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Septic System Troubleshooting Guide


Septic / Sewage System Troubleshooting Guide










Potential Cause

Possible Remedy





Sewage backing up into the house, plumbing fixtures do not drain or drain slowly

Contact with raw sewage effluent is a serious health risk. Numerous diseases exist in household sewage.

Excessive amounts of water entering system

Incorrect plumbing

Blockage in house plumbing

Improper use

Tree roots clogging or damaging pipes

Lift pump failure

Poor system design

Repair leaking pipe

Reduce water use, install water-saving fixtures

Practice good septic etiquette

Remove tree roots from piping / leach field

Remove any willow trees near system

Clean / service sewage pump





Sewage contaminated water surfacing in the yard

Contact with raw sewage / effluent is a serious health risk. Numerous diseases can be caught from contact with sewage.

Excessive water use

System blockage

Vehicles driving over and damaging piping or leach field

Improper system elevations

Leach field undersized for number of occupants

Pump failure

Incorrect pump set-up

Fence off the contaminated area until problem is resolved

Repair leaks

Keep vehicles off

Install water-saving fixtures

Pump out septic tank

Contact septic contractor

Have pump serviced





Sewage odors in the house

Toxic sewer gases can cause extreme discomfort and sickness.

Sewage surfacing in yard

Damaged or incorrectly installed plumbing or vent pipe

Sewage backup in house

Unsealed ejector pump

Roof vent pipe blocked

Repair plumbing

Pump out septic tank

Check pumps

Put water in all drain traps - check all unused fixtures and drains

Unblock vent pipe





Sewage odors outside

Unpleasant, no serious health risk posed

Sewage or contaminated water surfacing in yard

Inspection pipe covers damaged or missing

Source other than owner’s system

Pump out septic tank

Replace covers

Repair or replace leach field

Check sewage pumps operation

Contact local health authority to investigate smell





Contaminated potable water, pond or river

Drinking contaminated water can cause serious health problems

Possible ailments include dysentery and hepatitis. Infants, can also get methemo- globinemia.

Leach field too close to well or contaminating water table

Cesspool / drywell in use

Sewage discharging to surface or groundwater

Badly installed well

Damaged water supply pipe

Source other than owner’s own system

Broken sewage lines

Repair septic or leach field problem

Repair water line and disinfect

Replace well and / or septic system

Discontinue using cesspool / drywell, install septic with leach field

Contact local health authority to investigate causes of contamination





Lift station alarm activated

Tank effluent will back up into house with continued usage.

Pump failed

Fuse or breaker tripped

Pump unplugged

Controls malfunctioning

Check circuit breaker, plug and outlet

Check controls and pump

Have professional repair or replace pump





Pipes and / or leach field system freezes in winter

System becomes inoperable.

Incorrect instillation or construction

Check valve in lift station not operating

Low flow rate

Lack of use

Undersized pump

Have construction checked

Check valve faulty

Increase water use

Increase frequency of pump cycling

Use septic tank as a holding tank - pumping weekly


Remember to find a Tampa Certified ASHI Home Inspector prior to closing on your new Tampa area home. Links to other Independent Home Inspectors in Florida, and outside the state, can be found from our home page.