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Rain, septic tanks make quite a pair
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Recent rains left some homeowners tackling septic tank problems since saturated soils are unable to absorb additional water from drain field lines. Hopefully, conditions will improve as soils dry out.

The sign of a problem is sewage seeping to soil surface.

Some soils have problems with drainage. Quite often septic tank problems in our area are caused by poor soil drainage. In these cases, problems may occur even during times of normal rainfall.

To solve this problem, the homeowner may have to have the tank pumped. This will give the drain fields time to rest as the tank fills and begins to move its contents to the drain field.

Another option is to lengthen the septic system’s drain field lines. In the worst-case scenario, another site may have to be selected for the drain field.

Over-the-counter additives are not the solution. Several manufacturers of septic-tank additives claim household cleaners cause improper functioning to residential septic tanks. They claim bacterial additives are needed to resupply the bacterial population required for anaerobic digestion in the septic tank.

Actually, bacteria responsible for digestion in septic tanks are commonly found in the domestic wastewater entering the tank as well as in the soil of the drain field. As long as the septic tank is being used and maintained properly, incoming wastewater from the residence will supply the septic tank with enough bacteria to properly carry out digestion.

Research conducted during the past several years has concluded, with normal use, household cleaning products do not adversely affect septic-tank operation. Normal use of household cleaning products is considered to be the amount recommended by the manufacturer.

With normal use, household cleansers and disinfectants will destroy bacteria in homes without harming the bacterial digestion required for a septic tank to operate properly. This is because the cleaning products are diluted once they enter the tank and because of the absorption capacity of the tank’s organic material.

To learn more about septic tanks, refer to extension bulletin 1242-4: “On-Site Wastewater Management Systems and Their Environmental Impact” at

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Wilkes County.

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