Roots = Septic Nightmare!

Here in the Southwest, we marvel at every shrub, bush, flowering plant and tree we can possibly keep alive with the minuscule amount of rainwater we receive each year.  As a homeowner, we want our yards to look nice! Trees not only provide aesthetic to your property, but are also practical adding shade and things like fruit and placeholders for things like tire swings!

When it comes to septic systems, roots of any sort can wreak havoc on sewer pipes and even the tanks themselves. Roots can break through the pipes and entangle themselves in the pipe causing pipe restriction and even large breaks in the pipe itself. There are a few rules to keep in mind when planting around a septic system:

  • Tank additives that claim to speed up the decay of roots are not proven to be effective.  In our area, roots are very thirsty and will do what they have to find water, even if that means breaking through a few sewer pipes to drink!
  • Choose plants that are drought-resistant/tolerant as the disposal area and septic tank are high-moisture environments. 
  • As a good rule-of-thumb, plant shrubs and other small root system plants at least 10 feet away from the septic tank, sewer pipes and disposal area. 
  • Planting gardens in the area of your system are a bad idea for reasons including bacteria contamination and roto-tilling over the pipes that may be as shallow as just 6 inches!
  • Grasses and native weeds and flowers that do not have deep roots, typically do not pose a threat to the septic system. Remember that anything planted around the lids of the tank or disposal area may have to be dug up for tank access for maintenance and/or repairs.

For more information on how to locate your tank, visit our website!


"What do you mean my soil won't PERC?!" It's OK! Don't worry! There are options for septic users that have less than ideal soil for a conventional system.  There are many homeowners in the Prescott area who live in rocky areas, or say, their property drops off the side of a hill and cannot accommodate a traditional disposal area. Leach lines or a leach bed, even chambers, are all considered "conventional" disposal areas. Alternative systems are considered any onsite wastewater disposal method other than a conventional septic tank and leach field. 

Components of Alternate Systems:

Eljen Pads- one of the most common types of alternate disposal areas in Prescott. Effluent flows through the perforated pipe which distribute the effluent over Modules (pads) which consist of geotextile fabric, sand and soil. After effluent passes through the Eljen pads, the treated effluent is then absorbed by the soil.

Aerobic Treatment System (ATU)- considered "mini-wastewater treatment plants" for home use. ATUs use oxygen to treat the effluent with aerobic bacteria before it is discharged into the disposal area. 

Chlorinating- uses chemicals, such as liquid bleach or chlorine tablets, to disinfect the effluent before it is discharged to the surface or to subsurface.

UV Light Treatment- much like a chlorinating system, UV light is used to disinfect the effluent before it is discharged to the surface or to subsurface.

Composting- composting toilets may be used when the water supply is limited or water conservation is imperative or desired. Composting toilets can produce treated waste that may be used as fertilizer. Other methods are usually required to treat the gray water.

Evaporation-transpiration (ET) Bed- ET beds provide an area for effluent from the tank to evaporate into the air rather than into the soil.

Constructed Wetlands- wetlands may use open ponds or underground constructed beds to treat effluent that has been processed by an aerobic or filtration system.

Pump Tank- systems with disposal areas higher than the septic tank may require a pump to pump the effluent to the disposal area. Pump tanks may contain floats and/or electronic components to keep the pump flowing.

Grinder Tank- when waste flows through the grinder pump tank, it is ground to a fine slurry and pumped to the central sewer system or septic tank.

There are many components that may be a part of an alternate system which may require a bit more maintenance than a good ol’ fashioned system. Contact us today for more information on alternate system maintenance!