How to Locate My Drain Field

A septic system consists of a septic tank, a drain field and associated plumbing.

As wastes enter the system, solids are trapped in the septic tank and liquids continue on to your drain field. Liquids in the drain field are channeled into a series of underground perforated pipes and allowed to percolate into the ground. Drain fields should not be paved, compacted by livestock or vehicles, or be planted with trees or shrubs.

Contact your county planning or health department and ask for a record drawing of your septic system. A formal plan of your septic layout was required to be filed and approved before construction. This drawing, if available, will show the locations of your septic system components. Measure the distance as shown on the diagram to locate your drain field. If this drawing is not available, proceed to step 2.

Examine grasses and other plants on your property. Plants that cover a drain field will receive larger amount of water than other areas of your property, and the effects should be visible. Look for areas that grow faster, turn green quicker in the spring, or stay green longer during droughts and in autumn.

Examine your property during periods of snow melt. Because of the heat present in waste water, the drain field will often show as an area where snow and ice melt quicker.

Examine the contour of your property. The drain field may have depressions, furrows, or other evidence of underground water flows. The drain field will typically be lower in elevation than the house and septic tank.

Call a septic professional as a last resort. Metal pipes can often be located with electronic detectors.

About the Author

Andrew Hazleton has been writing on a freelance basis for more than 20 years, and his work has appeared in national, regional and in-house publications. His work has appeared in "Sports Illustrated," "IEEE Spectrum," "Popular Photography" and several newspapers. Hazleton has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Lehigh University and a master's degree in management from Pepperdine University.