One common problem that affects cesspools occurs when homeowners pour drain cleaning products or other harsh chemicals down household drains. These chemicals kill the bacteria and inactivate the enzymes in the septic tank. This prevents the tank from properly processing the waste material, resulting in septic tank odors in the home or slow-draining toilets and drains. In a worst case scenario, the toilets may back up into the home.
Problems can also occur when people flush or pour potent drugs down the drain. This is especially true of antibiotics, which may kill the bacteria in the tank. Additionally, if the drain lines become clogged with particulate matter, pieces of plastic or sanitary napkins, the sludge from the drain field can seep up to the surface of the soil. Sometimes this problem can be fixed but it often necessitates complete overhaul or replacement of the septic system.
Septic systems work by relying on the very same processes that break down animal waste and dead organisms. Bacteria feed upon the organic matter, converting it into harmless, non-polluting substances. The tanks slow down the rate of water flow so that these bacteria have enough time to clean the water in it. When the water finally percolates into the surrounding groundwater, it is fit for consumption.