Septic System Restoration

In the past, few options were available to fix an ailing septic system other than out-right replacement, which is what many in the wastewater industry prefer to do.  This pushes property owners to sometimes take the cheapest route possible, including just adding more dispersal pipes in the field, digging rock pits, or even diverting wastewater to creeks, streams and other places.

We understand that preventative maintenance tends to be a low priority for many property owners.  Often it’s because they don’t know what’s even required.  But just like with a vehicle, you can only go for so long before a lack of maintenance has serious, and unnecessary consequences.  So what other options are there the the system starts to malfunction?

Restoration can be a practical, cost-effective solution.  

Over our decades of experience conducting septic system inspections, we observed how commonly systems are in need of corrective action and observed the short-comings of our industry that is so intensively focused on planning and installing new systems.  The concept of restoration is very foreign and not covered in the regular training of wastewater practitioners.

For this reason, we set about to find appropriate technologies and processes to restore systems.  When we found a limitation, we developed customized equipment, processes and techniques to push beyond, and we don’t stop in our efforts to find even better ways of doing things.  This includes searching for a unique component or device from around the world to help us tweak or refine our unique equipment that little bit more.  It incorporates the latest in the soils, materials, wastewater microbiology and chemical sciences to constantly evolve how we do things.

Think Hot Rod

Restoration may be to a single component, such as a concrete distribution box that is deteriorating or distribution pipes that are clogged.  Or restoration may be of the entire system to bring it back to nearly the original condition.  

Often, the system’s performance and longevity can even be improved.   Much like bringing an old car back to its original condition, you’ll have a vehicle that will last for many more years and adding new technology can make it run more like a hot rod!  Similarly, a hybrid of original components combined with specific points of upgrade to new or even leading-edge features can improve monitoring, maintenance, and performance while extending the lifespan of the system.

Less Cost, Less Hassle

The best part of going with restoration:

  • the cost can be between 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of a new system
  • it’s considered a “minor repair” by current provincial regulations so no “filing” or “permit” needs to be registered with the Health Authority
  • potentially doubles or more the lifespan of the system
  • can usually be completed in 1 or 2 days 

But Our System Is More Than 30 Years Old

So what.  We have various types of systems that 20 or more years ago were restored when the systems were already 30 to 50 years old back then.  For one of our commercial clients with a large system, the enhancements we made almost 20 years ago resulted in extremely high performance with no observable wear found even today.   For other clients, systems in the 75 to 100 years age were pulled back into optimum performance so don’t rule out older septic systems just because of their age.

We’ve developed techniques to restore concrete components damaged by sewer gas corrosion, create new baffles, install monitoring and maintenance access points, and more than 80 other improvement/enhancements regardless of a system’s age.

Not every system can be turned around and some are improved to at least stop a health hazard to give the property owner some time to financially prepare for a replacement.  For one First Nations client, a system that was malfunctioning with sewage seeping to the surface for over 6 years was turned around within a day and monitoring by their Public Works staff as well as Environmental Health Officers the system working properly and no longer in need of replacement. 

Do We Clean Distribution Pipes?

Well, yes and no.  Cleaning pipes is actually quite easy, but having an effect immediately outside the dispersal pipes is a whole other level needed to actually restore a system. 

The high-pressure water cleaning equipment, combined with hot water (think diesel-powered hot water heater), a variety of water-jetting nozzles and surfactants (think of detergents for industrial use), and other special measures all work together on removing organic debris from immediately around the weeping points of the distribution pipes.

How, when and where we use the different equipment or techniques varies not only from system to system, but even between different distribution pipes in the field.  As debris is being extracted, the technician is observing and changing tactics continuously.   When done, the technician uses pipe cameras to verify the work was effective and confirm whether any further corrective action at any point in the system is needed or not.  

This type of work can be done on both newer systems using plastic pipes and older systems with clay tiles.

Success Using Restoration and Repair Methods

We have restored and repaired over 90% of septic systems that we’ve worked on.  And for the septic systems we couldn’t fix?  It’s not possible to restore septic systems that have been poorly designed, installed or have severe damage.  You can’t take a kiddy-kart and make it into a Cadillac.

If you’re being told you need a new septic system, consider a second opinion to confirm that there actually is a problem, and if so, whether restoration is an option.

For more information, check out maintenance category of the Info & Help section.

Want more information or you are ready to speak with a live person? Contact us.

Clay tiles in 70 year old septic field – before cleaning
Clay tiles after cleaning. Monitoring confirmed proper operation was achieved.
12 year old system malfunctioning due to sewage solids washing out of the septic tank and heading to the field. Improper maintenance lead to this condition.
Same pipe as photo above but after restoration was completed.
Another system where all dispersal pipes in the field were clogged by Japanese Knotweed. First round of work removed small to mid-sized roots and sewage solids, second round cutting out the thicker roots shown above. Invasive plants on the septic field were also removed by a multi-stage clearing approach that used no chemicals. System fully restored.
Gravity dispersal pipes are not the only ones that can clog. This 2.5cm / 1 inch diameter pipe in a pressure distribution system is clogged with roots, sewage and soil. Plastic chambers using pressure distribution pipes don’t always behave the way manufactures suggest they will. Specialized equipment was able to clear blockages more than 3m / 10 feet long and restore the system to proper operation.
Dispersal area is a sand mound forgotten in a forest, now over-grown and not accessible for monitoring and maintenance.
Using specific equipment and techniques, our staff cleared the mound of invasive vegetation without damaging the components buried inside the mound. Wastewater now is dispersed in a proper manner plus regular monitoring and maintenance can finally be done.
Green lids on left give access to the buried septic tank and a pump chamber. Inspection identified groundwater leakage into these components causing the dispersal area to be overwhelmed and at high risk of wastewater escaping to the surface.
After carefully exposing, scaffolding was set up to provide safe access down to all components. Multiple joints were sealed to prevent groundwater entry, a drainage system installed to remove groundwater away, and light weight, free-draining granular material used to backfill to take the pressure off of components that were installed deeper than tank manufacturer’s allow. Poor installation practices resulted in this problem, but restoration successfully corrected it.