Learn how to test your septic system for drainage. Find out how a septic dye test can help determine if there's a leak or drainage into your yard from a septic tank.
LESLIE: Dennis in New Hampshire’s got a question about a septic system . How can we help?
DENNIS: Hi. I’ve got a question about it. What I have is an older house  with just a tank and no leach field and the septic  seems to be draining off into a wet area of the yard – off in the corner of the yard – and draining into a brook area.
DENNIS: Are there any programs out there to help me pay to put a regular leach field in?
TOM: Geez, I don’t know if there’s any programs but that’s definitely a very unsanitary situation. And you’re definitely going to have to get that fixed because you basically are polluting the waterway by doing it that way. You know, with old houses you never know. Now, are you sure, in this case, that part of the system that’s doing that is for the black water, as it’s known; the actual sewage waste? Or is it possible that you have two waste pipes coming out of the house? Because what you’re describing sounds more like a gray water discharge; where you have water that comes, say, from your laundry area or your sump pump  where it’s not actually contaminated with sewage. In that case it’s not that unusual to see it drain over ground.
DENNIS: We do have two separate tanks but this – we had it inspected and they couldn’t find a leach field and showed us the area where it was coming out.
TOM: Did they do a dye test where they flushed dye through the system and you saw it turn up in the brook?
TOM: Well, that would be the next thing to do. And if it’s definitely connected that way it won’t take very long for you to see that. A septic dye can be introduced at, say, the toilet inside the house. And you flush it and you run some water for maybe a half hour, say, through the tub or sink. And that water is going to turn green and you’ll be able to go outside within 20 minutes and see green water in the brook if it’s really doing that.
TOM: Now, once you identify the problem then you’re going to have to get it fixed. If it is, in fact, leaching you’re going to have to put a septic field in. You’re going to have to have that engineered for your particular township. I’m afraid that I don’t know of any programs that could help you pay for that but I can definitely tell you it has to get done.
DENNIS: OK, thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.