Most septic tanks are put to the test these days by households, having to deal with all types of waste from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, including plastics, non-biodegradable products and solvents that they were not originally designed to handle.

Needless to say, septic tank problems emerge, and they are not the sort you want to manage on your own. The good news is that if you can detect problems early, you can minimise the damage that occurs. Today, we’re sharing solutions to some common septic tank issues faced by Canberra homeowners.

Common Septic Tank Issues
Problem #1:  Septic Tank Overflow

If a household is using water inefficiently, a septic tank can overflow as it is holding more water than what it is designed for. It leaves solid wastes unable to break down as the water levels reach heights that push solid matter into distribution tubes that were built for liquid only, causing blockages.


One effective way to avoid such a scenario is to reduce water usage as it can help prevent the septic tank from overflowing. It can be achieved through choosing water-efficient taps and showerheads, having shorter showers and opting for a dual flush toilet.

You also want to make sure that your toilet does not have a leak, which wastes a remarkable amount of water. To detect a leak, try pouring a few drops of food colouring into the cistern. You’ll know if you have to call a qualified plumber if the colour appears on the pan without flushing the toilet.

Problem #2: Soakaway Failure

All homeowners with a septic tank should be aware of the soakaway- the pit that is filled with rocks where your waste goes and eventually disintegrates into the ground. You may have issues with your soakaway if you identify one or more of these symptoms:

  • Gurgling sounds coming from your drains.
  • An overflow where your washing machine is plugged in
  • A toilet that is constantly overflowing or is slow when you try to flush it.
  • The land around your house is starting to smell foul air or recognisable odours from the drains in your house.
  • Drain inspection chambers begin to fill in with waste.

If the soakaway is filled with effluent this is likely to cause flooding to your septic tank or even burst out of the ground, creating a health hazard. Some soakaways are not of a suitable size to support drainage and require a “Percolation Test” that can be conducted by a professional plumber to test whether the soakaway has been constructed in suitable ground conditions.

A plumber is also able to detect if there has been any physical damage done to the soakaway pipe. Some soakaway systems use clay pipes that can easily be dislodged due to ground movement, causing soil to block the soakaway and render it ineffective so it’s important to deal with any issues you notice promptly before the problem gets worse.

Problem #3: Blocked Pipes

Detecting and fixing blocked sewerage pipes and drains correctly will save you a lot of heartache, time and money, but it’s not a job for novices. If only one building fixture is clogged and all other fixtures are draining properly then it is likely that you have an in-building plumbing problem.

On the other hand, if all building drains are slow or clogged and you’ve noticed that waste is backing up you have a problem with your on-site waste disposable system. Again, you can also detect septic tank woes if you can smell unpleasant sewerage odours and wet effluent areas around your house.


To prevent blocked pipes and more generally early septic tank failure, you should schedule regular septic system maintenance by a professional plumber to ensure proper drainage and longevity. For those who are buying a property, it’s always recommended to obtain the services of a plumber who can determine the condition of your septic system so there’s less chance of unpleasant surprises later down the track.

At Level Plumbing Canberra, we know how to quickly respond to leaking, flooding and unpleasant odours that can be caused by a defective septic tank system. Call us today at 02 6188 6088 if you are needing an effective solution to your septic tank problems.