You know the old Carpenter’s Song, “Rainy Days and Mondays?” The lyrics go, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down…” Well, here in Lincoln, rainy days that happen ANY day of the week are starting to get me down. I know I try to make light of the rainfall, but the last month and a half have been frustrating for us septic people.
Believe me, I am not complaining about the rain because I can’t go out and work on my tan. I complain because of all the problems it causes for our customers and our ability to get everyone taken care of.
If you live on septic (and even some people who live on lagoons…) this type of weather causes people a LOT of problems. Here is why:
Take a look at the picture below and note where the leachfield/drainfield is located.
In the soil.
With groundwater under it.
Now, you will also notice that all the water from the house flows to the septic tank AND THAT THE SEPTIC TANK IS FULL OF WATER. This is how a septic tank should always be – FULL OF WATER. It will SLOWLY drain into the LEACHFIELD/DRAINFIELD but please AGAIN NOTE where the leachfield/drainfield is….it’s in the ground surrounded by soil with groundwater beneath it. When we get rain like we have been experiencing, all the soil around that leachfield gets wet and full of water. There are times that the groundwater levels then rise as well. When this happens, guess what happens to your septic system? It can’t function properly. The water that comes out of your house needs a place to go but when the soil is saturated and the groundwater level is rising, there is no place for it to go, so it comes back into your house.
Obviously, a septic system can function when it rains occasionally like what normally occurs during the spring months in Nebraska. But, the amount of rain we have received this spring is anything BUT normal for Nebraska. The problems I mention above occur when there is EXCESSIVE rainfall amounts.
Typically, THIS is how a septic system functions:
When the soil is DRY, the water from the tank SLOWLY drains into the leachfield (or soil) and then either evaporates or drains into the ground. Though this process is slow, WHEN IT IS DRY it happens at a rate so that the water coming from the house can easily flow to the tank and to the leachfield.
When it is wet, this is another story. When all the ground around the leachfield is saturated with water, there is NO PLACE for the water coming out of the house to go. The leachfield can’t take any more water because it is soaked, so it fills up the pipe leading back to the tank. The tank over fills itself and the water starts going the opposite direction filling pipe back into the house. This water will then come up through floor drains, bathtubs, showers, etc because there is no place for the water to go. Basically, water will go where ever it can go….it’s just that typically it is back into your house. Overall, a very not-fun experience for the family.
Also, as the water table rises due to the influx of water, this can also cause leachfields issues. So, in a month like May and these last few days of June, you can see why even the best septic system can’t keep up with homeowner usage.
Something else to take into account is the amount of water a typical person uses – 100 gallons a day. If you figure that you have an average 1500 gallon tank that’s almost always full, and there are 4 people living in your house, 100 gallons fills up an already full tank fast…times 4 – SUPER FAST. So, here again, this is why I say, PLEASE be mindful of your water usage on heavy rain days.
Here is a question I have been asked a lot –Is it just the rain that makes this all bad? Well, it isn’t good, but the other issue we have been up against since the beginning of May is that not only have we had REALLY RAINY days, but when it isn’t raining…it isn’t exactly dry either. I put together a chart of our rain and temperature totals for May and (for what’s recorded thus far…) for June. Take a looksy at this:
**T stands for trace amounts of precipitation – not enough to really measure but moisture was still present to record.
There are only NINE days in May where it DIDN’T rain a drop. And, on those nine days, notice the temperature. Not exactly “lets-dry- out- the- 10 inches-of-rain-that-have-been-dumped-on-Lincoln” kind of temperatures we need to really help our situation, huh?
Now take a look at June:
Here again, not enough really “dry” days to do our soil good before we get hit again with more rain. Considering the over abundance of rain we have received, we need more days like June 8th and 9th to really make up for the moisture. You might also note that the total rainfall for May in Lincoln was 10.9 inches and so far, June has a total rainfall of 4.97. (** Though it isn’t posted yet for June 14 or 15, I saw on the noon news for today that Lincoln had received over 2 inches of rain.) That’s a lot of rain for ANY MONTH!! (Fun fact for you – a typical month during the monsoon season in India has a rainfall total of 8 inches – we are surpassing monsoon rainfall rates here in Nebraska…good times…)
So why all the info on rain and septic? Well, if you live on septic and your system seems to be struggling, the above facts should give you an idea as to why your system might not be acting normally. One thing we do try to do for our customers is come and pump their tank. This gives them some relief, but does not fix the issue of dry soil for the laterals. (If I could make a deal with Mother Nature to do that for you, believe me, I would). Therefore, if you have backed up into your house and we come and pump your tank, you will STILL need to be careful about the amount of water you use until it dries a little or the waters recede.
From inside the Kubik Ark…have a good week!