Your septic system is more than a drain line, tank, and a field. It is also a rich ecosystem that must stay in balance for the system to work properly.
Importance of Bacterial Balance
Bacteria play a vital role in your home's septic tank. The sludge in the tank is occupied by a vast colony of helpful bacteria and enzymes that help break down the waste and sludge to the tank into effluent. This effluent is then able to enter your drain field safely, where it can percolate through the water system and then safely rejoin the water table.
This process occurs because the bacteria actually feed on the sludge. They also produce natural enzymes which help further break down the components in the sewage. Most of the waste is processed into liquids or gases that can then harmlessly leave the system. Only a small amount of sludge is left behind for eventual disposal. If you don't have the right bacterial balance in the tank, it will fill up too quickly and require frequent pumping.
Signs of Bacterial Imbalance
The most obvious sign of bacterial imbalance is how quickly your tank fills up. Your septic service will provide you with a pumping schedule estimate based upon your tank size, household size, and historical water usage. If the tank is filling much more quickly than estimated, then something is preventing the bacteria from properly digesting the sludge.
You may also notice issues with the system itself. Drains may seem sluggish or sewer gas may sometimes come up the drain. Standing sewage or foul-smelling water may also rise to the surface in the drain field as poorly processed sludge begins to flow from the tank.
Tips to Recover and Maintain Balance
If the bacterial balance is off, then the cause must be determined. Often imbalance is a result of putting the wrong items down the drains in your home. Chemical drain cleaners can kill off bacteria. Certain types of soaps, detergents, and household cleaners are also damaging. Opt for products labeled as septic-safe whenever possible, and use antibacterial cleaners like bleach sparingly and with caution.
You can recover balance by using products designed to reintroduce helpful bacteria and enzymes into the tank. These products are typically flushed down a toilet or poured directly into the tank. Always consult with septic professional before using these products. They may recommend a tank cleaning first. They can also guide you to the most effective products to use for your specific tank issues.
Contact a septic tank contractor if you are worried about the bacterial balance in your septic system.