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Written by Sam Warren

How the UKDP team resolved a septic tank problem in Carmarthenshire!

The team at the UK Drainage Professionals are located right across the UK, because our customers are too! As specialists in all things to do with septic tanks and other off mains drainage systems, our customers are typically living in more rural areas where a connection to mains drainage is not possible. Our team of highly experienced field engineers travel far and wide each day to help property owners dealing with septic tank problems, and on this occasion they travelled to Carmarthenshire.

In this instance, our customer had not long since moved into the property, having moved in during February 2022. It's really important when buying a property that a homebuyer survey is carried out before a purchase goes through. This is because the costs to replace a drainage system which is no longer functioning as it should typically exceed £10,000 which can come as a nasty surprise alongside all the other costs of buying a property! Our customer had requested that the tank be emptied the month prior to the purchase going through, and no defects or issues within the tank were reported.

However, by April our customer noticed that the drainage system to the property was backing up, and asked for a tanker company to attend to empty the system. Once the septic tank had been emptied, the tanker operator was able to advise our customer that he could see that damage had occurred to the tank itself. Within a septic tank is something called a baffle, which is an integral part of the tank and crucial to it functioning as it should. A septic tank typically connects either to a soakaway system (or drainage field) or it connects straight to a local watercourse. The purpose of the septic tank is to take all the wastewater from the property, to allow it to separate within the tank, and to allow only separated wastewater to leave the tank and into the soakaway or local watercourse. Think of the baffle as an upside down sieve, which works to keep the solid stuff in the tank, while the water filters out.

Why is this important? Well, a soakaway system (also known as a drainage field) is usually comprised of a network of slotted or perforated pipework. Not only this, but a percolation test is carried out before a soakaway system is installed, to make sure that the subsoils surrounding the soakaway system have the right levels of porosity for the separated wastewater to pass through without causing pollution. If particles of solid waste are able to leave the tank and pass into the soakaway, in time this has the effect of clogging up the surrounding subsoils. What this means for the drainage system is that all of the wastewater returns to the septic tank and it starts to back up or overflow. This can show itself in a number of ways - gurgling pipes, waste backing up into toilets at the property, manholes overflowing.....none of these things that any property owner wants to experience! So, the baffle's job is to keep the solid waste in the tank, and to stop all this nasty stuff happening.

Unfortunately for our Carmarthenshire customer, when the septic tank was emptied, the tanker operator was able to see quite clearly that the baffle had been damaged and had collapsed into the bottom of the tank. The tanker operator also observed a large amount of water returning into the tank from the soakaway pipework - this was a sign that the soakaway system had already failed and the surrounding subsoils were clogged. Not good news, but the real challenge here is that once this has happened, the drainage system can't be `fixed' because the surrounding soil is now polluted and unsuitable for a soakaway system. This also often means that the pipework can't be replaced in situ, because the ground is no longer suitable.

It wasn't all bad news for our Carmarthenshire customer, however! What many property owners don't realise is that often, the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged drainage system is covered by existing buildings insurance held by the property owner. Suffice to say that there are many variables here - whether you have the right cover in place, with a good insurer, and whether the damage that's been caused is typically covered. For example, if a system has failed because of age rather than being damaged, or because it has never been emptied, then no buildings insurance policy will cover this. However, certain types of damage, including damage to a septic tank's baffle, are covered - you can find out more about what's covered in our guide here.

The UK Drainage Professionals team are experts in septic tanks but also in managing insurance claims, so we were able to step in for our customer to manage everything from start to finish for them. This includes:

  • a thorough septic tank inspection including the use of CCTV cameras to inspect both the tank and any connected pipework
  • the production of a detailed report to insurance industry standards, outlining what damage has occurred, and importantly what's needed to put things right at the property
  • liaising with insurers and their representatives from start to finish, meeting them at the property to discuss the details of the case and to answer any technical questions they might have
  • to agree a scope of works and any associated costs, in line with any septic tank regulations that need to be adhered to
  • managing any works agreed by the insurer to the highest standards, and ensuring that the property owner is left with a fully functioning and compliant drainage system

If you're having septic tank problems, and you're wondering if you might be covered by your buildings insurance, you can find out more by completing our eligibility checker.

As our team liaise with insurers on a daily basis, we are often able to get things resolved really quickly for our customers - for our Carmarthenshire customer, it took just four working days to get the costs and scope of works agreed with the insurer's representative, meaning that we could quickly get the works in hand.

Installing a new drainage system at a property is no small task, but the UK Drainage Professionals team carry out sewage treatment plant installations and septic tank installations across the UK every day. As you can imagine, the works typically require significant excavations, as can be seen here with our installation engineer at the property in Carmarthenshire!

Carmarthen during

Even though the works require significant excavation and heavy plant and machinery, accuracy is also crucial! Here you can see our team ensuring that the newly installed treatment plant is perfectly level.

Carmarthen spirit measure

Finally, once the plant and pipework are installed, our focus is on making sure that the grounds are left neat and tidy. Typically after an installation, grass seeds are applied, and it is not long before there's no sign that such a big project has been carried out.

Carmarthen completed

Our Carmarthenshire customer was delighted with the work carried out by the UKDP team, in getting their property back to normal and with a fully functioning drainage system that will give them decades of trouble free use!

If you're having problems with your septic tank or other drainage system, don't hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team today for advice and to chat about next steps. We'll be happy to help!

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Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.

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