How Leach Fields Work
Septic tanks pretreat sewage, collecting solids and distributing liquid waste to a leach or drainfield. This field features a network of perforated underground tubes that direct the liquid over a large area, where it enters the soil. The soil absorbs organic materials and naturally filters the liquid as it enters aquifers and other water bodies.
Leach Field Problems
Signs of a leach field malfunction include sewage on the surface of the ground, backups in home plumbing fixtures and a saturated, soggy leach field area. These issues occur when the drainfield becomes saturated due to excess rainfall or too much wastewater entering the septic tank from the home. Drainfield issues can also occur thanks to clogged or leaky pipes, or due to the presence of oily or toxic materials.
Leach Field Rejuvenation
Restricting water use remains one of the simplest methods of rejuvenating a leach field. The National Environmental Services Center reports that it takes about a 30 percent reduction in home water use to allow a failed leach field to dry out. The field may rejuvenate faster if excess liquid is pumped out of the soil by a professional maintenance crew. These crews can also help rejuvenate a drainfield by repairing clogged or broken pipes and ensuring the septic tank itself is properly pumped and maintained.
When basic rejuvenation methods aren't enough, soil fracturing can be used to break up soil and improve drainage. This process involves hammering long metal probes several feet into the soil to create small air channels and alleviate compacting issues. If leach field drainage problems are severe, or if the septic system is too small to meet the demands of the household, it may be necessary to add lines and expand the size of the drainage area. In some cases, homeowners may have to install a diversion valve and direct waste to a reserve drainage area so the original leach field can properly dry out.