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Why Does My Septic System…? – Diagnosing Septic Issues

As homeowners, we may not always know exactly how certain systems work. We aren’t asked, after all, to wonder about our electrical systems, insulation, or gutters beyond making sure that everything’s working as intended. But our plumbing is another issue entirely. We interact with our plumbing on a daily basis and in visible parts of our home (sinks, toilets, drains, laundry rooms, etc.). When something goes wrong or seems off about our plumbing, we usually know it.

If you live with a septic system, it can be even more difficult to understand what’s gone wrong. Septic systems are far from rare in America today, with nearly 25% of America’s households relying on them. But not every homeowner with a septic tank knows how or why their system works, to say nothing of why it stinks, overflows, or makes strange noises.

Economy Septic is your fully licensed, bonded and insured septic maintenance provider in the Jacksonville, AL, and greater NE Alabama area. Since 1975, we’ve been fixing and demystifying septic systems across the state. 

Here are the most likely answers to why your septic system…


In all fairness, septic systems aren’t supposed to smell like a bed of roses. But if you’re noticing a strong aroma in the bathroom, from sinks, or anywhere on your property aside from the tank location itself, something could be wrong. The source or location of the smell is important for diagnosing any potential issues.

Smells in the Home

If you’ve noticed the aroma of sewage, waste, or sulfur (rotten eggs) in the home, one or more issues may be the cause. The most common causes of bad smells in the home include:

  • A full septic tank
  • Dried drains releasing gasses
  • Vent stack clogs
  • Old/Defective gaskets & seals

Smells Outside the Home

Meanwhile, a strong odor at the tank location on your property at large could be a sign of worse to come. The most common causes of bad smells outside the home include:

  • A full septic tank
  • Loose manhole/cover
  • Broken pipe
  • Waste in the drain field 

For powerful aromas within and beyond the home, it’s best to contact a professional septic maintenance provider to make the ultimate determination. Acting off a hunch when repairing, emptying, or improving your septic system could cost you money without solving the problem.

Backs Up

When flushing, washing something in the sink, or taking a shower, you may notice that the water drains slowly or even rises back up into the basin. This is a concerning sign, and could mean several problematic issues have occurred.

The most common causes for backed up wastewater within the home include:

  • Hydraulic overloading (sending too much water into the tank at one time/time period)
  • Clogs (from non-flushable materials such as diapers, kitty litter, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • Flushed toxins (antibacterials, bleach, and other harsh or poisonous chemicals can kill the good bacteria within the tank that processes waste)
  • Environmental factors (flooding, tree roots, winter weather, etc.)

Of these problems, hydraulic overloading and clogs should be easy to avoid. During the holiday seasons when family stays over, or during heavy laundry/washing/cleaning weeks, try and space out your water usage to give your septic system a fighting chance.

You can also avoid clogs and flushing toxins by simply disposing of everything aside from human waste and toilet paper somewhere other than your drains. Anything that could be harmful to you may also be harmful to the bacteria responsible for breaking down your waste within the septic tank. 

Overflows on the Lawn

It doesn’t take a septic professional to know that overflowing septic tanks are a serious issue. Raw sewage puddling on your property or leaking into the open air can cause serious health and safety issues for your family.

The most common cause of a septic tank overflow is a full tank. Remember to schedule regular pumping every 3-5 years to keep your septic tank working optimally. Also, try your best to avoid flushing non-organic substances down your drain (diapers, litter, hygiene products). These insoluble materials cannot be dissolved in water and may clog your septic system to the point of an overflow.

Furthermore, other toxic chemicals can kill the helpful bacteria in your tank, creating a workload the remaining bacteria can’t manage on its own. This could lead to a faster filling tank and an eventual overflow before your scheduled pumping.

Makes Strange Noises

The type of noise your septic system makes could clue you in on the problem at hand. With miles of pipes containing solids, gasses, and liquids in the same system, it’s occasionally natural to hear a groan or rumble, but these sounds could mean more.


Here again, the most common cause of gurgling noises from your septic system is a full tank. Clogs can also cause backups within the tank and create a gurgling noise as waste struggles to flow around it and into the septic tank. Drain field issues resulting from environmental factors and clogs can also contribute to gurgling.


Like the other common septic system noise, trickling often results from damage to the tank or tank seals. You may also hear trickling if your pump is malfunctioning, contributing to less pressure within the system. 

In both cases, it’s best to call out a trusted septic maintenance professional to look into it.

Why Does My Septic Tank Work So Well?

Septic tanks respond to homeowner behavior better than you might think. With proper care and regular pumping, your septic system can last decades. To make the most of your system, remember these helpful tips:

  • Pump the tank every 3-5 years
  • Avoid flushing anything but TP & human waste
  • Avoid pouring toxic or harmful chemicals into your trains (including antibacterial soap and excessive amounts of bleach)
  • Call a maintenance professional when you hear strange noises

At Economy Septic Tank Service in Jacksonville, AL, we know septic systems. Call us if your system is exhibiting strange behavior and we’ll take the case until it’s solved!

Septic Detectives at your Disposal – Economy Septic in Jacksonville, AL

You don’t have to know the details of septic system operation to understand when something’s gone wrong. If you detect strong odors in or outside the home, hear strange noises, or notice water backing up in toilets, sinks, and drains, call Economy Septic today at (256) 435-1086! Waiting could turn a simple pumping job into an emergency repair, so don’t hesitate to put us on the case!