Signs of a Failing System

A failed septic system can cause serious health issues to your family and neighbours, pollute nearby streams, lakes, and groundwater resources.  The common signs of a failing septic system include:

  • Foul odours in your home or yard.
  • Wet spongy ground or lush plant growth that appears near the septic tank or disposal field.
  • Fixtures in the house are backed up or drain more slowly than usual.
  • Sewage surfacing over the dispersal field (especially after a heavy rainfall).
  • Signs of significant algae growth in or around nearby lakes or water bodies.
  • High levels of nitrates, bacteria (E.coli) or other contaminants in well water.

If you suspect that your septic system is failing your immediate course of action would be to call your local Health Unit.  Staff members at the Health Unit have the expertise to assess your situation quickly and offer advice on how to solve the problem. They may recommend that you contact a septic tank pumping company who may be able to identify the nature of the problem and recommend further action.  Alternatively, you can call a licensed company who installs or repairs septic systems.  In Ontario, septic installers must be licensed by the Province.  Before you hire someone to do work, make sure they are properly licensed.  You may also want to contact the local agency which enforces the Ontario Building Code requirements for septic systems which may be either your municipal building department, board of health or conservation authority.  It will be one of these agencies that will need to issue a building permit and will inspect the work once it is completed.

A practical long-term solution would be to re-design and replace the system in a new location.  This type of work should be completed only by a qualified contractor.  Chemical cures sometimes advertised are often ineffective remedies for severely damaged systems.