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Common Septic Tank and Soakaway Problems

Posted on September 30, 2016

Septic tanks are a fantastic tool to manage and treat waste, and can usually be relied upon to effectively treat waste without the need for lots of maintenance. However, if you’re having troubles with your septic tank or soakaway unit, there are a few common problems that can occur that are very easily fixed.

Here we present the most common septic tank issues and expert advice on how to remedy the fault.

Flooding septic tanks

Flooding is a common complaint with septic tanks, and it can be caused by many issues. Common causes of a flooding septic tank include:

  • Blocked pipes
  • Failing soakaway
  • Root ingress

Blocked pipes can be treated with either a drain unblocking treatment bought from a DIY store and drain rodding, or if the blockage is particularly deep in the dip pipe or made up of thick, greasy substances that a shop-bought method cannot treat, a professional maintenance service can be used to clear the blockage. It is important to bear in mind that you should always consult a professional before you attempt to fix your blocked pipes yourself as you may exacerbate the issue.

Failing soakaways can be a bit more complex and issues with these systems are more likely to require a professional drainage team to take a look at the problem. A failing soakaway could be caused by the wrong ground conditions or physical damage, but either will be difficult to diagnose on your own. If you suspect you’re having troubles with your soakaway, call in your local drainage team as soon as you can.

Root ingress is caused by the roots of nearby trees or shrubbery growing down towards the pipes of your system and infiltrating the pipes, causing cracks that could leak and impede the flow of liquid waste through the system. Root ingress can be easily treated by a professional service.


A leak from your septic tank will normally be caused by a crack in the pipes or a weakened section of material that is allowing water to seep through. The damaged portion of pipe will need to be sealed or the pipe section replaced to ensure your system is working safely and hygienically.

Foul smells

A bad smell emanating from your septic tank is a clear sign that your system isn’t running as efficiently as it should. Septic tanks are an aerobic process, so the decaying sewage or mould can cause alarming smells if the unit is not properly maintained. Check your aerator pump is functioning properly and that the water is flowing as quickly and as smoothly as it should be to ensure that no wastewater is backing up.  

Septic tanks are designed to contain the foul smells they hold, so if your system is failing to do so adequately, it’s possible that the vent aerating your system is blocked with grime that is preventing a clean air flow, resulting in a stench emanating through drains and appliances instead. If you can reach your vent, try giving it a wipe with a damp cloth to remove any grime that is blocking the vents.

You should also make an effort to be more careful with the kind of cleaning products and food waste making their way down the drains. A septic tank operates on a delicate pH balance, and there are some wastes you may be disposing of that are upsetting the balance of the pH and slowing the rate in which it breaks down waste, or that the tank cannot break down; examples include grease, fats, oils, paints, solvents, coffee grinds and antibacterials. To rebalance the pH of your septic tank, try adding a cup of baking soda and seeing if that helps the problem.

Drains gurgling

Gurgling coming from your drains indicates a partial or developing blockage that is reducing flow through your pipes and could lead to a septic tank breakdown. You will need to remedy this as soon as possible before your drainage is completely blocked and your pipes begin to overflow.

Slow flushing toilet

A slow flushing toilet can be the result of a septic tank that is full of solid, indigestible matter like face wipes, hygiene products and fatty substances that are reducing the speed in which the tank is responding to your toilet flush. To fix this, you will need to have the system drained and cleaned by a professional service, and after this has been done, avoid disposing of such items down your toilet or sinks as it will quickly lead to more plumbing issues.

Sinks and drains overflowing

If your sinks and drains are overflowing or backing up but your septic tank is not, then this looks to be a soft blockage within the pipes rather than a problem with your septic tank, and is much more easily treated with a simple unblocking. If, however, your septic tank is also overflowing, then there could be a blockage within your septic tank or soakaway that is causing all the water in your system to back up into your fixtures. This will need urgent attention from a professional service as the problem will only worsen if left untended.

Wildon UK offer nationwide septic tank installations, repairs and maintenance, alongside a host of other services such as:


  • Water tank chlorination
  • Bulk water testing
  • Steel fabrication
  • Culvert cleaning
  • Liquid waste removal
  • Installation and maintenance of sewage pumping stations


All of our waste technicians are fully accredited and highly trained, guaranteeing a quick, reliable and hygienic service everytime. Get in contact for more details on any of our services.

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