What is a Septic Tank Drain Field?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2020
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A septic tank drain field, also known as a leach field or leach drain, effectively removes certain contaminates from the liquid that is removed by a septic tank. Septic systems are composed of a septic tank drain field, a mass of underground pipes, and the actual septic tank. Without any one of these elements, a septic system would not be complete.

The average septic tank drain field consists of various trenches that are covered by a material such as gravel, and then further covered with soil. In almost every instance, a septic tank drain field must be tested by a licensed engineer on a regular basis. These tests, called "percolation tests" measure the amount of water that is sent out of a drain trench and into soil. Specifically, a percolation tests detects microbial colonies, cooking and petroleum products, insoluble particles, frozen ground, and rising ground water.

Some large buildings may have more than one septic tank drain field. When this occurs, drain fields are often alternated. One drain field is allowed to "rest," while the other drain field works.

When a septic tank drain field fails to work properly, the result is often a clogged septic system. The best way to remedy this problem is to hire a professional septic tank contractor. While septic tanks do fail on occasion, there are several ways to prevent this from happening.


Many septic systems fail due to excessive laundry machine waste. The lint that is produced by washing clothing can wind up inside of a septic tank. When this happens, a tank will become blocked. To avoid this situation, a homeowner should make sure that the washing machine has a proper lint filter. Another great way to prevent septic tank failure is to use laundry detergent products sparingly. While regular usage of these products is not harmful, excessive usage may harm a septic system, as can powdered laundry detergent that is not biodegradable.

Septic tank problems can be avoided by limiting the amount of water used. Tanks that are not built to handle large volumes of water at one time can become blocked. It is important to divert rainwater runoff from collecting on the septic tank drain field as well, as this will prevent the field from working properly.

All septic tanks should be "pumped" every three years. Failure to properly maintain a septic system may cause a system to break. Recently, septic tank additives have become quite popular with homeowners, though these harsh chemicals may do more harm than good. Instead of adding an additive to your tank, make sure that your tank is routinely maintained. This should prevent any blockage or damage from occurring.



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