How do you fix a soakaway problem?

Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

How do you fix a soakaway problem?

Soakaway problems - not something that you want to spend too much of your day thinking about. Really, you'd just prefer that your septic tank and soakaway system carries on doing what it needs to do without you needing to intervene. After all, soakaway systems are tucked away underground and out of sight, so how are you meant to know if you've got a soakaway problem? And more importantly what do you need to do to fix it?

What is a soakaway?

It's a good question, without a straightforward answer! There are lots of different types of soakaways, some which only deal with rain water, and some which are effectively just a rubble filled pit. But for the purpose of this article, we'll be talking about the type of soakaway which can also be referred to as a drainage field. It's essentially a network of perforated or slotted pipework which takes the waste water from a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, and allows it to pass through the slots or holes into the surrounding sub soils. When everything is working as it should be, this process occurs without causing any pollution. If you'd like to know more about what a soakaway is, and how it works, we have produced a guide to soakaways which should tell you everything you need to know!

What are the most common soakaway problems that need fixing?

There are many things that can cause soakaway problems, and there are also many ways in which these problems can be brought to your attention! Unfortunately for the property owner suffering with the soakaway problems, these can be pretty unpleasant - think nasty niffs and pools of nasty stuff bubbling up in your garden. Let's take a look at the causes of the most common soakaway problems first....

  • The wrong things being flushed into toilets or poured into sinks. Things such as sanitary items, wet wipes, cotton buds or even cooking oils into a sink in the kitchen - all of these things can cause havoc with your soakaway and cause it to block up. Check out our guide here about what not to flush into your septic tank!
  • Damaged or displaced pipework within the soakaway itself - this can be caused by movement above ground (e.g. vehicles driving over where the soakaway is located) or even ground movement causing the pipes to displace and shift in the ground.
  • A lack of regular septic tank emptying. This is really important in ensuring that your soakaway works as it should - because if the septic tank or sewage treatment plant isn't emptied regularly, solid waste will eventually work its way into the soakaway and block it up.
  • Damage to the septic tank itself - internal damage to parts of the septic tank such as the baffle or dip pipe or even a crack in the wall of the tank can all result in solid waste entering the soakaway system and clogging it up, causing it to fail.
  • Poor installation. In order for a soakaway system to operate effectively, a percolation test needs to have been carried out - this determines whether the ground conditions are appropriate for the soakaway, but also determines the size of the soakaway required. It's vital that a percolation test is properly carried out before any soakaway system is planned and installed.

Can soakaway problems be fixed?

Ok, so you're one of the unlucky property owners who has noticed that things are not quite right with their drainage system. There are a number of ways you might start to notice that you've got soakaway problems:

  • Nasty niffs! Unpleasant odours coming from your drainage system can be a sign that things are not as they should be.
  • Your septic tank needing emptying more frequently than usual - this can be a sign that the waste water is no longer able to pass through the soakaway and is flowing back into the tank, causing it to overflow or need emptying much more frequently. Similarly, when your septic tank is emptied, the tanker operator can observe what happens once the tank has been emptied - if water gushes back in to the tank from the soakaway, it's a sure sign that it's blocked and not functioning properly anymore.
  • Boggy patches of waste water collecting above ground near the soakaway system - instead of the waste passing safely into the subsoils surrounding the soakaway, it's simply pushed straight to the surface where it sits creating a most unpleasant new water feature!

The big question is - can soakaway problems be fixed? And the answer is that it depends on a lot of different variables, including what's caused the problem in the first place, and how long the problems have been happening for. You see, the main problem with soakaway systems when they fail is that they typically can't be repaired or replaced in situ. This is because part of the failure is of the soakaway system is the clogging and pollution of the surround subsoils - this means that the soil often turns into an awful thick black sludge, which simply would not be suitable for a new soakaway to be installed into.

Let's use a couple of examples. If your favourite Aunty has been to stay, and she's flushed some wet wipes into the system without thinking, then some swift action might be the thing to save the day - an empty of the tank, and perhaps some jetting of the pipework to remove the blockage might be all that's needed to get things back to normal. However, if the septic tank itself has become damaged, and this damage has caused solid waste to pass into the soakaway system over a period of time, then it's really likely that the only `fix' here would be a replacement. As mentioned above, typically a soakaway system can't be replaced like for like in situ, so all different options would need to be considered - an alternative place to discharge to, or perhaps even replacing a septic tank with a sewage treatment plant. It's important that you get the right professional advice here - the UK Drainage Professionals team are on hand to find a resolution to any soakaway problems you might be having, and can manage everything for you from a septic tank inspection to a septic tank repair or replacement.

Did you know?

If you're having soakaway problems, and your particular problems can't be fixed, it's not all bad news. Did you know that most buildings insurance policies provide cover to repair or replace damaged septic tanks and soakaway systems? Ok, so if your system has failed because you've not had it emptied in ten years, your insurance policy isn't going to cover that. But if something has happened which could be considered `accidental damage', for example damage to the septic tank's dip pipe, or perhaps vehicle damage to the soakaway pipework, then there's a good chance that your policy would cover it.

The team at The UK Drainage Professionals is unique in that we are experienced in both soakaway systems and insurance claims management - so we can get to the bottom (if you'll excuse the pun) of any soakaway problems you're having and will be able to resolve things for you quickly and professionally.

First things first. contact our team today. You can use our eligibility checker to find out whether you might be covered by your buildings insurance, and our team will work to ensure you don't have to pay for repairs or replacements that you might already be covered for.

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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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