There's An Old Septic Tank On Your Property: Now What?

Posted on: 14 December 2020

Septic systems provide a cost-effective, simple, and environmentally friendly method of waste disposal. These systems are widespread in rural areas, but the definition of rural often changes with the times. As cities expand, so too do their municipal sewer systems. Many homeowners ultimately opt to connect their homes to city services, but what happens to the old septic system?

If the owners do not correctly decommission and remove the system, it may remain there for many years. Even worse, new owners may not realize that there's an old septic system lurking on their property. This situation can pose several headaches and even some potential dangers for the current occupants of the home.

Recognizing the Problem

Even adequately decommissioned septic systems may leave some evidence on your property. The usual approach for concrete and steel tanks is to bury them in place. For steel tanks, this often means destroying the tank (so that it does not leave a potentially dangerous void below your property) and sticking it back into the ground. Contractors typically break up and fill old concrete tanks.

Finding evidence of an old septic system is only an issue if you believe the previous owners did not take the appropriate steps after decommissioning it. In almost all cases, this means discovering a septic tank with a still-accessible internal volume. If you can open up a hatch and peer inside an old tank on your property, then you've almost certainly got a problem on your hands.

The Dangers of Old Septic Tanks

Septic tanks can last for many decades, but they will eventually fail. The tank itself tends to break down due to soil and environmental conditions rather than use, which means that even abandoned tanks may suddenly develop issues. Surprisingly, the problem with old tanks is not so much ground contamination as the hazards associated with collapse.

The internal volume of an old septic tank is a void below your property, and only the walls of the tank support the surrounding soil. Once the walls fail, sections of your property can quickly collapse into the tank. The weight of a structure, vehicle, or even a person can be enough to bring the whole thing down, potentially severely injuring or trapping anyone on the surface.

"Floating" is another potential hazard for lighter steel or plastic tanks. Without proper anchoring and the weight of effluent, these tanks may float to the surface during heavy rains or flooding. Even correctly secured tanks may break loose after a long enough period of abandonment. Although floating isn't usually a safety hazard, it may cause contamination or property damage.

Decommissioning Your Old Tank

If you've got an old tank on your property, then you'll need to bring in a professional septic tank service company to deal with it. In most cases, you can decommission an old tank by breaking it up or filling it in, depending on the material. You may need to transport plastic tanks off-site since they will not biodegrade.

Although it can be frustrating to spend money dealing with a previous owner's laziness, taking these steps will ensure that your property remains safe for the foreseeable future. If you have any problems with a septic tank on your property, call a business like Autry's Backhoe & Septic Service.