vicinity of the septic tank.
7. Toilet Flushing Issues
When a septic tank is full, the drainage slows, making it difficult for a toilet to move wastewater. This happens when there is too much water flowing into the septic system. When toilets overflow, the sewage water can expose occupants to dangerous bacteria and pathogens. Dangers to resident safety include backups and structural deterioration, which can lead to unsanitary living conditions.
8. High Nitrate Levels
A full septic tank can easily lead to water with high nitrate levels. When the tank overflows, nitrogen, and other surplus nutrients seep into the groundwater. Detecting contamination requires nitrate testing. High nitrate levels are harmful to health, especially to babies, because methemoglobinemia, sometimes known as blue baby syndrome, interferes with oxygen delivery. Other health problems can also arise from extended exposure, including reproductive problems and certain cancers.
9. Visible Sludge
If sludge is visible in a septic tank, solid waste has accumulated to an excessive level. Sludge forms as solids sink to the bottom of the tank as it approaches capacity. One way to find this problem is to look via the tank’s access port. Because sludge decomposition can emit toxic chemicals that affect interior air quality, there is a potential threat to human health. Backups, system blockages, and structural damage are all possible safety issues.
What to Do
If your septic tank is full, you must act quickly to avoid potential health risks, system failures, and property damage. Before calling a plumber, make sure to tell everyone in the home not to use the sinks, toilets, showers, drains, or any water-using appliances. Go to the septic tank and check its access port. Seeing liquid toward the top of the tank usually means the liquid level is full. For precise diagnosis and upkeep, however, expert evaluation is essential. This is why it’s important to book an appointment with a licensed septic tank technician to pump the tank.
What to Expect
You can count on a meticulous process when you hire experts to pump out your septic tank. After they find the entry point, they will use specialized machinery to drain the tank of any solids or liquids and to check it for problems. It usually takes a few hours; however, it might be longer or shorter depending on things like tank size and sludge levels. Waste extraction and transportation to landfills are part of the service. This means that once they’re finished, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up a mess. Instead, you can go back to using your home’s plumbing system like you normally do.
Septic Tank Maintenance Tips
Regular septic tank maintenance is key to your system’s longevity and performance. Experts usually recommend professional pumping at least once every three to five years. Fixing leaks promptly will help keep septic tank problems at bay. It also helps to avoid flushing non-biodegradable items and to ensure clear drain fields. This means you’ll need to keep heavy vehicles and excessive vegetation away from the drain field. Some experts recommend installing a septic tank filter in the tank outlet pipe. This keeps debris out of the drain field and helps it last longer by trapping solids.
Ribbs Premier Services Plumbing in San Jose knows exactly how to pump septic tanks of all sizes. We also offer trenchless sewer services and plumbing repairs. If your septic tank is full, call us right away to get it pumped.