How to clear a blocked soakaway - the UKDP guide!

Get the most from your septic tank | By Sam Warren

Your drainage system has been ticking away nicely underground, you've had it emptied regularly and all seems fine. Then you notice strange things afoot - a boggy patch above where the soakaway system is, the septic tank overflowing or your toilets taking longer to flush than usual. How do you know what's causing the problem? And if it turns out to be a problem with the soakaway instead of the septic tank, how do you clear a blocked soakaway?

Can you clear a blocked soakaway?

I'm not wishing to derail this article before I've even started it, but if you're having soakaway problems, the real question is 'Can you clear a blocked soakaway?'.

Let me explain. There are many different types of soakaway, but most commonly a soakaway system is a network of pipes which are perforated to allow waste water to filter safely into the soil surrounding them. There are many different reasons that a soakaway system can become blocked. For example:

  1. Flushing inappropriate things down the loo - baby wipes, nappies, puppies (yes, that has actually happened!), that kind of thing. Anything like that can cause a blockage that could easily block a soakaway.
  2. Tree roots growing through the pipes, which can prevent the waste water passing through the soakaway.
  3. Collapsed pipes within the soakaway - this can be caused by something above ground like vehicles driving over the soakaway, or even by the ground around the pipes moving and displacing the pipes.
  4. Damage to the dip pipes or baffle within a septic tank can cause a soakaway to become blocked. If you want to know more about how that happens, take a look at our video here

So, those are the main reasons for your soakaway to become blocked. Which brings me back to the question about whether a blocked soakaway can be cleared. Point 1 above is relatively easy to resolve (well, the puppy took a little more effort to free!), typically by calling a local company who can clear what would usually be considered a 'soft blockage'. Clearing a blockage in a soakaway takes a bit more care and attention than clearing through a standard drainage pipe running from your house, because a high pressure water jetter may cause further damage. But a skilled drainage clearance company should be able to help.

Tree root damage to a soakaway is a bit trickier. Once tree roots have penetrated through a pipe work, cutting away the tree roots from within a pipe might remedy the problem in the short term, but it's only a matter of time before they will be back. Unfortunately, the only way to permanently remedy that soakaway problem is to replace the pipework. The same is true of collapsed pipes, the only way to deal with that is to replace any damaged sections.

The real headache comes when your soakaway has become blocked due to damage to your septic tank's dip pipe or baffle. Without getting too technical on you, the purpose of a dip pipe or a baffle is to keep the solid waste in the tank, and to allow only separated waste water to leave the tank and pass into the soakaway system. You see, soakaways are only designed to take waste water, and the tiny particles are able to pass through the small holes into the surrounding soil safely and without causing a pollution. If a dip pipe or baffle is damaged, solid waste can escape the tank and enter into the soakaway system. This effectively clogs the soakaway and immediately pollutes the surrounding soil. Waste water is no longer able to pass through the soil, instead it goes back into the tank which causes the tank to overflow. Not a happy time.

Unfortunately this damage to a soakaway is permanent and irreversible. Usually the soakaway system will need to be replaced. But don't get disheartened. Depending on the policy you have in place, and the damage to your septic tank or soakaway, you may be covered for the cost of repairing or replacing your drainage system by your existing buildings insurance. The same is typically true of tree root damage or collapsed pipes.

It just so happens that here at UKDP, we specialise in 2 things - finding out what's causing soakaway problems or septic tank problems, and managing insurance claims to get the problem sorted as quickly and painlessly as possible. There's no cost to you aside from your excess if a claim is successful, and we manage everything from start to finish. Give us a call today on 0800 028 9903 or send us a message here and we'll get straight back to you. In the meantime, have a little look at our lovely infographic which will tell you a bit more about how it works (and why you should call us!).

So, how do you clear a blocked soakaway?

  1. Find out what type of soakaway blockage you are dealing with. If it's a soft blockage, firstly find a good drainage clearance company to deal with it, and secondly have stern words with whoever flushed the wrong things down the loo in the first place.
  2. If you're not sure what type of blockage you are dealing with, get your septic tank emptied (you could try one of our lovely partner companies here) and get it inspected. We can help with that - our team of field engineers regularly undertake inspections of troublesome septic tanks and soakaways.
  3. If the soakaway is permanently blocked, it'll need replacing. This isn't always as straight forward as it sounds, as a new soakaway can't be positioned in the same place as the previous one. There are also plenty of regulations in place about what you can and can't do when repairing or replacing drainage systems too. Don't panic though. In some situations, our expert team may be able to get the costs of replacing or repairing your system covered by your insurer. If we can't, but you still need help, we can put you on to one of our local and regional septic tank installer and soakaway installer partners, saving you the bother of a long and drawn out internet search.

Whatever your soakaway trouble, call our friendly team today on 0800 028 9903 for advice. We'll help you get everything back to normal as soon as possible.

0800 028 9903