An absorption field (also known as a leach field), is an area used for the disposal of fluids, after being partially treated by a septic tank, to be further treated before being added to the water table.
If you are on a septic system, all of the waste-water from your home with go first through your home’s mainline, and travel to your septic tank. Once it is there, light solids like grease, oils, etc. will float to the top to form a scum layer. The heavier solids will sink to the bottom to break down into a layer of sludge.
The liquid that resides between your scum and sludge layers is treated by the natural bacteria that builds up in the tank. Once the tank is full of liquid, every time more liquid is added to the septic tank, some of the liquid already in there will exit the tank, through the outlet, into a distribution box (when applicable), and into the absorption lines (or “leach lines”).
The leach lines are usually perforated pipes that are laid out in such a way so that the liquid is fairly evenly dispersed throughout the absorption field. The leach lines are usually surrounded by some sort of media that allows for water to quickly pass through it (crushed rock is common). The partially treated liquid waste drains through the encased media, and into the soil.
The soil contains natural microbes that finish treating the water (by absorbing and actually consuming any leftover toxins), before the liquid finally seeps down to join the water table.
Yes, they can. There can be a number of reasons why a leach field can stop working. Anything from tree roots invading the field area, to sludge finding its way into the leach lines, to a number of other possibilities.
The most common ways to tell that a leach field is no longer functioning are:
1 – The septic tank over flows, or all of the fixtures in the home start to back up into other fixtures in your home. The most common is the toilets backing up into the shower or bathtub. While this does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with your absorption field, it is a possibility. A full plumbing diagnostic by a qualified plumber is your best bet here.
2 – Your leach field starts to feel moist, or might even flood. This is a much more solid indicator of a leach field issue. This usually means that either a line is broken, or that it is clogged to a point where it no longer disperses the fluids over a large enough area that it has a chance to seep into the ground, and comes to the surface instead.
Either way, if there is a problem with your absorption field, it can be very difficult to find the exact problem. Even with a sewer camera, the cause may be nearly impossible to determine. Your best bet, if you think you are having a leach field issue is to call a profession, experienced plumber who can employ all of his expertise to trying to find the problem for you, and recommend the proper solution.
At Gogo Rooter Plumbing, we have some of the top professionals in the industry – ready and willing to give their very best to finding and fixing all of your septic problems.
Give us a call!