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Troubleshooting Common Septic Tank & Sewage Pump Problems

Posted on September 15, 2014

Article updated July 2017

If you have a septic tank or sewage pump installed as part of your wastewater system, you should be aware of its importance for all of your building’s plumbing. Although it is something that is easy to take for granted, without the proper maintenance septic tanks and sewage pumps can run into problems which can have repercussions across your home and garden. This guide has been put together to help you identify and deal with some common problems that crop up, before they get too serious.

septic tank half buried in ground

Sewage pump problems:

Pump not turning on – this could have its roots in a number of causes. Some of these issues are more easily fixed than others, but a pump which has stopped working should always be examined by a professional so they can effectively troubleshoot the problem for you. Common problems which could cause this include: a jammed impeller, electric failures, blockages causing the electrics to trip or a complete system failure.

Pump not turning off/overusing electricity – if you notice through your electricity bills and meter that your pump is using a lot more electricity than it should, this is a fault. Often, this is a sign that your pump isn’t turning off correctly. This is generally caused by issues with your motor or the float switch.

Waxy build up – overuse of detergent powder in dishwashers and washing machines can create a build up of scum and waxy substances which can cause pump switches to become blocked. Budget detergents often contain clay fillers that can cause clogging, jam switches and pump floats, and bring your system to a halt. Avoid this by using appropriate amounts of high quality detergents.

Septic tank problems:

Tree root damage – tree roots can be persistent and pervasive and do some serious damage to a septic tank. If they grow through your tank walls they can cause leakages, block pipes and even cause the system to stop working completely. This can result in the need for repairs, or even replacement, of your tank.

Flooding – if you find that there is flooding or sitting surface water around your septic tank, it’s likely caused by an issue with your tank or soakaway system. There are many potential origins of this issue, ranging from a blocked dip pipe to oversaturated soakaway ground or unfiltered waste getting into the soakaway system. Professional help should be sought quickly to deal with this.

Septic tank baffle collapse – the baffle in your septic tank works as a filter to keep solid material from passing on to the soakaway/extended sewage system. If this becomes damaged, collapses or even implodes due to ground movement, then wastewater will no longer be filtered correctly. This can cause all sorts of problems, mainly resulting from subsequent blockages.

Damaged pipework – the pipework involved in a septic tank sewage system can sustain damage at several different points. For example, damage can occur from heavy machinery driving over the area and crushing pipework, or dip pipes can get dislodged in the process of a routine emptying. Damaged pipes can cause issues with draining and leakages and will need to be replaced immediately.

Unpleasant odours – unpleasant sewage smells coming from drains in your home can be a sign of an issue with your sewage system and septic tank. Problems include a waste blockage/build up – potentially caused by excessive oil and grease being put down the drain, or non-disposable items such as face wipes and nappies – or chemicals killing off the necessary bacteria. A professional will be able to find the root of this problem and remedy it for you.


While sewage systems and septic tanks can become blocked or jammed through improper use, regular checking and maintenance can prevent larger problems. By regularly checking for problems, you can reduce the chances of long term damage and keep your system healthy for longer. If you do run into difficulties, professional drainage services – like those offered by the specialist team at Wildon UK – can help keep your system running smoothly. Get in touch today to enlist our help, or for more information.

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