Septic system woes

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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:12 am

swampy,

It is not too difficult to have a meter placed on your well pump or discharge line that will tell you how much water you are using.

The grass is green because the soil has a wicking effect and the sewage is getting to the grass roots. The mower won't hurt your field and this isn't likely the first year you have mowed. Frankly, getting an estimate from a contractor is useless until you talk to the Health Department and find out what you are REQUIRED to do.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:30 am

Padlin wrote: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.


Just for clarity, the outlet of the tank is only a couple of inches lower than the inlet, so the tank fills up almost as high as the inlet. However, the T extends down into the liquid level about 33%. See the diagram above.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:34 am

Swampy wrote:

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



No, if the failure is due to excessive water being used a larger tank will do no good. As soon as the tank is full (2,500 gal tank...400 gal per day = 6 days aprox) then the flow to the fields will be the same as a 500 gal tank. So after one week the benefit of a larger tank goes away.

A larger tank only helps with the solids buildup, not the water usage. If when the tank was pumped the guy doing it said the solid level was too high then I would say a larger tank.

If you cannot reduce the amount of water usage...you have no alternative but to greatly expand the size of your fields.

You must have a 'good' well to handle all that water coming out of it btw.

EDIT...
Also I'm assuming you have low flow shower heads?
I have read where 30% of water used in the home is due to showers, yours sounds like more.
Low flow... I don't endorse this product, it's just an example.
http://www.niagaraconservation.com/water_conservation/products/showerheads/detail?object=5185
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:14 am

Had my first inspection and estimate this AM from a very knowledgable low key gentleman. He indicated that the system was apparently overwhelmed by excess water after he dug down and found standing water about 18-20 inches down.

To complicate the issue, I already have several solar panels laying over the half of the top of the system, one panel is leaking and I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet. It's probably adding 200+gallons of water daily over the drainfield and pushing it over the edge.

I also have been pressure washing the pool deck and cage this past week with most water (1ooo's of gallons) flowing right over onto the septic drainfield.

I guess I am the idiot who may have caused this after all.

Solar panels will be repaired ASAP, no pressure washing for now and the kids will be placed on strict water rationing for a week. It just might be enough to help and avoid any work.

Hey, I'm a city guy who moved to the country. The sewer system could take as much water as you could put down the drain (and wallet could afford). I'm a neophyte regarding septic systems - but learning fast.
Last edited by Swampy on Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:21 am

The man also said I could give the system a rest by significant water resriction and see what happens, or I could come up with $8000 for a re-do of the drainfield, or $4000 for an extension of the drainfield. He also said the tractor couldn't cause damage.

I'll do the water restriction first!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:28 am

Swampy wrote:Had my first inspection and estimate this AM from a very knowledgable low key gentleman. He indicated that the system was apparently overwhelmed by excess water after he dug down and found standing water about 18-20 inches down.

To complicate the issue, I already have several solar panels laying over the half of the top of the system, one panel is leaking and I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet. It's probably adding 200+gallons of water daily over the drainfield and pushing it over the edge.

I also have been presuure washing the pool deck and cage this past week with most water (1ooo's of gallons) flowing right over onto the septic drainfield.

I guess I am the idiot who may have caused this after all.

Solar panels will be repaired ASAP, no pressure washing for now and the kids will be placed on strict water rationing for a week. It just might be enough to help and avoid any work.

Hey, I'm a city guy who moved to the country. The sewer system could take as much water as you could put down the drain (and wallet could afford). I'm a neophyte regarding septic systems - but learning fast.


Normally your Septic field problems are solved by adding more fields.
However from what you are now explaining, it 'may' seem that... there are extenuating circumstances that added/contributed/caused the failure.

At this point given all that extra info, I would try getting the tank pumped again in one week (gives the fields a chance to drain off) fix all the other issues solar panels removed from shading/leaking on the fields, no added water to the ground over the fields, low flow shower heads .5 gal per min (especially on the kids showers).
Then see how the fields handle it from there.

Also...I know your pain of learning all this country stuff, I'm originally from NYC, and moved to the country years ago, I've had a Well, and still have septic.

I strongly suggest to at least look into what a WELL can do and cannot do, over use of water out of a well can be very bad. A new well can cost you many thousands to install. If they hit water.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:53 am

SteveNet wrote:At this point given all that extra info, I would try getting the tank pumped again in one week (gives the fields a chance to drain off) fix all the other issues solar panels removed from shading/leaking on the fields, no added water to the ground over the fields, low flow shower heads .5 gal per min (especially on the kids showers).
Then see how the fields handle it from there.

As was mentioned in another thread you should consider putting a space heater, such as a heat lamp, in the shower room. If the room is cold people tend to use the hot water to heat up the room, which is wasteful of both water and energy.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:09 pm

"Had my first inspection and estimate this AM from a very knowledgable low key gentleman. He indicated that the system was apparently overwhelmed by excess water after he dug down and found standing water about 18-20 inches down."

And.....

Standing water may well be caused by EITHER to much water use or a clogged drainfield or both. All drainfield failures are based on "too much water" just like all deaths are caused by "his/her heart stopped". The question is why is there too much water in the drainfield.

However, if I was facing an 8k bill, I'd probably take a wait and see attitude also.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:13 pm

Thanks everyone.

I had a second man come out and he quoted $5000. He blamed the whole problem on the leaking solar panels, saying the drainfield wouldn't repair itself. He poo-poo'd the idea of adding a secondary drainfield.

He suggested a product called "Bio-One" to see if it might help the drainfield restore itself over time - but no guarantee's.

I thought I was such a genius pressure washing the pool deck, etc - thinking I was saving a pile of money.

Hah! Guess I'm a stupid city slicker.

My wife says I might have to take back all the nasty things I thought about the teens.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:23 pm

Swampy wrote:

I had a second man come out and he quoted $5000. He blamed the whole problem on the leaking solar panels, saying the drainfield wouldn't repair itself.
He suggested a product called "Bio-One" to see if it might help the drainfield restore itself over time - but no guarantee's. .


A bit contradictory, I would run from him rather than walk.
He says the problem is too much water leaking on the fields, (hence the fields are fine just need to drain off).
Then he says they won't repair themselves??? According to him they aren't broken.

If (as he states) the problem was the leaking solar panels...how is "Bio-One" going to fix that?

Lose his business card...imo.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:15 pm

Thanks, I appreciate a healthy dose of skepticism.

Man #2 stated that the drainfield was overwhelmed and, as such, the biomat was damaged. His rational to try this
Bio-one product is to have this biomat degrade over time and 'restore' the health of the septic field to a normal level.
His words, not mine.

As it is, I don't know what I don't know and I don't know who to trust, especially when we're talking thousands of $$$'s at stake.

I will drastically curtail water use and will be reading the riot act to the kids. I've already addressed the solar leak and will not do any more pressure washing - pool deck be damned (it's 95% done anyway).

I've also asked my wife to get paper plates. My mentally handicapped son loves doing dishes, but lets the water run continuously, then he puts everything in the dishwasher which my wife then runs! (arggghhh) :oops: I never understood her rationale for 'double washing - ever!

I've talked to my daughter about 10 minute showers and have met resistance. My other son is OK with it.

Asked my wife to space out laundry. She does about 8 loads on weekends. I've asked her to do one load a day, but maybe go to the laundromat this weekend to get her 8 loads out of the way there.

I'll probably be heading to get low flow shower heads this weekend.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby pshonore » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:00 pm

Swampy wrote:I also have been pressure washing the pool deck and cage this past week with most water (1ooo's of gallons) flowing right over onto the septic drainfield.


I could be wrong but I doubt thats 1000's of gallons. Take a garden hose and see how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon plastic pail. Pressure washers look impressive but in terms of volume, it can be deceiving. However the less water in the septic filed , the better.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby DiscoBunny1979 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:06 pm

Swampy wrote:Thanks everyone.

I had a second man come out and he quoted $5000. He blamed the whole problem on the leaking solar panels, saying the drainfield wouldn't repair itself. He poo-poo'd the idea of adding a secondary drainfield.

He suggested a product called "Bio-One" to see if it might help the drainfield restore itself over time - but no guarantee's.

I thought I was such a genius pressure washing the pool deck, etc - thinking I was saving a pile of money.

Hah! Guess I'm a stupid city slicker.

My wife says I might have to take back all the nasty things I thought about the teens.


--------------

Like I said in my prior post on this thread, if you're going to spend that kind of money, put in a sewage pit that goes 30+ feet down into the ground. It will have a PVC line connected to the out of your septic tank going about 20-30 feet away and then the dark water dumps into the pit. You don't have to worry about leach fields again. They may connect a secondary line to your existing leach lines, but that would be 'backup' to the new pit.....
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:41 pm

DiscoBunny1979 wrote:
--------------

Like I said in my prior post on this thread, if you're going to spend that kind of money, put in a sewage pit that goes 30+ feet down into the ground. It will have a PVC line connected to the out of your septic tank going about 20-30 feet away and then the dark water dumps into the pit. You don't have to worry about leach fields again. They may connect a secondary line to your existing leach lines, but that would be 'backup' to the new pit.....



Such a system would be illegal in many states, where water tables are much higher than 30 feet. For example, in Fl where I live, the water table is only about 12inches below grade during the summer months. Also it would do no good to put a 30 foot pit in clay or solid rock. Not sure I would want to have a drinking water well next to your house :annoyed
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby jebmke » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:51 pm

bilperk wrote:Such a system would be illegal in many states, where water tables are much higher than 30 feet. For example, in Fl where I live, the water table is only about 12inches below grade during the summer months. Also it would do no good to put a 30 foot pit in clay or solid rock. Not sure I would want to have a drinking water well next to your house :annoyed

Yes, I'm sure in MD these are not legal, they are also cracking down on regular septic tanks over time for any new developments. Some old ones may be grandfathered.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:38 pm

Third inspection and estimate of the day (wow, it was nonstop) seemed the most reasonable. The man stated it was best to just let the system dry out as much as possible, minimize water use and get rid of leaky solar panel. If the septic still has problems, he suggested adding extra drain pipe to increase the size of the drainfield by about 50% for <$3000.

But, he cautioned me that if the water use wasn't curtailed, I'd still have the same problem.

I understand.

There's going to be a few screamfests at SWAMPY's when my wife and teenagers (who seem to suffer from early Alzheimers) resume their waterhog ways. Man #3 said that the pressure washing had minimal effect given where the runoff went.

Well, got to go, dinner is ready and we're eating off of paper plates tonight.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:08 pm

Swampy wrote:Third inspection and estimate of the day (wow, it was nonstop) seemed the most reasonable. The man stated it was best to just let the system dry out as much as possible, minimize water use and get rid of leaky solar panel. If the septic still has problems, he suggested adding extra drain pipe to increase the size of the drainfield by about 50% for <$3000.

But, he cautioned me that if the water use wasn't curtailed, I'd still have the same problem.

I understand.

There's going to be a few screamfests at SWAMPY's when my wife and teenagers (who seem to suffer from early Alzheimers) resume their waterhog ways. Man #3 said that the pressure washing had minimal effect given where the runoff went.

Well, got to go, dinner is ready and we're eating off of paper plates tonight.


Sounds like a reasonable estimate, from what my previous experience in building a septic system yrs ago was, it was expected to have at minimum 50% expansion area available in addition to the build.
Question is how large is the current system? (linear footage of field lines) You can't increase it by 50% unless you know what it is.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:34 pm

Steve, he mentioned the system is a pipe and trench sytem and one linear foot equals three square feet of drainfield.

He estimated my system at around 700-750 SF, so around 233-250 linear feet. He was very reasonable and said he'd be happy to wait and see what happens with all the conservation measures and give it as long as it takes. If there's a problem, he'd add on about 400 SF (just a bit over 50% to the drainfield.

If I can buy some time, I'll be down two kids who would go away at college. I might make it.

I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to pump the tank out monthly for the next couple of months to give the drainfield a 'breather.'

$500-600 is better than $3000 or more. Who knows? I might get a frequent flusher discount.

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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Padlin » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:02 pm

Don't know how legal it is but... My neighbor runs his washing machine out through the basement window, into a buried pipe in the window well that runs across the yard to the tree line where he has a Flo-well installed. Keeps a good deal of the water out of the leach field. Been this way for decades. When I was having problems I thought about doing similar for the shower but my plumbing skills are sorely lacking so I paid the $ for the 2nd field.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:15 pm

Swampy wrote:Steve, he mentioned the system is a pipe and trench sytem and one linear foot equals three square feet of drainfield.

He estimated my system at around 700-750 SF, so around 233-250 linear feet. He was very reasonable and said he'd be happy to wait and see what happens with all the conservation measures and give it as long as it takes. If there's a problem, he'd add on about 400 SF (just a bit over 50% to the drainfield.

If I can buy some time, I'll be down two kids who would go away at college. I might make it.

I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to pump the tank out monthly for the next couple of months to give the drainfield a 'breather.'

$500-600 is better than $3000 or more. Who knows? I might get a frequent flusher discount.

Man, oh man, if it's not one thing, it's another. Never a dull moment.


Sounds like a reasonable addition to your existing fields, if that is what you do.
You had mentioned that one of the people who came dug a hole 24" down aprox to see what the water level was...
I would suggest keeping an eye on it to see when and if it drops (if its still open) if not dig it out again.
Or use a 2 ft long bulb planter auger on a drill to dig another, then use a stick to check the water level a couple of hrs later.

Pumping the tank once more when it gets full can't hurt anything and it will help the existing fields catch a break.
If that doesn't work, imo pumping it out again and again is just wasting money as it should have recovered from the water overload by then.
That is if you don't get a week of rain.
Keep in place the conservation of water usage in the mean time...best of luck!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:51 am

Sometimes, after one or two good nights of sleep, clarity and the big picture come into focus.

Two weeks ago we had a handyman come out to do some work on a plumbing fixture. He had to shut off water to the house. After he was done, we all noticed that there was significantly higher water pressure throughout the house with a much higher water flow. None of us was upset and liked the little 'bonus' we hadn't expected. I checked the pressure at the filtration system for the water coming in from the well. It was at 48PSI. I vaguely recall that it was previously lower than that, about 10-15 points lower. Apparently 50 PSI is the normal setting for this system.

I'm now thinking that we were inadvertently being protected against ourselves with the lower water flow and pressure, but when the handyman adjusted it to 'normal,' our system was overloaded. Other than the deck being pressure washed, there was no change in routine. The washing machine, dishwasher, showers were all at the same frequency and time level - however the water flow had increased by at least 30% or more.

So, it would logically proceed to reconsider to change the water pressure to a lower PSI, hence lower water flow (and less invigorating showers) and buy time till the two teens go off to college.

It's either that, or get low flow shower heads - or BOTH (change PSI and get low flow shower heads).

PS - For the first time since we've lived in the house (almost 5 years), my wife actually enjoyed the showers with the higher pressure, me too. Darn.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Sidney » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:21 am

Swampy wrote:get low flow shower heads

do this. Also check the toilets. We have found the low flow Toto models to work well. Learn how to live like people on boats live. When you are doing things with water, learn to turn off the water when it isn't actually in use. When you are on a boat, you don't let the water run for the entire shower, you rinse down, lather, rinse again. It may take a while to modify behavior.

We found that we were running the washing machine less than full and using a full setting. That has changed. Most washing machines have adjustable settings for smaller loads. We never run the dishwasher until it is jammed full.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:59 pm

Swampy wrote:
Sometimes, after one or two good nights of sleep, clarity and the big picture come into focus.

Two weeks ago we had a handyman come out to do some work on a plumbing fixture. He had to shut off water to the house. After he was done, we all noticed that there was significantly higher water pressure throughout the house with a much higher water flow. None of us was upset and liked the little 'bonus' we hadn't expected. I checked the pressure at the filtration system for the water coming in from the well. It was at 48PSI. I vaguely recall that it was previously lower than that, about 10-15 points lower. Apparently 50 PSI is the normal setting for this system.

I'm now thinking that we were inadvertently being protected against ourselves with the lower water flow and pressure, but when the handyman adjusted it to 'normal,' our system was overloaded. Other than the deck being pressure washed, there was no change in routine. The washing machine, dishwasher, showers were all at the same frequency and time level - however the water flow had increased by at least 30% or more.

So, it would logically proceed to reconsider to change the water pressure to a lower PSI, hence lower water flow (and less invigorating showers) and buy time till the two teens go off to college.

It's either that, or get low flow shower heads - or BOTH (change PSI and get low flow shower heads).

PS - For the first time since we've lived in the house (almost 5 years), my wife actually enjoyed the showers with the higher pressure, me too. Darn.


I wouldn't mess with turning down the pressure on the well tank. Keep it where it's supposed to be, turning down the pressure will result in the well pump cycling on and off more often, unless you want to pay for the expense of a new well pump.
You have 2 options along that line of thinking, install a pressure regulator (about $54 for the part) after the well tank and reduce the pressure there for the rest of the house.
http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-keywords=SharkBite%2022673-0045%20Regulator%2C%201%2F2-Inch&index=blended&link_code=qs&sourceid=Mozilla-search&tag=mozilla-20
Thats the one I use.(I actually have 2 installed) If you have a whole house filter, install the reducer after the filter.

And/or install low flow shower heads in the "abused" showers, if you and your wife have your own shower and can reasonably limit yourselves, it's up to you to install a low flow or not (perhaps a 1.75 flow instead of a .5 flow).

EDIT... If you do install a pressure regulator then you will need a pressure tester gauge as well so you know what your setting it at. under $10.
http://www.amazon.com/Rain-Bird-P2A-Water-Pressure/dp/B00004RACK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367082761&sr=8-1&keywords=water+pressure+tester
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:17 pm

It has been over 48 hours since the tank was pumped. I'm peeking into the tank daily. Tank is about 1/2 full, so it roughly translates to 250 gallons a day. The offending solar panels have been removed and the ground immediately underneath was like a swampy mess.

I'm beginning to breathe a little, maybe these measures will take care of it (I hope).
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:32 pm

Swampy wrote:It has been over 48 hours since the tank was pumped. I'm peeking into the tank daily. Tank is about 1/2 full, so it roughly translates to 250 gallons a day. The offending solar panels have been removed and the ground immediately underneath was like a swampy mess.

I'm beginning to breathe a little, maybe these measures will take care of it (I hope).


Just out of curiosity, what are the solar panels for?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby moon2 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:35 pm

I'm so very sympathetic with this issue that it led me to register.

I spent years battling a failing system and finally had to install an engineered one at at cost of 14K - and that was in 2003. I sold that house and no longer am on septic, but the flood of memories this thread drown me in ... oh my.

Efficient dishwashers (your kids excluded!) don't use a lot of water, but washing machines do. If you have a top-loader, you might think about investing in a front-loader consider all the laundry you guys do. They use less water, and wash more clothes at a time.

My field was failing (had a couple of nasty backups during heavy rains), but by being extremely judicious, mostly all the things already mentioned (=nothing= in way of food that hadn't been digested doing into the system, no bleach, no grease, no coffee grounds, etc etc), I was able to limp along with my system and delay the inevitable for several years.

Good luck!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:32 pm

Thanks moon2. Welcome to Bogleheads!
The washing machine is a fancy front loader that uses less water than a top loader.

SteveNet, they're there to heat the pool water. Each solar panel is a 20 foot long by 2 foot wide black plastic panel with multiple channels (like a cardboard box) where water flows through and is heated by the sun (I had four panels, now down to two). I have had systems like these for 25 years and have been very content. Other than the initial outlay, there is no additional cost as it just operates when the pool is circulating water.

I have had very few problems in 25 years.

This time, I placed the panels directly on the ground instead of on the roof. It made for easy accessability for me and (unfortunately) for some creature to either run across or burrow under and poke a hole in it. As a dumb city slicker, when these were installed, I didn't really comprehend that they were being placed over the drainfield but everything worked fine for several years.

I believe the panels each collect around 100-200,000 BTU's, or more, of heat daily.

My screened-in pool was at 87 degrees earlier this week. Without solar, it's be around 72-75 degrees.

Plus the panels can heat the spill-over spa, which I use as a hot tub, to 104+!

Of course, you need a pool blanket to retain the heat at night.

The warm water has been good to tired and achey bones.

PS Having such a system installed on your roof can cost $2500-6000. I'd stay away from the operators with big yellow page ads and fancy fliers. I dealt with small mom and pop operations very successfully at the lower end of the cost scale. This last set was a DIY which cost well under $1000 - installed.

I'll see how warm the pool is with two panels, but I think the solar heating system is now definitely underpowered.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:53 pm

Swampy wrote:Thanks moon2. Welcome to Bogleheads!
The washing machine is a fancy front loader that uses less water than a top loader.

SteveNet, they're there to heat the pool water. Each solar panel is a 20 foot long by 2 foot wide black plastic panel with multiple channels (like a cardboard box) where water flows through and is heated by the sun (I had four panels, now down to two). I have had systems like these for 25 years and have been very content. Other than the initial outlay, there is no additional cost as it just operates when the pool is circulating water.

I have had very few problems in 25 years.

This time, I placed the panels directly on the ground instead of on the roof. It made for easy accessability for me and (unfortunately) for some creature to either run across or burrow under and poke a hole in it. As a dumb city slicker, when these were installed, I didn't really comprehend that they were being placed over the drainfield but everything worked fine for several years.

I believe the panels each collect around 100-200,000 BTU's, or more, of heat daily.

My screened-in pool was at 87 degrees earlier this week. Without solar, it's be around 72-75 degrees.

Plus the panels can heat the spill-over spa, which I use as a hot tub, to 104+!

Of course, you need a pool blanket to retain the heat at night.

The warm water has been good to tired and achey bones.

PS Having such a system installed on your roof can cost $2500-6000. I'd stay away from the operators with big yellow page ads and fancy fliers. I dealt with small mom and pop operations very successfully at the lower end of the cost scale. This last set was a DIY which cost well under $1000 - installed.

I'll see how warm the pool is with two panels, but I think the solar heating system is now definitely underpowered.


Ah, for the pool.
Ok I was just curious that it might have been for a Water Heater.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bill1958 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:56 am

Hi Swampy, I feel your pain... Been thru the teen years with 2 daughters that wouldn't leave the shower until the hot water ran out). Any ways I own a home with a septic that is around 50 years old (I've been the owner for the last 25). I used to think the showers were an issue for the system, but mostly they are not (though my now environmentalist daughter now takes much shorter showers because of the wasteful aspect of long showers).

My guess is that the solar panel leaks have risen the water table around your leaching field to a point new water entering has no place to go. I have a similar problem with my field if we get an exceptionally extended rainy period. I've learned we just have to take shorter showers, and limit washes during this time. Usually when the rainy period ends, the leaching field recovers in 1-2 days.

A secondary issue I discovered after owning our home 15 years, is that we had a partially collapsed soil pipe where it left the home and entered the tank. The soil pipe had several huge rocks sitting on top of it which had flattened it down to about 2 inches in one spot. Soil pipes are a soft pipe used in septic construction back in the day ( not sure why they had to be soft). Anyways, during the periods when the leaching field was overtaxed, we would get clogs in the soil pipe from solids that would get hung up near the constricted area, that normally would flow right to the tank. I was clearing clogs 2-3 times a year thinking i had a failed system (which all of the septic guys were telling me). I was getting ready to install a new system, when I tried a new guy to fix the clog- he diagnosed the problem quickly, and made the repair for $300 about 10 years ago. The repair guy said the pipe had probably been that way since the home was built.

Lesson learned- don't rely on 1-2 septic operators for opinions on your system- especially if they have a vested interest in failing you system (most of these guys make money installing new systems, or kickbacks referring to those that do). They also prey on your psyche, as they they know everyone in the home is stressed from the backup. The guy that diagnosed my problem above was an independent operator from 10-15 miles away that was trying to make a name for himself in our area thru honest reliable service. Also avoid the bigger septic operators in your market- in my case, one company has close to a monopoly on the septic market in our area, and incents the drivers to push services (new systems, chemical additives) which may not be needed. Lastly- you do not need additives of any kind for the system, tho you should watch what goes down the drain (no feminine female products/make sure cleaning agents are safe for septic).

Good luck!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:03 am

After removing the solar panels, the leak from the underside was far worse than expected. It had probably gone undetected for a long time. I attributed the pool's water loss to excessive evaporation.

Well. the area should dry our nicely now that it is uncovered and the leak has been addressed. I think it might be alright.

bill1958 said
Lesson learned- don't rely on 1-2 septic operators for opinions on your system- especially if they have a vested interest in failing you system (most of these guys make money installing new systems, or kickbacks referring to those that do). They also prey on your psyche, as they they know everyone in the home is stressed from the backup. The guy that diagnosed my problem above was an independent operator from 10-15 miles away that was trying to make a name for himself in our area thru honest reliable service. Also avoid the bigger septic operators in your market- in my case, one company has close to a monopoly on the septic market in our area, and incents the drivers to push services (new systems, chemical additives) which may not be needed.


I very much sensed that this predatory salesmanship was the case with the man who pumped the tank and the first two estimates.

So, now that I know my drainfield is 700-750 SF, septic tank is 1000 gallons, how much water can I hope the system (assuming it will be OK) to handle daily? I'm guessing 400 gallons, but will push my family hard to keep it at under 300 gallons for a month or so. We're going away for a week at the end of next month and it should help the system rest even more.

I have 1-2 more days before the tank is full and starts draining into the drainfield. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bill1958 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:39 pm

Hard to say how much it can handle daily, as I'm only a banker by trade.... My tank is also 1,000 gallons, and have a leach field built for 3 bedrooms. Once we had the pipe repaired as mentioned, our system performance improved dramatically. I think once you get your field dried out, and if keep the tank pumped every 1-2 years, you should be ok, unless you have other issues. I even think the system could handle the long showers except perhaps if the ground is saturated from an unusual rainy stretch of weather.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:55 pm

I've been watching water useage in the house like a hawk. My mentally handicapped son uses a tremendous amount of water. My wife routinely did 7-8 loads of wash on weekends plus run the dishwasher on most days. She's going to the laundromat tomorrow instead.

I checked the water use for the type of frontload washer she uses, 20 gallons a load (probably 10 for wash and 10 for rinse) - but multiplied by 7-8, plus everything else, no wonder my system didn't back up sooner!

My wife and kids aren't very supportive of water conservation, even with the septic emergency :annoyed .

Wish me luck with my waterhogs.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bill1958 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:08 pm

Hopefully your next handle will be arid...
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby scubadiver » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:08 pm

Regarding the teenagers and long hot showers, have you considered just getting a smaller hot water tank?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bill1958 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:18 pm

Or simply just shut the water off at the main if the shower gets too long...
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby auntie » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:27 pm

Or set the temperature in the tank down so it will run out of hot sooner.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby RebusCannébus » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:11 pm

bilperk wrote: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.
It may also mean that the water table is so high that the drain field is underwater for that reason. That happens in my neck of the woods in winter. My solution? Clap my hands over my ears and shout LALALALALALALA. Either that or fork out 30 grand for a new mound system.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:24 am

scubadiver --
Regarding the teenagers and long hot showers, have you considered just getting a smaller hot water tank?


I already did! Went from a 50 gallon to a 40 gallon water heater a year ago.

rebus -- It may also mean that the water table is so high that the drain field is underwater for that reason


We're in dry season now. Yes, we do sometimes flood in our area or the ground is spongy soft.

PS - as I write this, the morning rush is on. No happy faces and a lot of grumbling.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu May 02, 2013 7:38 am

This morning marks a week since the tank was pumped out and we had several estimates, two of which were in a hurry to get the job done.

So far, so good.

Leaking solar panel removed, no more leak there. Unfortunately, in the process, something bit my left foot and I don't know what. At first I thought it was a fire ant, but then my best guess is a black widow or scorpion. I've had a brown recluse bite before and it's not as bad as that, but it hurts like hell. I had to see a real physician (no pretenders for me). Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and hydrotherapy are finally helping. Walking around barefoot inside the house as I can't tolerate a shoe or sandal.

My waterhogs are beginning to resume their old ways (sigh) and I'm getting tired of hollering.

Biggest potential setback, we've had 2 inches of rain in the last 36 hours and the gutter downspout empties right onto the drainfield. Whoever built the house is an idiot. I'll be getting some of those big hoses to divert the rainwater. Then again, I might just buy a big cistern.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Thu May 02, 2013 2:01 pm

Swampy wrote:This morning marks a week since the tank was pumped out and we had several estimates, two of which were in a hurry to get the job done.

So far, so good.

Leaking solar panel removed, no more leak there. Unfortunately, in the process, something bit my left foot and I don't know what. At first I thought it was a fire ant, but then my best guess is a black widow or scorpion. I've had a brown recluse bite before and it's not as bad as that, but it hurts like hell. I had to see a real physician (no pretenders for me). Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and hydrotherapy are finally helping. Walking around barefoot inside the house as I can't tolerate a shoe or sandal.

My waterhogs are beginning to resume their old ways (sigh) and I'm getting tired of hollering.

Biggest potential setback, we've had 2 inches of rain in the last 36 hours and the gutter downspout empties right onto the drainfield. Whoever built the house is an idiot. I'll be getting some of those big hoses to divert the rainwater. Then again, I might just buy a big cistern.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Sorry to hear about your bite.

Certainly get that water diverted, even if it means having a pipe (that you will later bury) laying on top of the ground so it doesn't dump on the fields.
Time will tell if you are successful or not even with the waterhogs.
Stay away from any contractor that seems like he's in a hurry to get the job done, they want you to commit without having time to think. Bums rush.

All in all it seems the worst that will happen is you have your fields increased by 50%, if you do that then you are almost assured no more problems.
I think the quote for that was 3K?
How much is worth not battling with the family and being certain the problem is fixed anyway?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby letsgobobby » Thu May 02, 2013 7:20 pm

We have a 1500 gal septic for 3. It is 7 years old. It is inspected annually but the company said ours is in fantastic shape and may *never* need to be pumped given our usage; in other words it is self-sustaining.

The only thing in our septic is toilet paper and #2 and minimal food waste from the dishwasher. we do not use the disposal at all; we strain our dirty dishes and put that stuff in the trash. We are very careful not to introduce excess fat or grease to the system. We do not use any bleach. All of these things they said are very good for the health of the septic.

I was also under the impression that water usage itself is not particularly relevant.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Thu May 02, 2013 9:54 pm

Thanks, SteveNet. Whatever it was that got me, sure slowed me down. Stupid me, I was in flip-flops at the time.

I agree that the first two septic people were in a big hurry to get me to sign and do the job, a job that might not even need to be done. The last one was the most reasonable and in no hurry at all to get me to get any work done, he seemed like an honest, hard working man (It's getting harder to find people like that).

It's pouring rain again tonight, but is supposed to clear up over the weekend. I'll go buy some downspout hoses to attach and divert the water. I'll wear shoes this time!
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby jwblue » Thu May 02, 2013 11:17 pm

We have a slight sewage smell in the master bedroom.

Could that be a septic tank issue?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bill1958 » Fri May 03, 2013 4:37 am

Unlikely, unless you are getting backup thru the tub/shower drain or toilet. Is this bathroom on ground level?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby WhyNotUs » Fri May 03, 2013 11:04 am

I added a bedroom to a house several years ago and that triggered the need to enlarge my system. In the course of the project, I discovered the the original builder had created a "leach field" that consisted of the tank pipe draining into a bed of gravel 3' wide and 4' deep. I considered it a blessing to discover and replaced the entire system with proper infiltrators and bedding. When you are on city water and septic you have a responsibility to everyone to have a properly designed and well-maintained system. When your well and septic are in the same place you have a special interest in this being correct.

Another option that I did not see mentioned is to send a scope down the system to look for a break and back-up. That costs about $150 here.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sat May 04, 2013 5:47 am

So far, everything is working 'OK.'

A neighbor suggested trying an aquarium fish tank or septic tank aerator for a while and run a plastic pipe to pump air into the septic tank to allow bacteria to multiple rapidly. He stated it helped with 'biomat' in the drainfield as the bacteria seemed to chew everything up - but it took months. Could I just leave the lid partially open and run weighted flexible tubing to the bottom of the tank for a few weeks/months (after I put up a small barricade around it) to see if it works?

Any thoughts? Has anyone else done this?
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Padlin » Sat May 04, 2013 7:21 am

Swampy wrote:So far, everything is working 'OK.'

A neighbor suggested trying an aquarium fish tank or septic tank aerator for a while and run a plastic pipe to pump air into the septic tank to allow bacteria to multiple rapidly. He stated it helped with 'biomat' in the drainfield as the bacteria seemed to chew everything up - but it took months. Could I just leave the lid partially open and run weighted flexible tubing to the bottom of the tank for a few weeks/months (after I put up a small barricade around it) to see if it works?

Any thoughts? Has anyone else done this?



That's a new one, if you do make sure you plug up the opening or your neighbor may wish he didn't tell you to try it. I'd just close it up and see what happens, you let the field dry out, removed the leaking solar, and have made steps to cut usage. Time will tell if it's enough.
At one point we had a saying before getting our fixed, "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down". My brothers had a field day harassing me over that one .
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby Swampy » Sat May 04, 2013 10:42 am

"If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down"


:happy
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby SteveNet » Sat May 04, 2013 11:44 am

Padlin wrote:
That's a new one, if you do make sure you plug up the opening or your neighbor may wish he didn't tell you to try it. I'd just close it up and see what happens, you let the field dry out, removed the leaking solar, and have made steps to cut usage. Time will tell if it's enough.
At one point we had a saying before getting our fixed, "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down". My brothers had a field day harassing me over that one .


AH a mayor Koch quote from the late 70's or 80's (I don't remember when) I don't know if the saying was his originally but I remember the NYC water shortage at the time and that phrase from Koch.
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Re: Septic system woes

Postby bilperk » Sat May 04, 2013 10:11 pm

Swampy wrote:So far, everything is working 'OK.'

A neighbor suggested trying an aquarium fish tank or septic tank aerator for a while and run a plastic pipe to pump air into the septic tank to allow bacteria to multiple rapidly. He stated it helped with 'biomat' in the drainfield as the bacteria seemed to chew everything up - but it took months. Could I just leave the lid partially open and run weighted flexible tubing to the bottom of the tank for a few weeks/months (after I put up a small barricade around it) to see if it works?

Any thoughts? Has anyone else done this?


A really, really bad idea. I want you to think of a glass of orange juice with lots and lots of pulp. If you let is set for a while, the pulp will settle to the bottom. Same thing happens in your tank. Now put a straw in that glass and state blowing air in it and what happens. Pulp throughout the glass. In the case of your tank, the same thing will happen and every gallon of water you use will send a gallon of stirred up sludgy water into your drainfield. You already dying drainfield will soon clog up.

What you neighbor is partially describing is known as an aerobic treatment unit. It uses an aerator, but it also uses filters or other methods to keep the stirred up sludge in the tank. These systems are expensive, usually require yearly operating permits, and maintenance. Based on all your other comments, this is not something you should consider.

frankly, short of spending the money to put in a new or extended system, there are only a few things you can do that will possibly help. I have already told you these. Lower the water use. Spread out the water use. Get all the water other than Gods rain off your drainfield and do not put anything over the drainfield that will inhibit transpoevaporation. If that doesn't work, then call the health department. They will tell you what is legal and will likely tell you who are the better contractors (although you may have to be creative in the way you ask) If you do it without a licensed contractor and without a permit, YOU are likely to be the one who gets fined and will have to pay to have it repaired/replaced properly.
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