Septic problems

Angela asks:
(updated on Friday, March 29th 2013)

My rental in Ruakaka is going to have a sewerage system installed to replace the septic tank at a cost of $10,000. My tenants complained a few months ago that septic tank wastewater was overflowing. I had the tank drained, inspected and a small soakage trench dug to last at least six months. The tenants complained again shortly after so it was drained again, the pump checked and a non-return valve installed. Again they complained and a large soakage trench was dug at a total cost of $2,000. About four weeks later they are complaining again. I am reluctant to spend much more as the new system is not far off. Can I just give them a portaloo or what are my rights/options please? I had a new large soakage trench dug about five years ago when I was living there. The washing machine water does not go to the septic tank. What can they be doing with all the water?

Our Experts Answer:

Septic tanks require awareness on the part of the residents on how to use them. Sewage is broken down by bacteria and certain disciplines need to be observed by residents in order to preserve the operation of the system. These disciplines include refraining from overloading the system (excessive numbers of toilet flushes) and not using harsh detergents and other chemicals that would kill the bacteria. The number of users in the house may also have a bearing on the system’s ability to cope. It seems to me there are a couple of possible causes of your issues. One is the usage of the system and the other is the state of the ground (perhaps it is waterlogged). You need to work with the tenants to ensure that the system can cope with their reasonable needs while you are awaiting the new reticulated system. I suggest you sit down with them and explain that you’ve done all you can, that the new system will address their issues and it’s only a few weeks away. Meanwhile discuss with the tenants a few things that they can do to lessen the load on the system in the mean time. If necessary, drain the tank again and re-start the bacteria system. That should get you through until the new system is installed.

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