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What is a drainage field/soakaway, and how do they work?

A drainage field/soakaway is designed to spread partially-treated effluent over a larger area. A septic tank must connect to a drainage field, as you cannot discharge directly into a watercourse from a septic tank. A sewage treatment system can be connected to a drainage field if a watercourse cannot be located for discharge. The drainage field will provide further treatment to the settled effluent and disperse it safely into the natural ground. A suitable porosity test will ensure that the receiving ground is suitable for the installation of a drainage field.

Drainage fields typically consist of a system of sub-surface irrigation pipes which allow the effluent to percolate into the surrounding soil. Biological treatment takes place naturally in the aerated layers of soil.

If you are installing a sewage treatment system and can connect directly to a watercourse, we would always recommend this. There are several factors that can affect the suitability of a drainage field and its ongoing effectiveness, and the direct connection to a watercourses also removes any future problems associated with a blocked or failed drainage field. Installation of a drainage field also requires suitable ground conditions, and adequate space to meet Building Regulations.

The appropriate design of a drainage field is covered in BS6279, and is also well documented in Building Regulations Document H and the Environment Agency PPG4 Document (both available online).

The most common problem with a drainage field is that the drainage is backing up. This can be identified by checking the levels in the septic tank/sewage treatment system and/or upstream drainage. The cause is likely to be a failed drainage field, which could be fully saturated due to poor soil conditions or a high winter water table, or a blocked drainage field due to solids carried over from the septic tank/sewage treatment system. If you do not maintain (arrange emptying of) your system, solids can pass through the tank and therefore block the downstream drainage field.

Generally, to rectify the situation, an engineer would need to replace the drainage field – jet washing may occasionally be an effective solution, but this is on a case-by-case basis and advice should always be sought by a qualified engineer.

  • Tuesday, 29 September 2015

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Feedback From Satisfied Customers

  • I have recently had a new sewage system installed at one of my sites which wasn't a straight forward job due to it being located in a private field, we had to make sure the owner, as well as our residents were happy with the proposals. Ian Murray met me on site on 2 occasions, with the owner of the field ans was very professional and explained exactly what would be happening, putting the field owners mind at rest. The job went to plan with no unexpected costs and minimal disruption to the field. Very happy customer!
    Cheryl Cessford - Kingston Property Services
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North Location

RA Dalton
Bishop Auckland
County Durham
DL13 1DB
01388 537030

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Unit 22, Midway Business Centre
Bridge Street Industrial Estate
Clay Cross
S45 9NU
01246 865412

Scotland Location

21 Carron Place
Kelvin Industrial Estate
East Kilbride
G75 0YL
01698 827628