Emergency septic service is necessary when there is sewage backup, the septic system alarm is going off or the nitrate concentration of well water reaches high levels. Drainfield pooling is a sign of a full tank, which also requires septic service. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests pumping out septic systems once every three to five years.
Intensely pungent sewage smell that comes from the pipes and invades the showers, toilets and sinks indicates the need for emergency septic service due to sewage backup. Before this occurs, an unpleasant smell usually becomes evident in the drains or bubbling appears in the toilet.
When the septic system alarm goes off, the system likely contains high water levels resulting from excessive water use in the house, leading to the system's difficulty in moving out the water and processing the waste. It may also indicate a leak, in which the tank takes on groundwater. In this situation, household members should stop using water immediately to avid sewage backup.
Homeowners should regularly have their water tested for nitrate, as high nitrate levels may be associated with very full systems that leach into the soil and groundwater. Regular septic tank maintenance is essential to maintain clean well water with low nitrate levels. Proper maintenance also prevents drainfield pooling, in which wastewater accumulates and rises up to the lawn.