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Know anything about septic tanks?

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posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 07:44 PM
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I got mine pumped about a month ago and the dude was worried there was a drainage issue. It was incredibly full, but I'm not sure the last time it had been pumped (tenant said he did it last year and I believed him as he sent a receipt the last time or 3.5 years ago). I know, my fault.

Not too long before we started noticing slow drains, I had (like a dumbass, notice a pattern?) left the hose running all night, apparently right over the drain field trying to wanter a hedge I just planted. I'm wondering if this was enough to cause issues. The guy seemed to think not, but he also seemed like a dumbass and I've read that sometimes the drain field simply can't keep up.

The guy said that the level was above the outlet from the house if I'm remembering correctly, so he thought there was an issue between the tank and the drain field. The drains were running slow, but nothing was coming up.

He told me to check the level again in a week, and I just did a month later (oops), but I couldn't tell if it was too high or not. My understanding is that even if it's been a short amount of time the tank stays full looking. I'm having a company come out tomorrow to take a look, and I don't want to get taken for a ride. If it's something serious, I'm going to get a second opinion. Everything seems to be fine right now, but I'd really like to avoid pooping in a bucket and whatnot.

My biggest worry is that I'll have to have the drain field completely replaced, which may cost A LOT. From what I've read this can run between $5-20k. Any tips on getting it done cheaper? I'm unincorporated so I don't think I have insane codes to follow.

The house was built in the 60's, the tank is concrete, we don't really use a ton of water and it's just me and my girlfriend. There was an enormous rhody I cut down near the area, and some rather large trees as well. The tenant told me that he put some additive in the tank once a month or something and I haven't been doing that, so I'm wondering if the bacteria has died off.

I know basically nothing about the situation, what things cost, or where to find out. I'm not far from Seattle so I don't expect work to be cheap, but I don't expect insane. Probably going to be pricier than average. If it helps, getting the tank pumped was $400. Any idea of common scams or up-selling?




posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 07:54 PM
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20k? Only if they have to blast through bedrock to put it down. I bet an entirely new septic system doesn't cost that much. Jesus.

I've never had much dealings with septic tanks, luckily, but a co-worker of mine had to replace his drain field sometime within the past 10 years. I can't say how much it cost him, but it really can't be all that bad. It's literally just digging a trench (easily done with a excavator/mini-excavator/back-hoe/whatever), making sure it drops at a certain angle, and putting the drain pipes down, then covering them back up. Seriously can't cost that much in my opinion.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:03 PM
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I live in a small town and used to work on the side for the "septic guy" in town (aka the guy who owned a construction company but did 90% septic replacement) and the $5-20k price tag is pretty accurate. I worked for a very reasonable guy who would work fast and typically charged on the lower end.

It sounds like you have a problem with your leach field. It's possible that solids made their way out to the leach field due to the tank being so full. Or it's possible, like the first guy said, that it's a design issue.

Leaving the hose on overnight will not affect it. Just think about how much water can come down in a major thunderstorm or a long period of rain (multiple days). It will eventually dry out, especially since it's only two people in your home.

After you had the tank pumped did you verify that you have good drainage to the tank? It's possible you are backing up between the house and the tank (damaged pipe, partial clog, etc).


Thats my $.02 (coming from an engineer/farmer).
edit on 27-8-2015 by charolais because: (no reason given)

edit on 27-8-2015 by charolais because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:07 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

Not a good idea to plant shrubs, hedges, bushes or trees over a septic field! The roots end up creating havoc. If you want your digester to work really well, flush down a litre of chickensh!t once a month. The bacteria reduces almost everything to a liquid and it doesn't stink as bad through the vents.

Cheers - Dave
edit on 8/27.2015 by bobs_uruncle because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:13 PM
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a reply to: bobs_uruncle
Had some discussions about planting over a septic field, and you can plant trees, bushes, or anything as long as you verify they have no taproots, only surface roots. Plus down here in S FL everything is rock. Your figures are very reasonable in that instance.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:29 PM
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a reply to: charolais

What were the factors that contributed to the huge price discrepancy? It's a very small house (1,000 sq ft. which I love), has amazingly soft soil (about 12k sq. ft. lot) and the thing should be relatively easy to access except for the fencing which I could easily tear down and rebuild, though I think a bobcat could get in no problem.

So is there any hope it's a cheap fix? Pipe going to the drainfield? Something just needs to be unblocked? Will they actually be able to show me the problem?



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:29 PM
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Getting advise for a cheap repair to a septic tank could get messy. If you have someone looking at it get them to check the pipe between the house and the tank. They can use a snake and clean it out. Also get them to check the vents. If the tank vents get plugged the tank gasses might be keeping pressure in not letting flow to the tank.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:31 PM
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a reply to: d8track

We half assed checked that. I flushed the toilet and ran the shower and the guy said it was coming out fine.

I'm not trying to slap duct tape on the thing, but I would prefer to spend as little as possible while still having the system safe and working optimally. In other words I don't want to have a leach field put in that's rated for a significantly larger house and more people if I don't have to.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:33 PM
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a reply to: bobs_uruncle

Didn't know where it was before. They were a privacy screen against the fence where the large bush used to be. I don't think they would be a problem, and certainly not yet, appreciate the tip though.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:49 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

I hope for your sake it is not plant roots because if it is it may get messy...

Your quote sounds about right ...depending on what type and size the system is........Last year a mate of mine put in a huge system,enough for 4 houses the entire job cost $32k in Aussie money...

You mention the house was built in the 60s...how old is the septic system ?



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:52 PM
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My drain field is a forest of bushes and trees. Knock on wood, but it has been functioning fine for 27 years now and gets pumped every three years. Overall I've lived with gravity-fed septic systems (No pumps required, thank God!) for about 40 years. The thing to understand about a "drain" field is that the effluent does not "drain" INTO the ground as much as it aspirates UP into the atmosphere. If there is plant life on the drain field, it absorbs some of the liquid. Remember Erma Bombeck's book, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank"? Well, it's actually over the drain field. But if you've saturated the soil (or Mother Nature has saturated the soil with continuous rain, THAT'S when you can have problems.

There are usually two small junction boxes in a septic system. One is before the septic tank, and one is AFTER the septic tank. These are close to the surface and can become damaged. It could be that the "after" one is actually causing your problems. If that's the case, it's an easy fix.

The idea behind a septic system is to trap the solids and let the liquid go. That's why there is a baffle in the middle of the tank almost as high as the tank itself. It has a very narrow passageway at the bottom to allow pressure and flow, but the solids are flushed into the first half of the tank where, theoretically, they sink to the bottom to eventually get pumped out. This half forms a scum at the top that a pumper must break apart before he can pump the tank. It gradually percolates the solids into the bottom of the first half of the tank. When the water level reaches the top of the baffle, it just flows over to the second half where a secondary and much finer grain deposit is made over time. In a "healthy" system, the secondary part of the tank is almost all liquid which, when it reaches the egress point, flows slowly into the drain field. Drain fields are designed for 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom, 4 bedroom, etc. houses with almost zero being for less than three bedrooms, assuming a family of four or more. With just you and your partner, you really should not be over-taxing the design at all.

Naturally you should never flush anything substantial down the toilet, and certainly never anything non-organic. The whole idea is to break down organic material. My parents-in-law once had a problem with their septic, and on opening it up they discovered "the girls" had been flushing down the plastic parts of tampon kits, which (cough) would not decompose. TP and Kleenex is designed to not cause a problem, and most food down the drain should be just fine unless it is unusually fiber-bound. Garbage disposals installed in kitchen sinks are really not such a hot idea. Goldfish? OK. Anything else? Not a good idea.

Hope this helps.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 08:54 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

- the additive is bacterial culture to break down the nasties.
- the "field" is where your lateral lines run.
- if there are trees/plants growing over your lateral lines, you may have a rooted/collapsed lateral line
- if you open your tank and see blackwater standing above the lateral drainage ports, its likely a lateral line issue


Thats what I got for you. I have a septic tank. We just had the old one replaced about 2 years ago. Cost us $5k, or just under.



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 09:15 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

Tanks always have a good bit of water in them. It if overflows at the lid or at a clean out (which I assume you don't have) then definitely the drain field is clogged or broken as mine was. If you have a clean out, check it. It should not have standing water in it, merely a flow. It is common to hear that a septic should be pumped every four years. That, no pun intended, is a big bunch of crap. I raised a family for 30 years in my house (built in '73 and only had the tank pumped once and it wasn't full of sludge even then, but that depends on your living style.

Try this: Don't get hasty! Watch the water level. Be wary of what you are told.

Depending upon where you live, the area may have strict rules about what must be done once there is a problem.
The local rules may force you to install a bigger tank if not one of the new, aerated systems with a pump and a nice license to have it inspected each year.

That all said, you may get by with the installation of a new field line which is a lot cheaper than a full system.
Good luck!



posted on Aug, 27 2015 @ 09:45 PM
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If someone was dumping a lot of grease down the drains in the past, the tank outlet to the drainfield could have a grease ball in it somewhere. when you leave it too long without pumping it a chunk can get in the drain pipe and cause problems.

Being you had problems with the watering of the bush might mean it got water logged in the area which means slow evaporation. That can be a problem with drain-fields sometimes.

Could be a lot of different problems. Septics can be a pain sometimes, they should be pumped about every five years.



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 12:42 AM
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originally posted by: Aliensun
a reply to: Domo1

It is common to hear that a septic should be pumped every four years. That, no pun intended, is a big bunch of crap. I raised a family for 30 years in my house (built in '73 and only had the tank pumped once and it wasn't full of sludge even then, but that depends on your living style.


THIS is what is a bunch load of crap. Yes, it was full of a bunch load of crap, literally, and sludge, guaranteed. This guy was lucky. Pump your septic or face the consequences. It doesn't cost that much to be free of the grief of a system that fails.



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 01:54 AM
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OK so I don't know much about US tanks but ...

My guess, if your tank is from the 60s then the drainage line may be constructed of old terra cotta pipes. Over so many years, these get destroyed by plant roots and the odd heavy vehicle driving over the area. It really does only take one heavy truck to collapse the line.

Now, in soft soil, perhaps a half day with a backhoe to re-dig the line. A few lengths of the appropriate plastic pipe, some very large size gravel goes around that, a plastic heavy liner and then backfill.

Why that should cost 5K is beyond me.

Your tank should be fine and by the information you have provided, the problem is in what we in Aussie land call the soakage line. Don't skimp on this. Check your local ordinance for how long it should be. Nothing wrong with running two lines of pipe side by side.

Keep all heavy vehicles away from the area.

Hope that helps.

P



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 12:11 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Awesome info thanks!



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 12:20 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Yeah I'd rather pay $400 every couple of years than have a disaster in the backyard. I've heard a lot of people get away with not having them pumped but around here I'd rather not risk it.



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 12:20 PM
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a reply to: Domo1

Do not use bleach, it kills the bacteria that helps break down the harder stuff. If you have been using bleach, try flushing raw chicken trimmings down the toilet as it will reintroduce bacteria that will help break down solids. If you find out that it is not properly graded to the septic, sorry but you are going to have a hefty bill. Also do not allow anything heavy on your septic field as it can impede the drainage. My mom had to have her septic tank replaced after about twenty years, very expensive but it was needed and now works great. Good luck to you.



posted on Aug, 28 2015 @ 12:27 PM
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a reply to: Fireflysky

Oh and also be careful of what goes down the drain, even certain types of high end toilet paper which can be to thick can cause problems. A good way to test your toilet paper is to get a big container of water with a lid and was up a chunk of toilet paper ( the size you would use to wipe with) put it in the jug and give it a five second skake, if it does not completely fall apart, your toilet paper is too thick and should be changed for a thinner brand.




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