-A leach field, also known as a drain field, is the component of a septic system, responsible for the final treatment and disposal of the wastewater that comes from the septic tank. Heavy rain can saturate a leach field and interfere with the field’s ability to break down effluent, “But,” reports Skye Sepulveda, Paso Robles plumber with Quality 1st Plumbing & Drains, “there is hope and there are ways to help dry out a leach field to prevent serious problems.”
A leach field is a major component of a septic system for homes and businesses that are not connected to a public sewer system. A leach field works by wastewater and sewage from the home first flowing into a septic tank. Once the waste is broken down by bacteria in the septic tank it flows into the leach field through a network of perforated pipes where it is naturally filtered and purified by the soil and microorganisms in the soil before reaching the groundwater. Heavy rain can flood a leach field, saturating the soil and interfering with the amount of oxygen and microorganisms needed to break down the effluent.
Under normal conditions a leach field can last 50 or more years. In regions that have experienced heavier rainfall than usual, the normal percolation rate of the soil can be compromised. Percolation rate is the amount of time it takes the soil to absorb water, and that rate depends on the make up of the soil. For instance, sandy loam soil will have a faster percolation rate than clay. Engineers test to determine the percolation rate before installing a new leach field to make sure the system of pipes provides the best distribution of wastewater.
When heavy rainfall saturates the ground, the leach field may be temporarily unable to absorb extra water. “If the leach field is an older field,” said the Paso Robles plumber, “the field may need to be replaced.” Saturated soil can also cause the effluent to not drain correctly from the septic tank, which can lead to a number of issues, including sewage backups in the house and foul odors.
Fortunately, there are things that can be done to help dry out a leach field that has been affected by heavy rain. The first thing that should be done is to reduce the amount of water and sewage that flows to the septic tank.
There are permanent measures and temporary measures that can reduce the amount of water entering the septic tank. Permanent measures help preserve the septic system and extend the life of the leach field, and over time, can save thousands of dollars in repair and replacement. Temporary measures give the leach field a break so it can dry out from the rainstorms.
Permanent measures include:
- Observing the leach field during normal rain. If water tends to stand over the area of the leach field, installing surface drainage to direct rain runoff away from the leach field will reduce the amount of water that percolates through it.
- If landscape and crop watering collects over the leach field, install surface drainage to direct that water elsewhere.
- If the leach field happens to be on a slope that is a main watershed area, install drainage to direct the runoff water elsewhere.
- Install a gray water system that directs water from bathing, doing the dishes and laundry away from the septic tank to holding tanks that can be used for watering landscape.
Once the leach field is saturated, the temporary measures that give it time to dry out include:
- Renting portable toilets to use during the time it takes the ground to dry.
- Collecting shower water in buckets to prevent it from running into the septic system, and taking quick showers instead of baths. Use the bucket water for landscaping.
- Temporarily taking laundry to a self-service laundry.
- Avoid using the dishwasher and washing dishes in dishpans that can be used for watering landscaping or dumped outside.
- Don’t let water run in the sink while brushing teeth or washing hands and face.
These temporary measures might seem tedious and inconvenient, but they are short term and can save thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement costs for the leach field.
Another important thing to do, advises the Paso Robles plumber, is to “know your septic system.”
- What size is the septic tank?
- How old is it?
- When was it last pumped?
- Where is the leach field located?
- What kind of soil is in the leach field?
- What is the percolation rate?
- How old is the leach field?
If you suspect the leach field has been saturated by a rainstorm, or is failing, contact a local septic services for an assessment.
Quality 1st Plumbing & Drains is an affordable and reliable source for plumbing services that include septic pipe cleaning, drain cleaning, leak detection and repair, repipes, troubleshooting, video inspections, repairs, installations and more.
The locally-owned company has been serving San Luis Obispo County since 2003, developing long-standing relationships with residents and businesses based on the company practices of continuously researching state-of-the-art plumbing techniques and tools, staying on top of the cutting edge of the plumbing industry and offering excellent plumbing services at reasonable prices. Customer satisfaction is the top priority.
Quality 1st Plumbing And Drains
1006 Par Ave
Paso Robles, CA 93446