REASONS to FIND THE DRAINFIELD - CONTENTS: Soakaway bed or drainfield location for building site planning or other purposes. Drainfield location as part of septic system maintenance or repair. Drainfield location necessary for diagnosing septic system failures or odors. How to locate the septic system drainfield or leach field
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Why do we care where the septic drainfield is located? What can we do about it? This article and our accompanying septic system location videos explains how to find the leach field or drainfield portion of a
We include sketches and photos that help you learn what to look for, and we
describe several methods useful for finding buried drainfield components. (Septic drain fields are also called soil absorption systems or seepage beds.)
Why Look For the Drainfield? How to Find the Septic Fields
Site planning requires septic drainfield location
"How do I find my septic system's drainfield?" is a question we hear often. There are several reasons that you may need to know the accurate location of the leachfield or drainfield.
Planning new site construction or house additions: If you are
planning to install a pool, deck, or to do any work that involves driving across your
property you want to keep these activities off of the drainfield, also called leach field which has the
job of treating and disposing of effluent from the septic tank.
Planning site landscaping around the septic system:
Other reasons for locating the leach field include septic system care such as keeping
plants, particularly trees, away from this component lest roots clog it and lead to a
septic system failure.
If your septic area is as overgrown as that shown in this photo, you can assume that it is unlikely to be functional.
See Planting Over Septic Systems for advice about what you should and should not plant over or near a septic system leachfield or drainfield to protect and not harm its operation.
Septic System Maintenance Requires Knowing Drainfield and D-Box Locations
Maintaining the septic system: if you know where all of the septic components are, you can investigate their condition and perform maintenance.
For example some systems are designed to permit adjustment of effluent flow among different drainfield sections, allowing sections to rest and recover.
In the US EPA photograph at left the technician is adjusting a concentric opening cap on individual drainfield lines to balance effluent flow among them.
Diagnosing septic system failures requires knowing septic drainfield location
Diagnosing septic backups, slow drains, or wet areas: if you know where the D-box (distribution box) and where the septic drainfield individual leach lines or seepage pits are located, you can explain possible wet areas as either probably harmless (distant from any known septic components), harmful (flooding the septic fields), or indicative of septic field failure (odors and effluent appearing at ground surface).
When we found this wet area showing up under deep snow cover at the rear of a residential property we had to decide if it was groundwater, a local spring, or a failing septic system. It was pretty smelly which made everyone suspicious.
The worst turned out to be true.
We had a septic drainfield that had been installed in soil with high seasonal water table, lots of local groundwater and surface runoff from nearby Clover Hill in Poughkeepsie, NY, inadequate fill in the drainfield area, a failed steel septic tank, and a failed drainfield.
Total replacement of the drainfield included a curtain drain to intercept local groundwater, site drainage corrections, additional fill for the drainfield area, and a new tank and drainfield system. Curtain drains or intercept drains can protect septic drainfields in areas of wet soils or surface and subsurface groundwater
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Percolation Testing Manual, CNMI Division of Environmental Quality, Gualo Rai, Saipan provides an excellent English Language manual guide for soil percolation testing. Original source: www.deq.gov.mp/artdoc/Sec6art108ID255.pdf
Soil Test Pit Preparation, fact sheet, Oregon DEQ Department of Environmental Quality, original source www.deq.state.or.us/wq/pubs/factsheets/onsite/testpitprep.pdf The Oregon DEQ onsite water quality program can be contacted at 811 South Ave, Portland OR 97204, 800-452-4011 or see http://www.oregon.gov/DEQ/
Thanks to reader Michael Roth
for technical link editing 6/29/09.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf.
Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.