I noticed a small puddle in the backyard that remained even when it's dry out, and recently realized that it's probably the septic system overflowing. The tank was pumped 2 years ago and I don't think we're heavily taxing the system (no garbage disposal, frequently away on travel), so I did a quick household audit and found that one of our toilets has been running pretty steadily. I'm not sure how long it's been going on, but presumably that's contributing to the problem.

The toilet is now fixed, but I'm wondering what I should do about the septic system. Should I get it pumped, or will the water level return to normal after a couple days? The amount of solids and grease entering the system hasn't changed, so I'm hoping that the extra water will just diffuse into the leach field.

Or maybe this requires professional attention?

  • 1
    My septic designer said that a leaking toilet is a common cause of septic system overload.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 18:27
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    Affirmed, a toilet that is "running" can use a heck of a lot of water. In California, toilets don't even get to the point of "running" before your water bill explodes, as water is priced exponentially during drought. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


It is entirely possible that if the toilet was running hard enough that that is the source of the problem. Assuming the weather conditions are fairly dry and surrounding ground is not saturated, I'd give it a day or two to subside and let the leach field catch up. If the problem doesn't clear quickly with the toilet fixed, I'd call for a pump and have them check the backflow of the leach field to determine if there is blockage downstream from the tank. Good luck.

  • OK, 1 day later there is no longer a wet spot visible in the yard! We'll see what happens. Thanks.
    – Hank
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 19:36

I'd say let it sits for a few weeks. It might take awhile now that it is fixed based on the ground saturation and type of soil. Keep in mind that many septic systems these days have two fields. Ours built in 2005 is this way, and there is a switch box that I rotate twice a year. Switching it gives each field a chance to catch up and remain healthy.

There was one time after a big party, that it was obvious the field was over-saturated like you are seeing. I was able to switch the fields, and the overflow from the talk went to the second field, and the first field was able to catch up in a few days.

  • I didn't know anyone ever installed 2 leach fields. I doubt our system has two -- it's not new, I'm certainly not aware of a second one, and would have no idea how to switch between them.
    – Hank
    Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 19:38
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    Well, its technically one leech field. There are just multiple beds. We have 6 runs, divided into 2 pairs of three. So at one time, the septic is using 3 runs. Almost everyone around here in NE Ohio is that way in one form or another, maybe 2x2 runs or 2x4 runs, etc.
    – mohlsen
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 12:56

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