Septic tanks don’t have any mechanical or electrical parts, but there are still ways in which they can malfunction. At Gilson Environmental Services, we specialise in fixing septic tank problems in Ipswich as well as throughout Suffolk and Norfolk. Here we identify some of the most common issues and what their underlying causes could be.



It is important to take notice if there is an increase in foul smells in and around your septic tank, wherever it is located. It is possible that these odours may be in or around your home, so your neighbours may become aware of them before you do.

In the case of foul smells in and around your home, it may mean that you have been disposing of some waste products inappropriately, such as pouring grease, fat or oil down the sink, or flushing sanitary products or paper towels (as opposed to toilet tissues) down the lavatory. In such cases, these items prevent the bacteria in your tank from their job properly when it comes to breaking down the solid sewage, hence creating the smell.

As for an increase in odours around your tank, this could indicate that the roots of a nearby tree have penetrated its walls, causing it to burst and the smell to become more profound.


Slow Drainage

Over time,  sludge and solids can build up in your tank. As a result, it makes it more difficult for your washing machine to complete its cycle, your toilets to flush properly, or even for water to flow down a plughole.

However, these symptoms may also just be a sign of overuse. The average household uses a lot more water today than they did only 30 years ago. With extra toilets, people taking more baths and showers, as well as an increase in dishwashers and washing machines.

A tell-tale sign that it is your septic tank rather than general wear and tear is if it is happening all over your home, and is not just restricted to one particular toilet, sink, or machine. Again, another common cause is tree roots – they could be blocking the pipework to your tank.


Standing Water

Is usually a problem in the drainage field or soakaway. Alarm bells should be ringing if there hasn’t been any rain recently. Such a problem can often be harder to spot if there has been recent flooding or heavy rain.

Standing water may be a sign that your tank has reached its full capacity and that there could be solid water blocking the system. This kind of blockage forces water up to the surface, where it becomes visible as puddles and pools. Standing water could also mean that untreated sewage is leaking into your garden.


Sewage Backup

The is probably the most extreme of all the problems stated here, and the one that you probably least want to see in your own home. It could be caused by any of the reasons given above such as overuse, flushing away the wrong products, tree roots, or it may indicate design faults with your tank.

If  this does occur, avoid coming into direct contact with the sewage because skin contact and exhalation or inhalation of the smell can lead to sickness.


What to Do

If you are suffering from any of the above issues, then call in experts like Gilson Environmental Services immediately. Whether it’s just because the tank needs emptying, or something more serious like a blockage or malfunction, we’ll soon be able to sort it out.

You can contact us by clicking on this link and filling in our online contact or by calling our 24-hour emergency helpline on 01473 741530. And we also offer a range of other services, including sewage treatment plant maintenance, cesspool installation and drainage system repair, from our Suffolk base.