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9 Common Septic System Myths

- Friday, April 28, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

1. You’ll Never Have to Replace a Well-Maintained Septic Tank

In terms of septic tank longevity, some people may tell you it needs replacing at least every 20 years, while others will say that it could last a lifetime with proper maintenance. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

No matter how good your septic system maintenance is, the tank will need replacing at some point. Poor management could see the system fail a little after five years of use. However, with regular tank pump-outs, efficient water use, appropriate waste disposal, and careful drain maintenance, your septic system could still work after 20 to 30 years or more.

2. Using Additives Means Pump-Outs Are Unnecessary

Regular tank pump-outs (ideally every two or three years) are necessary for septic system maintenance. These typically occur when the solid waste in the tank reaches between 30% and 50% of its total storage capacity. Professionals will empty the tank and ensure it’s completely clear of the solid sludge that accumulates at the bottom of the tank and the lightweight scum that floats at the tank surface. Without pump-outs, you will end up with expensive repair bills, clogs, and a significant reduction in the system’s longevity.

You may have heard that septic tank additives can eliminate the need for this process. The claim is that these microbes and enzymes can be added to your septic tank to enable the complete breakdown and digestion of sewage waste. They can interfere with solids settling, corrode tank walls, and leach harmful chemicals into the drain field. Even the Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend their use.

If you don’t want wastewater suddenly backing up into your house, stick with periodic pump-outs and don’t try to do them yourself. Local authorities have strict regulations in place for how to handle and dispose of solid waste. Hire a septic tank cleaner near you to tackle this complex job.

3. A Full Tank Always Needs Pumping

Just because a septic tank looks full doesn't mean it’s time for a pump-out. Even after doing so, an average family-size tank will fill up to around 12 inches within a week.

You only need to do a pump-out when there are high solid levels in the tank (they should take up about a third of it). A professional septic tank cleaning company can establish this point by conducting a sludge test that checks the solid levels present.

4. Repairing a Tank Is Preferable to Pumping Out

If you have a tight few months money-wise, you might think it won’t matter if you put off getting a scheduled pump-out on your septic tank. After all, how expensive could the repairs be if something goes wrong?

The cost to pump a septic tank is usually only a few hundred dollars, but a backed-up system could cause unpleasant, unsanitary problems that are costlier to fix.

Once you smell odors from your drains or your toilet won’t flush anymore, this can indicate that damage has already occurred. Sometimes, it could result in you calling a local septic tank installation company to replace the tank.

5. You Can’t Repair a Clogged System

If your system gets clogged up, you may hear the only option is to replace the tank or the entire system. However, depending on where and why the clog has occurred, a pressure-washing technique called jetting can often clear the system so it continues to function normally.

Always be cautious if someone tells you that things cannot be fixed—they may be more interested in the low-hanging fruit than making the more difficult repairs.

This involves high-pressure water pumping through your septic pipelines to dislodge debris. However, you won’t be able to tackle major clogs or problems in the system pipelines with this technique, and it isn’t suitable if your pipes are made from more fragile clay rather than rigid PVC. Contact a local septic tank repair specialist for further advice. They use specialist equipment. If this technique isn’t done correctly, it can lead to pipeline damage and groundwater quality problems.

6. Seeding Your Tank Is Beneficial

Seeding refers to getting good bacterial growth started in a freshly pumped system to help break down the waste. To do this, some people suggest dumping a pound of yeast, some manure, or even dead pests down your toilet.

You’ll be glad to hear this is entirely unnecessary. As soon as you flush regular toilet waste away, it’s enough to introduce the beneficial bacteria needed to kick-start the system.

7. You Can Flush Most Things Down the Drain

While septic systems are relatively robust, it doesn’t mean you can chuck anything you like down the toilet or drain. They’re designed to handle only two things: wastewater and sewage.

Nothing beyond toilet paper and standard waste should enter a septic system. Even adding bleach and strong disinfectant cleaners can upset the balance of the beneficial microbes needed to break down sewage. Coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, cat litter, grease, and oils are common problematic items flushed down drains or toilets. These items in the system can lead to drain blockages, irreparable tank malfunctions, pipe damage, and the release of toxins or dangerous bacteria into the environment.

8. It’s Fine to Build on Top of Your Septic Tank

Some people believe building a structure on top of the septic tank isn’t a problem. After all, they’re so far underground that it shouldn’t matter, right?

Adding a deck, patio, or garden shed on top can make it difficult or impossible for the pros to access the septic tank when it needs pumping, repairing, or replacing.

It can also cause problems with the breakdown of wastewater entering the drainage field. The soil won’t have full oxygenation, and this can lead to backups in the system.

Instead, growing a lawn or planting non-aggressive, water-loving plants over your septic system is a perfect solution.

9. Professional Maintenance Isn’t Necessary for a Septic System

Regular professional maintenance is essential to maximize the longevity of your septic system. A septic system specialist can test the waste levels in a tank to check when it needs pumping, perform those pump-outs, and reduce the chances of problems with poor drainage and clogs.

Getting into the habit of arranging an inspection by a reputable local contractor every year or two is well worth the expense.

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic System Pros and Cons

- Friday, April 21, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

First you need to know how a septic system works. A septic system treats all wastewater that comes from your home—from the dishwasher to the toilet—on site. Waste flows out of your home through a main line and into a water-tight septic tank through an inlet pipe.

Once inside the tank, the waste separates into several layers. And just a heads up, the layers do not have lovely names. Solids known as sludge—we warned you—fall to the bottom of the tank while grease and oil, known as scum, form a layer that floats on the top.

The remaining water in the middle—called effluent—passes the test to move on to the next treatment area through an outlet pipe and into a drain field. A drain field, or "leach field," includes unsaturated soil, pipes, and chambers that treat the water further. Oxygen, microbes, and bacteria in the soil remove the final harmful materials in the effluent before it heads back into the earth.

As you can imagine, building and maintaining such a complex system in your backyard can be complicated. When well-cared for, however, septic systems can be both cost-effective and highly beneficial for rural areas.


  • Ideal for rural areas without access to city sewer systems
  • No monthly costs outside of maintenance
  • Naturally treats water
  • If there are leaks, contamination is concentrated to one area
  • Easier to install compared to new city line hookup


  • Requires pumping every three to five years
  • Replacement is more expensive than sewer
  • Solid materials are more likely to clog and back up systems
  • Leaks can lead to potent and unhealthy waste in your backyard
  • Roots can damage septic system pipes

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Buying a Home With Well Water and a Septic System

- Monday, April 17, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Home with a Septic System

If you’re curious about what it means to live with well water and a septic tank, here’s what you need to know

Buying a Home With Well Water and a Septic System

From grabbing a drink to brushing your teeth to making a meal, we rely on water constantly for everyday life. If you’re considering a home purchase in a more rural area, one important factor to think about is where your water utilities will originate. Access to a municipal water and sewer line may not be available, so you might be introduced to a well water and septic tank system for the first time.

Before you move forward with that rural homestead purchase, you will want to be familiar with living with well water and a septic tank.

How Does a Well and Septic Tank System Work?

You may not give much thought to where your water comes from, but a well and septic system will require a bit of knowledge in order to keep everything running smoothly. While the concept is simple in theory, there are several different parts that homeowners should be aware of.

What Is a Well?

In simplest terms, a well is a hole drilled into the ground that provides access to water. A pump and pipe system is used to pull water out of the ground, and then a screen filters out unwanted particles to help avoid clogs. Because groundwater sources can be exposed to bacteria and chemicals, wells can easily be contaminated if built incorrectly.Every well is made up of four important components:

Casing made from steel, PVC pipe, or concrete pipe. The casing maintains open access in the ground while preventing any leakage into the well from the surrounding area.

Grout is used as a sealant to fill in any cracks or spaces around the outside of the well, preventing contaminants from getting in.

Filter screen made from stainless steel or slotted PVC pipe keeps gravel, sand, and other debris out of the well.

Gravel is packed around the outside of the filter screen to prevent debris from entering the well or clogging the screen.

What Is a Septic System?

A septic system is an underground wastewater structure that consists of a septic tank and a drain field. These systems are commonly found in rural areas without access to centralized municipal sewers.

All the wastewater from a home’s kitchen, faucets, and bathrooms exits through one main drainage pipe into the tank, a water-tight container buried in the ground. The tank then holds all the wastewater, slowly separating the solids (which sink to the bottom) and the oils (which float to the top). Because sludge builds up over time, septic tanks need to be pumped every two to three years.

Eventually, the liquid (called effluent) is released from the tank and distributed into the drain field, which is a shallow, covered trench of unsaturated soil. The drain field treats and disperses the wastewater, eliminating much of the bacteria as it filters into the soil.

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic System FAQs

- Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

How many years does a septic tank last?

Depending on several elements, a septic tank will typically last 14 to 40 years.

  • Tank material: Concrete requires more maintenance, but commercial-grade fiberglass and plastic tend to last decades.
  • Maintenance: Get inspections every one to three years and pump it out every three to five years. If you have a larger home with more than three bedrooms and tend to use a lot of water, aim for every three years at a minimum.
  • Vehicle traffic over the leach field: Driving over the leach field compresses it and may cause it to fail.
  • Soil composition: Varying soil types and depths affect how long it may last.

What are the signs I need a new septic tank?

There are a few signs you should get a new septic tank. These include the following:

  • Unpleasant odors: If you smell sewage, you may be dealing with an overfilled septic tank that's solid waste.
  • Standing water: If there's no obvious cause for standing water like heavy rainfall, you may have an oversaturated drain field or a broken pipe or septic system.
  • Slow draining: A full septic tank will cause pipes to drain more slowly.
  • Patches of vibrant grass: A wastewater leak can actually fertilize grass, making it grow thicker and greener over your septic area.
  • Home addition: Building onto your house or adding more residents will affect the septic system. Make sure your septic tank can handle any additions.
  • Nearby water contamination: A septic tank leak can lead to wastewater contamination that can deposit nitrate, nitrite, or coliform bacteria in water sources near your home. If these bacteria are found nearby, check your septic system to see if it's the source.
  • Old age: If your septic tank is at the end of its life span, it's time for a new one.

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.