Recognizing a Failed Septic System

Conventionally, septic systems should be replaced after 25 years. Years of use gradually upset the ratio of organic solids in the system and the microorganisms that break them down, making the system ineffective. This process is known as progressive failure. However, external disturbances to the structure of the system and improper usage could cause failure before the system's lifetime is exceeded. There are three indicators of a failed system that homeowners should consider to protect the environment and their families.

1. Dye Tests

One of the more common practices to test for leakage in septic systems are dye tests. Environmentally friendly dye is flushed down the property's toilet. If there is a failure in the system, the dye will appear immediately in the groundwater or surface water, depending on the site. This is typically done by government jurisdictions every couple of years to detect gross failure within watersheds.

2. Surface Seepage

Visual detection of sewage on the property is a red flag of a failed system, and must be dealt with immediately. The contaminated area should be quarantined to eliminate human and animal contact to reduce health risks. Please contact us for further instruction.

3. Professional Measurements

Even though your system may pass the dye test and there is no visual instances of sewage on the property, it is not guaranteed that your system is perfect. Water that is recycled into the environment must meet concentration levels dictated by the EPA and your local environmental agencies in order to ensure the safety of the environment and the public. These contaminants are difficult to detect without the proper sampling tools and equipment. Professionally measured biological, physical, and chemical properties include:

  • Ammonia (NO3-N)
  • Nitrite-Nitrate (NO2-NO3)
  • TKN
  • Turbidity
  • Total Phosphorus (P)
  • Total Coliform
  • Fecal Coliform
  • BOD & TSS
   A picture of onsite sampling and analysis


A picture of onsite sampling and analysis