Pipe and Gravel vs. Chamber (Infiltrator) Systems

The pipe and gravel field system has been around much longer than the plastic chamber systems and have been proven to work more efficiently.

Chambers can, theoretically, store a higher capacity of water.  The chambers themselves can hold 3 or 4 times more water than the equivalent length of 4” pipe.  However, the trench size for both products is the same – the pipe or chamber is laid in a 2’ wide trench and then covered with gravel.  The trench for the chamber is completed with 1/3 the amount of gravel that the pipe system receives OR the pipe system has 3 times the amount of gravel of the chamber system.  The gravel is the “filter” for the septic water that leaves the tank.  More gravel equates to cleaner water being both absorbed into the soil and evaporated/transpired into the air.

Septic systems work best when they disperse the water over the largest area possible which is the fundamental operating principal of the pipe and gravel system.  Chamber systems can store more water in the chambers, but this does not increase the absorption rate of the soil and, therefore, is no added benefit in most septic applications.  Fields are not meant to store water, but to disperse water over the largest area available.

The best use for chambers is in small situations with excellent soil percolation rates.  In clay or heavy soils, the water tends to sit in the chamber longer and this retention causes the growth of scum which can cause the system to fail sooner than a pipe and gravel system.

Tree Roots Destroy Septic Systems

Trees and Shrubs Bad;  Grass Good

Trees and shrubs should be planted at least 10 feet away from the edges of any septic system (tank and fields).  If trees or shrubs are planted too close to the septic area, the roots of these plants seek the water inside the septic system.  As the roots grow into the gravel and septic pipes, they push dirt into the system.  Over time the roots push more and more dirt into the system, until finally the gravel and pipes are filled with dirt and roots, making the system ineffective.  The picture featured above shows a pipe that is completely filled with roots and dirt.

There should be no vegetation, except grass, growing over or around your septic system.  Grass assists the septic fields as some of the water surfaces for evaporation and transpiration.  Keeping the grass over a septic system properly mowed promotes the evaporation and transpiration process.

However, if the fields are beginning to fail, water will surface in puddles, making the ground swampy.  Thick grass patches or soft ground are also indicative of a failing system.


Septic Inspections Before Buying

Why do a septic inspection before a home purchase?

Septic systems have a limited life, between 10-50 years, depending upon the soil conditions where the home is built.  Just like many other home components (roof, siding, driveway, etc.) a septic system occasionally requires replacement. Therefore, before buying a home, it is important to have the septic system inspected.  Inspections determine the condition of the septic tank; whether it requires replacing due to leaks or old age. An inspection can also detect if the fields (the largest component of a system) are currently working.  During an inspection the fields are intentionally given a large load of water. If the fields are clogged or operating poorly, it will be indicated during the testing.  Such conditions would suggest that field replacement should be considered.

Steel Tank Collapses in Yorktown Heights, NY

A family in Yorktown Heights, NY walked out their front door one morning to find that their steel septic tank had collapsed right under their front path.  All steel tanks rust and corrode after a certain amount of time in the ground.  It is recommended that all owners with steel tanks have them replaced before there is a spontaneous collapse such as this one.