When wastewater and other forms of organic waste enter your septic tank, aerobic bacteria break down the solid waste and feed on it. The bacteria transform the waste into gas and liquid and leave inorganic materials to settle at the bottom of the tank as sludge. The fluid flows into the drain field for further treatment and discharge into the soil. If there aren't enough aerobic bacteria in your septic system, you may experience problems.

Causes of Inadequate Aerobic Bacteria

Septic bacteria naturally grow and multiply in septic systems. However, poor septic maintenance and bad flushing habits can deplete the bacteria. Some items that harm septic bacteria include:

  • Chemicals such as solvents, oils, and bleach
  • Disinfectants and pesticides
  • Drain cleaners
  • Hygiene products

When flushed down the drains, these non-biodegradable products kill aerobic bacteria, slowing down the sewage treatment process. 

Signs of Inadequate Aerobic Bacteria

If you have been dumping the above items in your drains, watch out for these telltale signs of inadequate aerobic bacteria in your septic system.

Clogged drain field

Aerobic bacteria break down organic waste before releasing the resultant effluent into the drain field. If there are few bacteria in the tank, they won't properly break down the waste. As a result, some of it may flow out with the effluent into the drain field, causing the pipes to clog. Blockage in the leach field undermines the effluent treatment process. It can lead to the discharge of harmful sewage into the soil and cause contamination of groundwater. Raw sewage can also cause serious health complications in your household.

Overflowing septic tank

A sewer overflow can occur if your septic tank is too small to meet your home's needs. However, sometimes, an overflow may occur due to the depletion of aerobic bacteria. With fewer bacteria and enzymes to break down organic matter, the entire system begins to fail. More sludge settles at the bottom of the tank, and some of it clogs the drain field. With no escape route, the wastewater flows out of the tank and into your yard.

Sewer backup in the drains

Once sewage overflows the tank, it may back up into the sewer line and into your indoor drains. You may experience the following issues:

  • Slower drainage
  • Sewer odors in your home
  • Wastewater in your basement, sinks, and shower floors

You should treat a sewer backup as an emergency. If the sewage comes into contact with rugs or carpets, you must throw them out to avoid contact and protect your household from health complications. 

Frequent septic tank pump-outs and cleanings eliminate inorganic matter and replenish aerobic bacteria in your septic system. Contact a septic system service like Linn Septic Service for maintenance services.