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How to Fix Water Well and Septic System Problems

For many years, having your own water well and septic system was convenient and cost-effective. But the installation costs of these systems have gone up significantly—you can easily spend $20,000 to drill a deep well and put in a code-approved septic system. This means that any trouble with either can be expensive to fix and disruptive to endure.

Water Well Pumps

There are three basic types of water well pumps:

  • Shallow well pumps: These pull water from about 25′ deep. They account for about 10% of pumps today.
  • Jet pumps: These pull water up to 75′ deep. They account for about 30% of the pumps used today.
  • Submersible pumps: These operate from the bottom of the well, often hundreds of feet deep. They account for about 60% of pumps in use.

This image shows a typical deep-water well with a submersible pump at the bottom. The pump pushes water to the surface. If the pump fails, the well cover is removed, and the pipe and pump are pulled up and out.

How to Repair Water Well Pump Problems

Leaking (or broken) shallow well and jet pumps can be repaired by a plumber in your basement, where the pumps are located. But submersible pumps must be pulled out of the well for repair or replacement. This job should be done by a professional well driller or plumber.

Septic Systems

A septic system uses bacteria to break down waste and turn it into liquid effluent, which is carried to a leach field where a perforated pipe spreads the liquid in underground trenches. As the liquid filters through the soil, waste materials are left behind, and the water is purified.

This image shows a typical septic tank. Waste comes from the house drain lines, and bacteria breaks it down into liquid effluent and sludge. The liquid goes to the leach field, and the sludge must be pumped out periodically. This job is done with a heavy truck and a powerful pump.

How to Prevent Septic Tank Problems

Though many septic tanks perform well for years without pumping, it’s advisable to pump out a septic tank regularly to keep solids from fouling the leach field. The more people in the house and the smaller the tank, the more often it must be pumped—for example, once every 12 years for a 2,000- gallon tank in a 2-person household, but once a year for a 1,000-gallon tank in an 8-person household. Routine pumping costs about $200, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid installing a new leach field, which costs close to $8,000.

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