When you think of septic tank maintenance, you probably only think of the tank and its need to be pumped and cleaned frequently. However, your septic system is more than just the tank. Maintenance for the tank and the system overall starts with the drains in your home and ends with the drain (or drainage) field. A lot of people remember to look after just the tank, but forget about the drain field. Here is what you need to do for the drain field to maintain it, and why you should be minding it just as often as you do the septic tank itself.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
For most homeowners with a septic system, the tank and connecting pipes are underground. There is a hole in the ground to provide access to the tank for pumping and cleaning. You remember the tank, despite its being out of sight, because you know it is there and you know it needs to be addressed. Yet, the drain field is out of sight, out of mind because no one bothers to tell you that you should be providing some level of maintenance for this as well.
What you should be doing is watching the grass above the area that is the drainage field. It will regularly be vibrant green for all of the waste deposits that are adding nutrients to the soil in that area. Any time the grass is suddenly a different color, or the ground in that area is particularly wet, you have a problem. It means that the waste is not coming through the drain field pipe to the drain field (at least not enough of the waste is), or that the pipe is broken and that a lot of the waste has oversaturated the ground below. It requires immediate excavation and repairs.
When you have the septic tank inspected, the drain field area should be inspected as well. Anything out of the ordinary in terms of color, odor, presence of liquids on top of the soil, or sunken soil areas are cause for concern. Catching such issues during a routine septic tank inspection can help you avoid a very nasty and costly situation in the near future. At this time, all pipes leading to and away from the septic tank should be thoroughly inspected for leaks, breaks, and clogs so that the drain field as well as the tank are in good working order.