Signs of a Leach Field Failure


A leach field is the part of the septic system that removes the impurities from the waste water released from the septic tank. The field is composed of a host of seepage pipe that run into three, four or more trenches from the drainage holes on the septic tank. The seepage pipe allows waste water to drain out onto a bed of gravel or stone and into the ground. You can determine if the leach field is failing by the different signs that will develop.


  • One of the clear signs that the leach field is failing or damaged is the smell of raw sewage outside your residence. The leach field has developed a problem that is causing the waste water to seep to the surface of the ground, creating a strong odor. The waste water is backing up into the septic tank and overflowing, making the waste water come to the surface of the ground. If the waste water is seeping to the surface above the leach field, the problem is generally in the soil. Clay soil has a hard time absorbing water.

Wet Soil Surface

  • Another common sign that the leach field is failing happens when the ground surface above the septic tank or leach field remains damp or soaked even in dry weather. A clogged or damaged leach field pipe is pushing the waste water to the surface of the ground and not allowing the waste water to properly drain into the gravel or stoned placed in the trenches of the field.

Slow Drainage

  • A toilet, sink or other drain that drains slowly can be caused by a failing leach field or septic system. The drain field is not allowing the drain water to flow at the pace required when flushing the toilet or running water down the drain. The drain water will stand in the sink and slowly drain instead of freely draining. One of the pipes in the trenches can be clogged, causing the other pipes of the leach field to compensate for the clogged trench pipe. If the other trench pipes cannot accommodate the flow of waste water, the water begins to back up into the system, making the water drain slower than normal.


  • Bubbles or a gurgling sound will begin to occur when you drain the sink or toilet. The waste water is not draining at its normal flow because of a failing leach field or septic system. As the waste water is released into the septic system, it begins to slow and start to push back into the drainage pipes. The pushing effect causes the remaining water in the toilet or sink to bubble or gurgle. Tree roots can penetrate the trench pipes, stopping or slowing the flow of the waste water.

Water Back-Up

  • After flushing the toilet or running the dishwasher, drainage water backs up into another system, such as the kitchen or bathroom sink. The waste water is not flowing through the septic pipes at the proper rate. Because the water has no other place to go, it pushes through other drainage pipes located within the house and into the toilet bowl, sink or other drains. The leach field or septic tank is failing or requires repairs because the draining water always flows rapidly through the system when there is not a problem.

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