Septic system woes

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Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:09 am

We have a septic system that is about 9 years old. We have been in the house just under 5 years. Once the system backed up and we had to get it pumped out two years ago. I was at work and couldn't see or ask the man about septic care/tricks to avoid this in the future or how to check for, or clear, clogs in the system.

The toilet started bubbling last week when anyone took a shower upstairs, no actual backup yet.

My wife and three teens are absolute water hogs! A day doesn't go by without the dishwasher and washing machine running (often multiple times!). Short showers? Hah.

Any suggestions short of calling the septic people to pump it out?

Do the monthly bacterial packets or lye packets really work? I'll admit it, I haven't been good about this. Is it too late to try the packets and put everyone on a water restriction for a week?

Would a jug of Drano poured down the toilet buy me any time or would it harm the system?

How often should I expect to pump the septic tank with such heavy water use?

Would the time interval for pumping be increased once the teens go away to college (cutting water consuption by at least 40-50%)?
Last edited by Swampy on Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby OAG » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:20 am

Heavy water use is not a problem especially with such a "young" system it is usually what is put in them that becomes the problem. My suggestion is to go to some DIY home sites or use Google to search on something like Septic Tank Maintenance? However I am sure you will get some good suggestions here too.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby ndchamp » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:33 am

Not a water problem, it's solids sinking to the bottom problem.
Our neighborhood has city water but no city sewers. So the city also does septic maintenance (an extra $3 a month on the water bill). When we moved into the home, I went to City Hall and talked to the Water Dept folks.
They said that the bacteria build up in the tank naturally, and the powder/packets would not hurt anything, but wouldn't add any benefit. They also said that pumping out would probably be needed in 5 years or so, on average.
So....sorry......it's probably time to get it pumped out.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:43 am

Hopefully you didn't do to much damage to your fields as if the tank got full then solids would flow out to the fields and plug them as well.

Having a septic system needs maintenance just like a car, depending on the number of people in the home on a regular basis the general rule is pump every 5 years for a 1000 gal tank.
If you have a smaller tank (500) gal then 2.5 years.
Sounds like your system was never pumped since it's install, I would suggest getting it pumped at least every 4 years if it plugged @ 9yrs.

Adding any of the help products on the market to the tank doesn't do a thing, waste of money.

EDIT...

Apparently I need to have my morning coffee first, prior to posting...I missed that you had it pumped 2 yrs ago, and it backed up already???
Unless you have a family of 6 and a small tank 500 gal, that is way to fast for a backup failure.
The pumpers will tell you how large or small the tank is.
And yes the less people in the home the less often it needs to be pumped.
If you have a small tank you either have to pump it yearly or replace the tank with a much larger one.
Last edited by SteveNet on Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:45 am

After I posted this, the system backed up.

It's getting pumped this morning.

Apparently, it's 'normal' to pump out a system on a regular basis depending on the size of the system and number of users, regardless of what additives you put in.

Oh well! What's a few hundred bucks?

Sigh.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby shaboob » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:47 am

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Re: Septic system woes

Postby EagertoLearnMore » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:49 am

First of all, sorry to hear about your problems because past houses have had septic. Never again when we bought new. We have learned a lot though and I will pass on my knowledge. Pump your tank every 2 years on a schedule. Do not wait until you have a problem. Maintenance is key. You do not want to destroy your septic field with solids in the effluent. Next, when they pump the tank have them check the baffles in the tank and make sure they are still in place and not damaged. These prevent problems in the field. As far as using bacteria, it didn't seem to matter. However, if you use a lot of bleach and other chemicals while cleaning your house, then perhaps that would help to breakdown the solids. Is your system gravity fed to the field or do you have a pump that pumps to the field? If you have a pump, keep it in good running condition and check the float switch. Oh - this brings back too many memories from several homes. Good luck and learn about your system.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:51 am

Stevenet wrote"
Having a septic system needs maintenance just like a car, depending on the number of people in the home on a regular basis the general rule is pump every 5 years for a 1000 gal tank.
If you have a smaller tank (500) gal then 2.5 years.


Not necessarily an accurate statement. I found this on a septic system website and the man I spoke with this AM pretty much confirmed that I was 'on schedule' since there are 5 in my house and it has been 2 years since the last pumping. Apparently our system has a 1000 gal tank.

Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years
. Household size - Number of Occupants
. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tank-Gallons Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years
500* 5.8 2.6 1.5 1.0 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 --
750* 9.1 4.2 2.6 1.8 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.3
900 11.0 5.2 3.3 2.3 1.7 1.3 1.0 0.8 0.7 0.5
1000 12.4 5.9 3.7 2.6 2.0 1.5 1.2 1.0 0.8 0.7
1250 15.6 7.5 4.8 3.4 2.6 2.0 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.0
1500 18.9 9.1 5.9 4.2 3.3 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5 1.3
1750 22.1 10.7 6.9 5.0 3.9 3.1 2.6 2.2 1.9 1.6
2000 25.4 12.4 8.0 5.9 4.5 3.7 3.1 2.6 2.2 2.0
2250 28.6 14.0 9.1 6.7 5.2 4.2 3.5 3.0 2.6 2.3
2500 30.9 15.6 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.8 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.6


On the plus side of the equation, when the kids go off to college, the time interval will increase!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:55 am

Thanks for all the responses so far!

Having been a city dweller until we moved, I know practically nothing about septic as everything was on a sewer system.

I guess I'm going to learn.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby jebmke » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:55 am

prh116 wrote:Consider routing the laundry discharge out the side of the house. Mine goes into a 30ft long piece of perforated 1.5" PVC that runs parallel to the house about 1ft away from the wall. It waters my side garden (decorative, not veggies) with no ill effects. Watch basement for signs of dampness if you have one. I live in FL so that is not an issue. You'll eliminate one of the largest source of water sources to the system. It is "grey" water, so no biohazards to having it in a garden.

But check the local ordinances. This is not legal in some places. Certainly not in my area.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:56 am

Swampy wrote:Stevenet wrote"
Having a septic system needs maintenance just like a car, depending on the number of people in the home on a regular basis the general rule is pump every 5 years for a 1000 gal tank.
If you have a smaller tank (500) gal then 2.5 years.


Not necessarily an accurate statement. I found this on a septic system website and the man I spoke with this AM pretty much confirmed that I was 'on schedule' since there are 5 in my house and it has been 2 years since the last pumping. Apparently our system has a 1000 gal tank.

Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years
. Household size - Number of Occupants
. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tank-Gallons Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years
500* 5.8 2.6 1.5 1.0 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 --
750* 9.1 4.2 2.6 1.8 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.3
900 11.0 5.2 3.3 2.3 1.7 1.3 1.0 0.8 0.7 0.5
1000 12.4 5.9 3.7 2.6 2.0 1.5 1.2 1.0 0.8 0.7
1250 15.6 7.5 4.8 3.4 2.6 2.0 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.0
1500 18.9 9.1 5.9 4.2 3.3 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5 1.3
1750 22.1 10.7 6.9 5.0 3.9 3.1 2.6 2.2 1.9 1.6
2000 25.4 12.4 8.0 5.9 4.5 3.7 3.1 2.6 2.2 2.0
2250 28.6 14.0 9.1 6.7 5.2 4.2 3.5 3.0 2.6 2.3
2500 30.9 15.6 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.8 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.6


On the plus side of the equation, when the kids go off to college, the time interval will increase!


Well I did say depending on the number of people in the home.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Carl53 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:58 am

Do you know the design of your tank/system? I did not, having moved into a 15 year old home, nearly 25 years ago. I had the tank pumped out a couple of times in the 90s but the system never worked as well as I might have expected. The last time I had someone out to pump it out, he poked around and proceeded to dig up a buried access to an initial chamber. All the previous service folks did was pull out the aerator and pump that chamber. Just saying that perhaps your previous septic service provider may not have been emptying all of the chambers.

I have been using RidX occasionally, cannot say as to whether it helps or not, but it makes me feel better as being proactive.

I've never done this but have thought about valving off the hot water after one of the teens stayed too long in the shower. They've moved on now.... Enjoy them while they are home. I find it interesting how frugal they are with utilities now that they are paying for them.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Blues » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:13 am

Most septic experts (without a financial interest) will tell you not to use additives in the system as it only adds expense but no benefit to the system itself. There is sufficient bacteria to do the job in the waste going into the tank. (However, be sure that household members do not use the system for anything other than what it is intended for.)

I know that when my system had a very small backup in the basement tub about 6 or 7 years ago, (three years after we moved in to a 4 year old home), it turned out that the septic filter in the outflow "T" needed to be cleaned. (We had it pumped at the same time.)
Many older systems don't have a filter to keep solids from reaching the drain field, but that has been the code in these parts for quite a few years and it makes a lot of sense and can save you a lot of money down the road.

The other issue that I've heard about is problems in the drain field where tree roots interfere with or break the pipes or the soil becomes compacted, etc.

Septic issues are never fun but once properly dealt with the system usually is somewhat self healing over time. I spent a lot of time researching these issues some years back and there is a great deal of info online.
Last edited by Blues on Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby shaboob » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:13 am

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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:17 am

Swampy wrote: the man I spoke with this AM pretty much confirmed that I was 'on schedule' since there are 5 in my house and it has been 2 years since the last pumping. Apparently our system has a 1000 gal tank.


I would not assume anything, based on that information you need to pump more than every 2 years and you are not on schedule.

You are supposed to pump PRIOR to having a failure not at each failure.
Each failure damages the fields, and if those have to be redone you are looking at a major expense and a torn up yard.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby jebmke » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:31 am

We have a septic system that has been in place for at least 30 years and still works fine. Admittedly, it is large (1,500 gal) and for most of the time, serviced a household of 2 adults. We have owned it for nearly 6 years. It was pumped before we bought it and then we pumped it for the first time last year. We are very careful about what goes down the drain. Almost no solids unless they have been eaten first. We also are diligent about preventing oil/grease from going down the drain. Every company we have talked to said that additives are a waste of money.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Sconie » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:37 am

The way a septic system works is the everything dumps into the tank-----the solids sink in the tank, while the liquid "overflows" the tank into your field. The more "solid" matter you dump into your tank, the faster it will fill up and the sooner you will need to have it pumped-----there is no magic to it, that is how it works.

Do you have a garbage disposer that dumps into your septic system? If so that is something that will tend to add a LOT of solid matter to your tank and will result in it needing to be pumped more frequently. Consider the possiblity of throwing your food debris out with your trash, instead. I'd also look at how much bleach and other toxics you are using in your laundry area----those can be tough on the operation of your system.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby frugaltype » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:45 am

My community requires that septic systems be pumped and inspected every year. However, we're near the water.

Edited to add Re: "Consider the possiblity of throwing your food debris out with your trash" Consider using a compost pile.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby pshonore » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:45 am

Make sure the pumper inspects the inlet port and the outlet port to make sure there is no obstruction or blockage. Also check the filters on those ports (if present)
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:51 am

jebmke wrote:We have a septic system that has been in place for at least 30 years and still works fine. Admittedly, it is large (1,500 gal) and for most of the time, serviced a household of 2 adults. We have owned it for nearly 6 years. It was pumped before we bought it and then we pumped it for the first time last year. We are very careful about what goes down the drain. Almost no solids unless they have been eaten first. We also are diligent about preventing oil/grease from going down the drain. Every company we have talked to said that additives are a waste of money.


+1

Ours was installed in 1978, 1,000 gal, I have it pumped every 4 yrs, only two of us now. Never had a problem. :beer
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby carolc » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:09 am

I think my 1st response got 'lost'. Trying again...

You absolutely can hydraulically overload the septic system drainfield. A septic system is designed based on the number of bedrooms times xx gallons/day (i.e.120 gpd). You need to use less water if this is the problem. Period. There is no reason why each person needs more than 50 gpd. Also, spread out doing laundry over the course of the week, not multiple loads per day. Suggest contacting your local regulatory agency (state? county?) to determine what your system was designed for and to get assistance troubleshooting the problem. Since you had it pumped 2 years ago, I doubt it is a solids issue.

Suggest not using a garbage disposal and don't flush additives (or any other foreign products for that matter, except toilet paper) down the drain.

Good luck.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:56 am

Sconie wrote:The way a septic system works is the everything dumps into the tank-----the solids sink in the tank, while the liquid "overflows" the tank into your field. The more "solid" matter you dump into your tank, the faster it will fill up and the sooner you will need to have it pumped-----there is no magic to it, that is how it works.

.


Actually, this is wrong and would cause a drainfield failure quicker than anything. There are two kinds of solids; heavy solids that sink and floating solids, like grease. The tank is designed with an outlet device that extends about 1/3 of the way into the tank. This design means that only reasonable clear liquid (neither floaters or sinkers) will leave the tank and clog up the drainfield. Some newer tanks have filters on the outlet device. These have mixed reviews from homeowners, because they do clog up and have to be cleaned, often yearly. They will however keep a new drainfiled from getting clogged for a very long time.

Carolc's advice is correct. Additives are just a way to make money for the additive company. Some additives are even harmfull, expecially those that are supposed to de-clog the drainfield, and they contain compound that pollute the underlying groundwater. Using too much water in a given period is the biggest cause of drainfield failure. This is for two reasons. First, the high volume of water entering the tank stirs up the solids on the bottom and allows them to leave the tank from the normally clear liquid through the outlet device. Second, drainfield can only absorb a certain amount of water based on their square footage. That amount decreases with age as the sand and rock in the field slowly begins to clog with solids from both the tank and from biomat growth in the drainfield. This is why most failures occur on the weekends, when working families do 4 or 5 loads of laundry along with all the other normal water use and don't forget, during the week, the house is often empty from 8-5. Try to spread the water use out.

Most jurisdictions will not let you run gray water (laundry, and other waters that don't contain solids) out on the ground. Laundry water actually contains more bacteria than the rest of the water used and is not safe for above ground disposal. Seperate systems may make some sense, but in the end, they are going to fail too, and they you have to replace them just like the other system.

Spread out the water use and pump every 2-4 years and the system should last a long time. (This assumes the systm is not on its last legs already)
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Blues » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:31 am

bilperk wrote:Some newer tanks have filters on the outlet device. These have mixed reviews from homeowners, because they do clog up and have to be cleaned, often yearly. They will however keep a new drainfiled from getting clogged for a very long time.


My solution to the filter issue was to buy some veterinary gloves which extend to the shoulder which permit me to remove the cap on the riser, reach down and remove the filter for hosing off. I do this twice yearly, Spring and Fall. (If you ever do this, be aware that many or most of these filters have an arrow for direction of outflow when you place it back into the "T".)

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Re: Septic system woes

Postby jeff1949 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:44 am

Here is my 2 cents:

Our septic system is now 30 years old. For the first 10 years we were a family of our and for the last 20 years it has just been the wife and me. After the first 20 years I thought to myself that maybe I should have the septic tank pumped. I hired a guy who pumped it and when he was done he informed me that it really had not needed pumping yet........after TWENTY YEARS!

I think the important thing that sets us apart from many septic users is that we do not own a garbage disposal. We either use are food wastes for compost or we put them in our regular landfill type garbage can. We were told by the company that installed the system 30 years ago that this is the single most important thing you can do as a gravity fed septic system owner.

It certainly has worked for us!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby scouter » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:17 pm

Have had one for 18 years with a typical family of four. What I've learned-

Absolutely nothing should go down the drain except water, a MINIMUM of toilet paper, (we've had good luck with Northern brand) and human waste. NO Kleenex, dental floss, feminine products. No food. If you have a garbage disposal, don't use it, put food scraps in the trash or a compost pile. I know there are new disposals that are rated for septic systems, but I personally wouldn't use them.

No bleach, no soaps w/bleach, and no antibacterial soap, including dish soaps and hand soaps. They kill bacteria, and that's bad.

Have the tank pumped every 5 years, more often if you have problems.

Although we haven't had any back-ups, it's a good idea to add a valve that will prevent a back-up.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:20 pm

jeff1949 wrote:Here is my 2 cents:

Our septic system is now 30 years old. For the first 10 years we were a family of our and for the last 20 years it has just been the wife and me. After the first 20 years I thought to myself that maybe I should have the septic tank pumped. I hired a guy who pumped it and when he was done he informed me that it really had not needed pumping yet........after TWENTY YEARS!

I think the important thing that sets us apart from many septic users is that we do not own a garbage disposal. We either use are food wastes for compost or we put them in our regular landfill type garbage can. We were told by the company that installed the system 30 years ago that this is the single most important thing you can do as a gravity fed septic system owner.

It certainly has worked for us!


Jeff,
Many things determine how often an septic tank needs to be pumped. The fact is, a septic tank is a living biological habitat and if it comes in balance, it may never need to be pumped. Balance means the solids are being broken down at the same rate they are being introduced. Bacteria work at breaking down the solids and eliminating extra solids from garbage grinders and other sources is makes the job much easier. Coffee grounds and egg shells don't ever break down. Some studies show that you have to wait a number of years for a true balance to take place. Those folks who follow rigid pumping schedules never will have a balance, however such a schedule is safer since not everyone will attain a balance due to variances in use. Living in a climate that is fairly mild also helps as the bacteria is more active in warmer temperatures.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:31 pm

scouter wrote:
Although we haven't had any back-ups, it's a good idea to add a valve that will prevent a back-up.


Gravity fed septic systems don't "back up". If the tank is plugged at some point or even the line going to the tank and you flush the toilet, the toilet overflowes because the new water being introduced can't go down. If there is sufficient head between one sours and another drain (say the shower floor) it may come up there, but it is still cause by the new water not being able to go down. A valve would not do anything be assure the overflow happened quicker.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:38 pm

$275 for the pumping. Apparently the man noticed a lot of water backflow from the drainfields back into the tank as it was emptied. I looked and, yes, it was a lot. He said that my drainfield had failed. So I'm waiting for an estimate to repair.

I've called a couple of other septic people and had several interesting responses pending actual estimates:
1) Drain the clotheswasher (grey water) into a separate cistern - $1000's
2) Put another hole in the tank and add a couple of drainlines to take pressure off the current ones - $2500
3) Dump muriatic acid obtained from the pool supply store into either the septic tank directly or down the toilet and keep the water running. The amount was anywhere from 1-30 gallons - upto $150.

1 - doesn't fox the drainfield problem,
2 - bypasses the problem,
3 - might dissolve the material clogging up the system.

My tank is concrete, 1000 gal. and the acid seems like it might be the least expensive fix. I heard one man state that dumping a gallon of muriatic acid down the toilet every six months would prevent clogging in the future.

The man who pumped the tank said, given the heavy water use in my household, he wouldn't be surprised if the tank needed pumping in 1-2 weeks.

It seems I've fallen into a stinking mess - and I won't get out without my wallet getting significantly lighter in the process.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:02 pm

Just curious, how many Gallons average does your water bill show you use?

During the summer months some goes to watering outside stuff but in the winter months almost all goes down the drain.

Just as a figure for two of us, we generally average aprox 5,000 gal per month.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:14 pm

I have no water bill. We have our own well and filtration system.

Ten years ago my water bill averaged around $100 a month (including sewer and garbage pickup). I just looked at an old bill and it said we used 101 'units' for the month. I'm guesstimating that a unit is probably 100 gal of water, so we used 10000+ gal a month. If anything, water consumption has gone through the roof as the kids evolved (devolved? :wink: ) into teens.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:17 pm

Swampy wrote:$275 for the pumping. Apparently the man noticed a lot of water backflow from the drainfields back into the tank as it was emptied. I looked and, yes, it was a lot. He said that my drainfield had failed. So I'm waiting for an estimate to repair.

I've called a couple of other septic people and had several interesting responses pending actual estimates:
1) Drain the clotheswasher (grey water) into a separate cistern - $1000's
2) Put another hole in the tank and add a couple of drainlines to take pressure off the current ones - $2500
3) Dump muriatic acid obtained from the pool supply store into either the septic tank directly or down the toilet and keep the water running. The amount was anywhere from 1-30 gallons - upto $150.

1 - doesn't fox the drainfield problem,
2 - bypasses the problem,
3 - might dissolve the material clogging up the system.

My tank is concrete, 1000 gal. and the acid seems like it might be the least expensive fix. I heard one man state that dumping a gallon of muriatic acid down the toilet every six months would prevent clogging in the future.

The man who pumped the tank said, given the heavy water use in my household, he wouldn't be surprised if the tank needed pumping in 1-2 weeks.

It seems I've fallen into a stinking mess - and I won't get out without my wallet getting significantly lighter in the process.


swampy,

Acid will not fix your problem. It is most likely illegal where you live to add it. Do yourself a favor and call your local health department. They may require that you get a permit to do anything, and they may require that your contractor is licensed. Jetting out the lines is only effective if the soil and rock beneath them isn't severly clogged. Better to bite the bullet and put in a new system. Generally, if you have the room to do so, it is better to add a system in addition to the old one.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Blues » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:27 pm

Bill (billperk) is telling it like it is and all the info that he has shared coincides with my own experience and research on this subject...including dealing with the county health dept (which had copies of the original plans on file for our septic system and drain field and proved to be an excellent resource).
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu | "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." - Mike Tyson
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:53 pm

Blues wrote:Bill (billperk) is telling it like it is and all the info that he has shared coincides with my own experience and research on this subject...including dealing with the county health dept (which had copies of the original plans on file for our septic system and drain field and proved to be an excellent resource).


This just may be because I worked at County Health Department for many years :D
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Blues » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:56 pm

bilperk wrote:
Blues wrote:Bill (billperk) is telling it like it is and all the info that he has shared coincides with my own experience and research on this subject...including dealing with the county health dept (which had copies of the original plans on file for our septic system and drain field and proved to be an excellent resource).


This just may be because I worked at County Health Department for many years :D


:oops:

:sharebeer
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:29 pm

bilperk wrote:
Swampy wrote:$275 for the pumping. Apparently the man noticed a lot of water backflow from the drainfields back into the tank as it was emptied. I looked and, yes, it was a lot. He said that my drainfield had failed. So I'm waiting for an estimate to repair.

I've called a couple of other septic people and had several interesting responses pending actual estimates:
1) Drain the clotheswasher (grey water) into a separate cistern - $1000's
2) Put another hole in the tank and add a couple of drainlines to take pressure off the current ones - $2500
3) Dump muriatic acid obtained from the pool supply store into either the septic tank directly or down the toilet and keep the water running. The amount was anywhere from 1-30 gallons - upto $150.

1 - doesn't fox the drainfield problem,
2 - bypasses the problem,
3 - might dissolve the material clogging up the system.

My tank is concrete, 1000 gal. and the acid seems like it might be the least expensive fix. I heard one man state that dumping a gallon of muriatic acid down the toilet every six months would prevent clogging in the future.

The man who pumped the tank said, given the heavy water use in my household, he wouldn't be surprised if the tank needed pumping in 1-2 weeks.

It seems I've fallen into a stinking mess - and I won't get out without my wallet getting significantly lighter in the process.


swampy,

Acid will not fix your problem. It is most likely illegal where you live to add it. Do yourself a favor and call your local health department. They may require that you get a permit to do anything, and they may require that your contractor is licensed. Jetting out the lines is only effective if the soil and rock beneath them isn't severly clogged. Better to bite the bullet and put in a new system. Generally, if you have the room to do so, it is better to add a system in addition to the old one.


I totally agree :sharebeer
Just make sure you don't skimp on the size of the new field addition, once the crew and equipment is there the extra cost of some extra insurance in the way of more lines is reduced.
After all you don't want to revisit this problem again. Do it once do it right!
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:05 pm

Thanks everyone.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby soaring » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:20 pm

Swampy wrote:After I posted this, the system backed up.

It's getting pumped this morning.

Apparently, it's 'normal' to pump out a system on a regular basis depending on the size of the system and number of users, regardless of what additives you put in.

Oh well! What's a few hundred bucks?

Sigh.


900 gallon tank with two adults would usually be ok to pump about every 4-5 yrs. Depending on your septic size every few yrs with 4-5 people would seem about normal.
It is important to keep sledge ( food stuff) out of your septic. We use screens in the kitchen sink to catch food. Disposals are not a good thing with septic tanks. Loads of bleach in clothes washer isn't good because it prevents the natural break down of solids in the tank. At least these are the things my septic person told me / as well as another person in the septic business.

You can find the cup type strainer screens in Walmart and other stores. Many folks know them for catching hair in shower drains.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:56 pm

Maybe I'm being scammed?

When the man was pumping out the tank, which had a lot of greasy matter at the top, he told me that I had a drainfield problem. The reason he said this was he noticed water flowing back into the tank from the outlet 'Tee' (which goes to the drainfield) and about 30-50 gallons of water came back into to tank. Is it possible that the system, being overflowed, could cause a temporary backup of water in the drainfield - with the excess dumping back into the tank when the tank was emptied?

He said I had 1-2 weeks before I would need to get pumped again. I'm just wondering if he was 'lighting a fire under the homeowner' to do something that might be a dubious, or unneeded, repair.

I suppose I could wait to see what happens in the next few weeks and act accordingly. If it backs up again, I've got my answer.

I'd rather spend the money and pump out the tank every 18 months than spend a ton of money on a new drainfield.
My guess is that the family uses 400-500 gallons of water daily.

Your thoughts?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:17 pm

Swampy wrote:Maybe I'm being scammed?

When the man was pumping out the tank, which had a lot of greasy matter at the top, he told me that I had a drainfield problem. The reason he said this was he noticed water flowing back into the tank from the outlet 'Tee' (which goes to the drainfield) and about 30-50 gallons of water came back into to tank. Is it possible that the system, being overflowed, could cause a temporary backup of water in the drainfield - with the excess dumping back into the tank when the tank was emptied?

He said I had 1-2 weeks before I would need to get pumped again. I'm just wondering if he was 'lighting a fire under the homeowner' to do something that might be a dubious, or unneeded, repair.

I suppose I could wait to see what happens in the next few weeks and act accordingly. If it backs up again, I've got my answer.

I'd rather spend the money and pump out the tank every 18 months than spend a ton of money on a new drainfield.
My guess is that the family uses 400-500 gallons of water daily.

Your thoughts?


Well a lot of "Greasy matter" on top is not a good thing, this can happen from too much bad stuff being put down usually the kitchen drain/disposal.
ie, oils fat grease etc, Bleach, this stuff shouldn't be put down the drain in quantity. This kind of shows that the bio breakdown is not happening like it should.
The top should be relatively clear...considering what is in the tank.
It's possible a baffle is damaged or gone, this happens in concrete tanks sometimes, it gets eaten away.

The 30-50 gallon of reverse flow from the fields are a sign that the whole field system is full, gravity makes the reverse flow, the rest of the fields are below the "Tee" level so it won't flow back in.
It is possible that the line between the tank and the fields is plugged...possible...
Is the yard where the fields are wet and squishy? Any run off from the yard where the fields are from the septic?

Also I don't know where you are but have you have like really bad flooding rains lately? It's is possible that if you are in a flood zone or extremely high water table that excess rain will fill the fields.
In that case no traditional system will work no matter how large the fields are. Along with poor soil.
This is all conjecture of course.

The 1 to 2 weeks is his guess as to how long it will take to re fill the now empty tank, if the fields ARE bad it will then back up again.
I'm thinking you only have 3 days tops @ 400 to 500 per day. Maybe a little more as the water in the fields does drain a bit in those 3 days.

I don't see a scam going on myself from what you posted, but then anything is possible.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:50 pm

SteveNet wrote:
The 30-50 gallon of reverse flow from the fields are a sign that the whole field system is full, gravity makes the reverse flow, the rest of the fields are below the "Tee" level so it won't flow back in.
It is possible that the line between the tank and the fields is plugged...possible...
Is the yard where the fields are wet and squishy? Any run off from the yard where the fields are from the septic?

Also I don't know where you are but have you have like really bad flooding rains lately? It's is possible that if you are in a flood zone or extremely high water table that excess rain will fill the fields.
In that case no traditional system will work no matter how large the fields are. Along with poor soil.
This is all conjecture of course.



We are in a flood prone area, it has been dry for months and had a fair amount of rain last week but with no standing water anywhere. The grass and weeds are always quite green and sometimes the ground feels 'soft' over the drainfield even though it is elevated above the plain.

I spoke to one septic installer who stated it's better to add a few drain lines (about 40 feet total) to supplement/bypass the existing drainfield instead of trying to replace the old one. He said it would give a bigger and better capacity to handle large water loads. True?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:00 pm

Swampy wrote:SteveNet wrote:
The 30-50 gallon of reverse flow from the fields are a sign that the whole field system is full, gravity makes the reverse flow, the rest of the fields are below the "Tee" level so it won't flow back in.
It is possible that the line between the tank and the fields is plugged...possible...
Is the yard where the fields are wet and squishy? Any run off from the yard where the fields are from the septic?

Also I don't know where you are but have you have like really bad flooding rains lately? It's is possible that if you are in a flood zone or extremely high water table that excess rain will fill the fields.
In that case no traditional system will work no matter how large the fields are. Along with poor soil.
This is all conjecture of course.



We are in a flood prone area, it has been dry for months and had a fair amount of rain last week but with no standing water anywhere. The grass and weeds are always quite green and sometimes the ground feels 'soft' over the drainfield even though it is elevated above the plain.

I spoke to one septic installer who stated it's better to add a few drain lines (about 40 feet total) to supplement/bypass the existing drainfield instead of trying to replace the old one. He said it would give a bigger and better capacity to handle large water loads. True?


Well even though you have no standing water doesn't mean that the fields aren't full, or the ground around them saturated past the point of accepting more.

But adding more drain lines expands the area for accepting more from the tank of course. True.
40 ft total additional seems a bit small imo. Depends on the ground perk ability.

As bilperk has said I would get the Local Health Dept involved, they can assess what size you do need to add, the ground condition and where and how to place it.
Depending on where you live it may very well be a requirement that the Health Dept IS notified.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:20 pm

Swampy,

Unfortunately, water backing in to the tank while it is being pumped is a classic sign of drainfield failure. Drainfields consist of 12 inches of stone, 6 inches of which are unter the 4 inch pipe and 2 inches over. In order for sewage to come back into the tank, the six inches below and most or all of the 4 inch pipe have to be under water. This can't happen unless the field is draining so slow that it doesn't recover between water uses or you have a major leak. You can chaeck for a leak easily by observing the inlet of the tank with the cover off and no water running in the house for an hour or so. If you hear or see water coming in the inlet , you may have a leak. Your contractor should have checked that already so it is unlikely. Otherwise, your drainfield is shot. The best way to determine this conclusively, is to ask your contractor to dig up one of the lines and observe the condition of the pipe, rock, and soil. Generally, you will find that the pipe is half full of sludge.

In most places, the health department requires a permit and will determine how big the repair has to be based on the number of bedrooms in the house (not the number of people). 40 feet of new line is probably not near enough. It is generally cheaper to add a new drainfiled than replace the old one if you have the room because you don't have to pay to dig the old one up and haul all that nasty stuff away, and relpace the soil you are removing.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Padlin » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:24 pm

Didn't read all the responses so please forgive me if this has already come up.

After living in my bought new house 7 years I hired a geologist that designed and directed installation of a 2nd leach field on the side of the house where there is an abundance of sand. This cured my "backing up" problem although I was told that young ladies flushing down the toilet items that should not be flushed, can easily block up a leach field as said items float. I do still have it pumped every 3 years for reasons other then what you are experiencing. I'm taking it your tank is the right size for the home size.

The health dept. had a list of approved system designers.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:48 pm

Padlin,
Those Items should not clog the drainfield and floating solids are caught in the tank. The liquid leaves the tank about 1/3 of the way down. Those items will increase the pumping frequency and can cause a blockage in the line leading to the tank or the inlet in some cases. Best not to flush them.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby DiscoBunny1979 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:00 pm

A number of years ago I had a backup on my septic tank. What solved the problem for me was putting in a new Sewage Pit. While the $6,000 price tag was well $6,000, I feel that it was money well spent. We can do as much laundry, dishwater, and showering that we want. The company that installed the cylinder that goes 30 feet into the ground, joked that we probably could do our neighborhood's weekly laundry as well. The key to keeping a healthy septic system is getting it serviced. Getting it serviced every 2-3 years is a good rule of thumb. I don't believe in waiting 'til year 4, 5 or 6 and then have 'problems'. If one has a concrete septic, a reason for not using additives is that they can eat away at the concrete, potentially causing it to crack. I've been told that concrete septics have additives in the concrete already for the purpose of being bacteria friendly and therefore adding things to 'create' an environment is not necessary.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Padlin » Fri Apr 26, 2013 2:53 am

bilperk wrote:Padlin,
Those Items should not clog the drainfield and floating solids are caught in the tank. The liquid leaves the tank about 1/3 of the way down. Those items will increase the pumping frequency and can cause a blockage in the line leading to the tank or the inlet in some cases. Best not to flush them.


In a properly working unit I would agree.
I can't say for new tanks, mines 30 years old now, but if you fill the tank above the outlet whatever is floating can and will head on down the line.
1st time I had mine pumped, somewhere around 1990, the septic service guy showed me the scum on the lid from the water level rising to the top. Hence the field was not working as one should, which was later verified by the earlier geologist.
I have heard from a coworker, that he has a 2nd opening on his tank with a filter arraignment for the output that is also supposed to be cleaned periodically. As far as I know I have no such, I'm not sticking my head in to find out, but it may have saved me some money had I had one.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:36 am

Two of my teens, one of whom is mentally handicapped, take extremely long showers. Is it possible that they just 'overwhelmed' the system with excess water use, Unfortunately, my mentally handicapped son cannot be reasoned with at all and is hopelessly at the mental level of a 3 year old at best.

If I fix the drainfield or add another one, what is the likelyhood that it can be overwhelmed by them again? I'm wondering if the drainfield that was initially installed was adequate for 'normal' use by a family of 4, yet was overtaken by 5 (mostly) waterhogs.

If I'm looking at this, does it behoove me to get a larger tank reservoir, perhaps 1500-2000 gallons?

I suppose I could just keep the same system and pump annually just to stay ahead of the curve/ But with so much water going into the system, it sounds like I'll be having these problems again and again.

Lastly, the drainfield is grass and grass grows very quickly over it. I ride a tractor to mow it as it is too much for a push mower. During summer, it needs mowing every 5 days! Combined weight between the mower and rider (Me - who else? Did you really expect today's entitled teens to do any chores?) is about 1100 pounds. Could I be the culprit for drainfield failure by going over it with the mower? If so, can I place the drainfield in such a manner as to have something 'light' over it, perhaps a pool water solar heaing panel system, where nobody will go or just keep the area covered with sand/gravel so it doesn't need mowing constantly?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Padlin » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:20 am

I can't see the tractor doing any damage to it. I have a 1500 gallon tank which is made to fill up to the outlet level, 2/3rd's according to Bilperk, at which point the liquid drains into the field. If it's going higher then the outlet then the field is bad or too small. See if you have a health dept in your town, explain your issue and see if they have a list of local contractors, there may well be local ordinances that cover field specs. Our newer field consists of tapping into the existing distribution box and adding 2 50' runs in a new area. If you have a smaller tank you may well have to get a new one, depends what you have? Usually the septic service can tell you AFTER they pump it out.

Keep in mind, you may have to have it pumped just before any work on it is done.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Bounca » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:42 am

My guess is that the family uses 400-500 gallons of water daily.


:shock: WHAT?

Dude, at that usage your well pump is going to fail along with your failed drain field.

Not trying to be harsh, swampy, but really...that's a lot of H20.

I had a septic system for 12 years. If water is liquid is draining back into the tank, it failed. I suspect you don't have a sand mound, and maybe should have. Your soil bed under the drain field may be heavy in clay and not permeable as it should be. Sand mounds may be an eye sore but its everlasting design for a drain field.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:00 am

Here is a diagram of a two compartment septic tank:
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=htt ... DQ&dur=102

Notice in the diagram that Padlin is correct that if left un-pumped long enough the scum layer will top the outlet T and begin to clog the drainfield. Also notice that the outlet devise is designed to release only relatively clear liquid. If you do not have a two compartment tank, then thereis also a danger that the solids will build up under the outlet and be sucked out. As you can see, water coming into the tank can stir up the solids and cause them to stay in suspension for some period and therefore get into the drainfiled. Once the tank is at operating volume, every gallon of water that goes in pushes a gallon out.
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