Anytime Septic Services, LLC
A drain field, called a leach field or absorption field, is a critical septic system component used to manage wastewater in areas without centralized sewer systems. It is an underground system to dispose of effluent, liquid wastewater, from a septic tank.
A drain field’s primary function is to disperse and treat effluent from the septic tank safely. After solids settle in the septic tank, the remaining wastewater flows into the drain field, where it percolates through soil, undergoing natural treatment processes before eventually reaching groundwater. This process removes harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients from the effluent, making it safer to enter the environment.
As wastewater leaves your home’s plumbing, it enters the septic system. Once in the septic system, the solid waste settles to the bottom of the septic tank, and then the wastewater (effluent) enters the drain field to be broken down and distributed throughout the drain field.
Wastewater Distribution: After solid waste settles in the septic tank, the effluent flows through a series of distribution pipes into the drain field.
Percolation: The effluent percolates through the gravel and into the soil beneath the drain field. The gravel layer helps distribute the flow and prevents soil clogging with solids.
Soil Filtration: As the effluent moves through the soil, it is naturally filtered. The soil acts as a biological filter, removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and specific nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus.
Microbial Treatment: Microorganisms in the soil further treat the effluent by breaking down organic material and pathogens. This biological process is essential for reducing the environmental impact of the wastewater.
Absorption and Evaporation: The treated water is absorbed by plant roots, evaporated into the atmosphere, or continues downward to recharge groundwater.
Site Evaluation: The first step is a thorough site evaluation, including soil testing. The soil’s percolation rate determines the field’s size and type. The area should be level and away from water sources to prevent contamination.
Design and Planning: Based on the evaluation, a design is drafted considering local regulations, property size, soil type, and household wastewater production. This plan is usually developed by a professional to ensure compliance and functionality.
Excavation and Laying Pipes: Trenches are dug to specified depths and gradients. Perforated pipes are then laid out in these trenches over a layer of gravel. The layout ensures even distribution of effluent.
Covering and Landscaping: The pipes are covered with more gravel and then a layer of soil. Care is taken to avoid compacting the soil too much. The surface is often landscaped with grass to prevent erosion while avoiding deep-rooting plants.
Final Inspection and Testing: Before use, the system is inspected by local health department officials to ensure it meets all regulations and standards.
Repairing a drain field is often more complex than installation and typically involves addressing one of several common issues:
Clogging: Over time, the pipes or soil can become clogged with solids. This may require jetting the lines, replacing pipes, or in severe cases, installing a new field.
Overloading: Excessive water usage can saturate a drain field, leading to failure. Solutions include repairing leaks, improving water efficiency, or expanding the drain field.
Root Intrusion: Roots from nearby trees can invade and damage the pipes. Removal of the affected pipes, and possibly the trees, might be necessary.
Biological Overload: Excessive use of chemicals or antibacterial agents can disrupt the microbial balance necessary for effluent treatment. Adjusting household habits and potentially adding soil may be required.
Age-Related Deterioration: Like any system, drain fields have a lifespan. An old field that no longer absorbs water efficiently may need to be relocated or completely rebuilt.
Inspect Regularly: Regular septic system inspection, including the tank and drain field, is essential. Look for system backing up or slow draining signs, which could indicate a problem.
Pump Your Septic Tank: Regularly pumping out your septic tank (typically every 3-5 years) is crucial to prevent solids from overflowing into the drain field, which can clog the system.
Conserve Water: Excessive water use can overload the drain field, leading to system failure. Fix leaks promptly, and consider using water-saving fixtures and appliances.
Direct Rainwater Away: Ensure that downspouts and other drainage systems are directed away from the drain field area to prevent saturation.
Plant Grass Over the Field: Planting grass over your drain field helps prevent erosion and absorbs excess water. However, avoid deep-rooted plants or trees near the area.
Spread Out Laundry Loads: Staggering washing machine use can prevent excessive water from flooding the system at once.
Drive or Build Over the Field: Avoid driving vehicles or heavy equipment over the drain field. Building structures or paving over the area can also compact the soil and damage the pipes.
Dispose of Chemicals in Drains: Household chemicals, paints, oils, and other hazardous substances can damage the septic system and pollute the environment when disposed of down the drain.
Use Garbage Disposals Excessively: Minimize garbage disposals as they increase the solids in the septic tank, potentially leading to clogs in the drain field.
Plant Trees Near the Field: Tree roots can infiltrate and damage the drain field pipes, leading to costly repairs.
Flush Non-Biodegradable Items: Items like diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, and feminine hygiene products should never be flushed as they can clog the system.
Overuse Septic Additives: Over-reliance on septic tank additives can disrupt the natural processes in the tank and potentially harm the drain field.