Septic Drain Leach Field: Functions, Construction & Maintenance

If you’ve studied or watched videos on septic systems, you should be conversant with what a drain field is.

However, having an idea is quite different from understanding how it works and how best to maintain it. By reading this article, you’ll find all the relevant information you need to know about leach fields.

Most times, the words leach fields and drain fields are used interchangeably.

These two words refer to the same thing; the wastewater absorption or treatment field. When wastewater or effluent leaves a septic tank, it gets conveyed via drain field lines to the drain field.

Such effluent is evenly distributed over the leach area which is specially designed for purposes of effluent or wastewater filtration and absorption.

So, stick with us as we begin our discussion into how this important component of the septic system works.

Leach Field: An Extension Of Your Septic Tank

We’re only looking at the leach field part of the septic system because we want to highlight how it functions.

In reality, this can be said to be an extension of the septic tank as it collects wastewater from the tank for further treatment.

Functions Of The Leach Field

A drain or leach field performs an important function that cannot be overlooked.

This septic system component takes out or removed wastewater impurities as they come from the septic tank. The septic tank cannot complete the treatment process. It needs the leach field to further filter out impurities.

When such impurities are filtered out, effluent or wastewater gets absorbed and safely rejoins groundwater. This goes to show that a septic drain field is an excellent filtration system and must be well designed to perform its functions.

Design in this sense simply refers to what goes into making the leach field. The materials must be carefully selected as we’ll be discussing shortly. Proper and efficient filtration is only possible when a drain field is well constructed.

Constructing A Drain Field

Before a drain field is constructed, it needs to be determined to have the absorption capacity required.

This calls for percolation tests also known as perc tests. It involves drilling holes down the soil with water poured down to determine whether the absorption rate is acceptable.

Sometimes, samples are taken to the lab for further analysis to determine if the soil is leach field-friendly. Having determined that the soil is suitable, the next thing to consider is the materials used for construction.

Building an absorption field isn’t that complex. However, it must be done right to ensure it lasts.

First, shallow excavations are dug and porous materials such as gravels lay along the excavated area. Perforated pipes are then laid over the perforated materials and covered.

There are different types of drain fields. The type installed will determine its design. It’s important to call licensed septic technicians to perform this job as anything less would only defeat the purpose in the long run.

Maintaining Your Septic Leach Field

Like other parts of a septic system drain field maintenance should be a top priority. This is especially true of the drain field because it’s situated outdoors and is covered.

As such, its location might not be clear which makes it vulnerable to many human activities.

One of the first things to look out for is the planting of trees. Planting trees too close to the drain field will result in damage to drain pipes. Roots that extend from the tree go in search of nutrient-rich effluent coming through the pipes.

This creates blockages and even damages such pipes.

Trees should never be planted less than 10 feet from your drain field. The further out such trees and shrubs are the better. This saves you from costly repair costs that may result when these pipes get damaged.

Soil compaction around your drain field is something you should be concerned about. Remember we said a leach field requires porous soil. This consists of gravels among other materials that encourage percolation.

When compaction happens, it alters the soil structure, thus making it difficult for wastewater absorption. This situation can be prevented from happening by avoiding the area. In other words, you should drive heavy machinery such as cars, tractors, and bikes, etc over the drain field area.

Check your septic tank filter regularly. Sometimes, the filter may get blocked by solid waste, thus preventing the free flow of wastewater. Other times, a malfunctioning filter may lead to the release of solid waste into the drain field. This too creates problems.

Your best bet of preventing an inadequate supply of wastewater or the presence of solid waste is by regularly checking your septic tank filter. Consider doing this any time your tank is pumped.

Septic Drain Field Issues

Drain field issues are quite common when a septic system develops a fault.

As a matter of fact, the failure of one component of the system will ultimately pile up pressure on another which negatively impacts its functioning. Aging issues is another drain field malfunctioning possibility.

Drain field issues may result from infrequent or irregular maintenance, crushed pipes, and too much water in the system.

Let’s discuss these points individually.

  • Aging Issues

When a drain field has served out its term or gone past its lifespan, it’s likely to start giving problems. However well it’s maintained, the need for repair gets increasingly frequent.

Normally, such a drain field is expected to last as much as 25 years. You should begin to think about building a new one.

  • Infrequent or Irregular Maintenance

With little or no maintenance, a leach field is bound to develop problems.

Such problems are caused when a septic tank isn’t pumped frequently. Sludge buildup eventually leads to clogs which may result in solid waste particles finding their way to the drain field.

  • Crushed Pipes

The result of driving heavy machinery over the drain field area is the possibility of crushing drain lines. These are crushed and easily leak out their contents where they’re not meant to.

In some cases, a reverse flow occurs with effluent flowing back into the tank.

  • Too Much Water in the System

Without water conservation practices, you’re likely to flood your septic system and most importantly the drain field. This receives more water than it can process, thus leading to a soggy and mushy drain field area.

Water doesn’t get properly absorbed.

So far, the information supplied serves as a guide on how best to use and maintain a septic drain field. We’ve also provided information on actions to avoid to ensure your drain field remains functional.

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