Soil mineral precipitate responsible for septic system failure

Brad D. Lee, Darrell G. Schulze

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Properly functioning conventional trench septic systems rely on soil hydraulic conductivity to disperse effluent into the soil absorption field. Typically, septic systems installed in coarse-textured soils function very well if managed correctly, but in the last decade 21% of the septic system failures in Elkhart County, IN, occurred on the Tyner loamy sand (mixed, mesic Typic Udipsamment). Upon excavation of a few of these failed septic systems, it was apparent that a mineral precipitate had formed adjacent to the trenches, apparently causing the absorption field to fail. Reducing conditions adjacent to the soil-trench interface resulted in migration of Fe and Mn away from the trench and precipitation under oxidizing conditions about 15 cm from the soil-trench interface. Iron oxides fill pores between the sand grains forming in a continuous band about 2-5 mm thick. Further from the trench, manganese oxides are concentrated in a discontinuous and diffuse zone about 25 mm thick.

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2007
Event11th National Symposium on Individual and Small Community Sewage Systems - Warwick, RI, United States
Duration: Oct 20 2007Oct 24 2007


Conference11th National Symposium on Individual and Small Community Sewage Systems
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWarwick, RI


  • Iron-oxide
  • Manganese-oxides
  • Mineral precipitate
  • Septic system failure
  • Soil absorption field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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