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Septic Tank Problems After Emptying: Is Dip Pipe Damage To Blame?

If your home relies on a septic tank to handle its sewage, having the septic tank emptied every few years is essential. Regular emptying will prevent the tank from overflowing, and also helps to preserve the complex biome that allows bacteria within the tank to break down solid waste effectively.

However, if your septic tank is not emptied carefully, it can do more harm than good. Improper emptying procedures can seriously damage the tank's dip pipe(s), preventing them from functioning properly.

What Are Septic Tank Dip Pipes?

If your septic tank has two or more separate chambers for holding and filtering waste, these chambers will be connected by dip pipes. These simple pipes, which are sometimes referred to as H-pipes, run through the baffles that separate each chamber.

Dip pipes are designed to allow liquid to pass from chamber to chamber and toward the tank's drain field. At the same time, they prevent solid matter from leaving the first chamber until it has been broken down into liquid by the bacteria inside the chamber. 

How Can Emptying The Tank Damage Dip Pipes?

Septic tank dip pipes are fairly robust, but they can be damaged or dislodged by heavy impacts. They are particularly vulnerable to damage caused by the large, powerful vacuum pumps used by septic tank emptying services. If the end of the vacuum pump hose collides with a dip pipe, it may crack, shatter, or fall out of its mounting within the baffle.

What Happens When A Tank Has A Damaged Dip Pipe?

If a dip pipe is accidentally damaged during a septic tank pumping, it can no longer stop solid matter from passing between the tank's chambers. 

In tanks where one or more chambers contain solid filtration media, solid waste can clog the filtration chamber(s), preventing liquid from exiting the tank. Tanks with clogged filter chambers can rapidly overflow, leaking sewage into the soil surrounding the tank. Serious blockages can cause sewage to back up into your home, where it flows out of your toilets and drains.

Damaged dip pipes can also allow solid waste to flow into the tank's drain field. This creates a serious contamination hazard, and you may incur significant fines if solid waste from your septic tank contaminates local groundwater supplies.

If your septic tank has a damaged dip pipe, you may notice that your bathtubs and sinks drain more slowly, or not at all. The grass growing over the septic tank and the drain field may grow taller and greener than usual, as it is fertilized by untreated sewage. If the tank starts to overflow, you may also notice foul-smelling puddles of standing water around the septic tank.

What Should You Do If Your Septic Tank Has A Damaged Dip Pipe?

If you notice any of the aforementioned problems with your home's sewage system, you should call in a professional septic tank inspection and maintenance service. These services can use remote cameras and other technology to inspect the interior of your tank and find out whether a recent emptying has damaged a tank's dip pipe(s).

If a dip pipe has been damaged or dislodged, it can usually be replaced without causing too much disruption. The ground above the septic tank may need to be excavated to allow access to the tank, but the pipe itself is relatively quick and easy to fit. Your repaired septic tank should be back up and running within a few hours.

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