View Full Version : Septic Tank
11-20-2012, 07:17 AM
I have had this house 7 years and had the tank pumped 3 times. It is an old system and at first we had too many people living here...Not now though & I have no idea how long it had been since being pumped. The first time he pumped it all out clean and knocked off the tee, said I didn't need itÖso I just have a straight pipe going into the tank. Well, the second time there was a hard layer of sludge and he basically knocked a hole in it and pumped what was beneath it. He said it was roots, although I didnít see any roots. The last time, just a few months ago was the same. He sucked out a hole in the sludge & just pumped out a lot of water. So, a layer of sludge was left in the bottom of the tank. A couple of months went by & the toilet has to be plunged daily. The only thing going to this tank is one bathroom. The shower & sink drain great. But, when you take a shower the sink gurgles and the toilet bubbles & will flush. The first time the system was backed up & you took a shower you were standing in ankle deep water, but now there is no water in the bottom of the tub, itís like it canít wait to get out of there.
Iím thinking first off, I shouldnít have let him knock that tee off. The second time I had to have it pumped it acted exactly like this, I thought it was the vent, but some folks on another forum convinced me it wasnít. I have added enzymes over the last few weeks, but, it hasnít helped. Does anybody know of something that will dissolve that layer or have any other suggestions?
11-20-2012, 08:04 AM
Lots of confusion in this post. You need to do some research on what septic tanks are and how they work. I'll leave it to others to say that your pumper is a hack and a moron (and taking advantage of you).
First, you don't want to "dissolve" the top layer. BTW, the top layer is the "scum" layer and the bottom layer is the "sludge" layer. The stuff on the top will be, to some extent, broken down by bacteria and settle down, in reduced form, to the bottom of the tank over time. The water comes in mixed with stuff, some of which settles promptly to the bottom and some of which floats until it is broken down and settles to the bottom or is pumped out. In the middle is water. That water will go under the baffle to the other side of the tank and follow a similar process again until the water floats out into the leaching fields (or the like). You want the water to be as free of dissolved solids as possible before it goes into your leaching fields, leading to a long life for them. The stuff that stays behind -- the solids -- you pump.
The danger with products that purport to "dissolve" the scum layer is that they can cause more solids to dissolve into the water that's flowing to the leaching fields, which is exactly the opposite of what you want, and then clog those fields. The point is to have the water flowing out to have as little dissolved solids as possible. The stuff in the scum layer includes oil and other stuff that will affirmatively-clog your drainfield. It's the last stuff that you want to be dissolving.
That's why you pump; to remove the stuff that is on the bottom and on the top of the water (sludge and scum). You are pumping to remove the solids; removal of the liquids is incidental; they have another way out. How often to pump is a function of tank size, wastewater volume going into the tank, wasterwater composition (lots of solids or not a lot of solids). Technically you need to pump when the scum layer and/or sludge layer reach a certain percentage of the available volume in the tank; everything else is a rule of thumb.
Second, a good design has a tee at the entrance and the exit. At the entrance to avoid stirring up the water in the tank; the whole point is to have the water minimally-agitated so that sedimentation can occur. It's like a container of orange juice. If you let it sit long enough, it separates -- sedimentation. If you shake it up again, it's all mixed up. More precisely, certain solids will automatically settle to the bottom and others will settle if they are retained long enough in the tank (how long they are retained is based on how much water is flowing through the tank). The more the system removes these solids, the longer your drainfield will last.
At the exit, you have a tee in order to have one last protection against stuff floating on the top going into your outflow pipe and thus out to clog the fields.
Third, the point of pumping a septic tank is to remove the very stuff that he is leaving behind. You pump out the sludge and scum, leaving a clean tank and starting the process over again.
Fourth, I'm not convinced that the issues you are having in your bathroom have anything to do with your tank. But I will leave that to others.
11-20-2012, 08:44 AM
I Thank You WJ for your taking the time to reply and the insights.
11-20-2012, 09:41 AM
New insight!! My wife said that sometimes when the toilet won’t flush, if you run water in the sink the toilet will bubble & flush.
Well, I just had ta go & the toilet didn’t fully flush, the solids went down, but the bowl filled & the paper didn’t go down. I filled the sink with water & then pulled the plug & the sink drained VERY quickly & the toilet did bubble, but didn’t flush & I tried that three times. BTW, when it don’t flush, usually, but not always, the solids, at least most of them go down, but the bowl fills & goes back down to normal level within a couple of minutes…and sometimes with a second or third try it will flush. Last summer I suspected that maybe a toy was caught up in the toilet & took it outside & flushed it out with a water hose & ran a snake thru & it seemed fine.
11-20-2012, 01:48 PM
If there's an obstruction in the drain line, that could easily cause the problem you are describing. Since there's more than one drain that's affected, it's not necessarily the toilet (you could have multiple problems). A toilet won't flush if there's a full or even partially full drain under it.
If your septic tank is full with excessive solids, those can get flushed out into the leach field, then you'll have big costs, as once that happens, you often need to dig it up and install a new one. If you have enough room, you might abandon that one and put a new one somewhere else.
11-20-2012, 04:06 PM
You are getting good info here, and I agree that your drain problem is likely taking place somewhere between your fixtures and your septic tank. And like wj said, you are getting hosed by that tank pumper who is slowly ruining your drain field. A good pumper will completely stir the contents of that tank into soup and then pump it *all* out. Otherwise, the day may soon come when your septic tank has no place to drain and you will be hiring a crew to come in and replace your drain field.
04-25-2013, 03:16 PM
Could this be the problem? It is sloped back, seems to me if anything it should be sloped the other way. I tried pushing up on it & it does not move.
04-25-2013, 04:38 PM
While a picture can be hard to tell exactly, but yes, if that is the main line going out to the septic tank, and it slopes backwards into the house, it will constantly end up getting clogged up. The only good solution is to either replace or substitute a new line out to the tank that has the proper slope to it.
04-25-2013, 05:55 PM
Sorry, I should have been a bit more descriptive. That is the end of the line ( or beginning ). On the other side of that wall the tub & sink empty into that main pipe & they both drain great. That Tee is sloped slightly backward and I’m thinking maybe water & waste is pooling right there under the toilet & creating the problem. I don’t know if that is by design, or if it has settled. I did push up on it and I can’t move it.
I’m wondering if I could solve the problem by replacing what you see there with PVC, cutting the iron pipe on the other side of that wall & splice it into it with the PVC. I would cut the iron pipe about two feet from the wall & make sure the new PVC has plenty of slope in the right direction. I would add supports (what I would call hangers) tying back to the floor joists to prevent future sagging. And top it off with a new toilet, hopefully a Toto Drake CST743. The existing toilet is really old & almost impossible to keep clean, especially since it is really hard to get it to fully flush.
04-25-2013, 06:35 PM
If the rest of the line is sloped properly, then yes, you should be able to replace that section. Keep in mind that it was probably at the proper slope when installed, and since it drooped, there may be additional problems in the horizontal runs above. I'd check those before I went to the trouble to just install a patch that may not solve the problem. Support to keep things from moving anymore is critical.
04-26-2013, 07:02 PM
First I would make sure there are no clogs or problems with the plumbing from the water using fixtures to the septic tank. If you went many years without problems and they only started recently, the problem may be in your septic drainfield. Also when the septic tank was pumped out, all of the solids should have been removed. The tank is suppose to be filled with water up to the outlet but should not be full of solids (sludge, scum, dirt, oil, poop, paper, tampons, etc). Over many years a bio-mat forms in the bottom on the trench and seals up the soil, grease and oil can do the same thing. Tree roots can clog up the drainfield too. Wisteria roots are the worst. Sometimes cable or telephone line installers cut through the drainline lines and damage them. In real sandy soil, the voids between the gravel in the trench get filled up with soil. It may have been installed to deep and is in the ground water. If your family has grown or you have added additional water using fixtures, your system may be undersized.
Here is a link to repair permits for Bradley County, Tenn
04-26-2013, 10:18 PM
Well, I went out and got the parts & pieces that I think I’ll need today. I couldn’t find the Toto Drake locally, so I settled for a Kohler K-11813 Cimarron. I rented a chain cutter for the old iron pipe. I thought about using an air grinder with a, or several cut off wheels, but then thought about all of the sparks under an old house & the gas from the septic tank…I don’t want to die that way…lol. So, I rented a chain cutter. It’s raining here right now & for the next few days so I can’t work on putting my garden in. So, it’s toilet time…I’ll let ya know how it turns out & maybe, but hopefully not ask more questions about this unwanted project.
04-28-2013, 08:36 PM
Well, I got that section of pipe replaced & the new toilet installed. (That chain cutter was a major B!!) After I cut the main line & before I replaced anything, with that section wide open, I washed my hands in the sink & the tub gurgled, bad sign. Sure enough, I got everything back together & first flush didn’t flush, the bowl just filled up & went down slowly like usual. There was plenty of empty pipe to take that water. So, I went down & drilled a Ĺ” hole in the top of my new 4” PVC horizontal run & it flushed just fine several times, but water came out of the new hole. The existing old vent is off of the sink. I would think it should be on the main line. It is just an iron pipe going thru the roof with no cap on it. About 6 years ago, before I had the tank pumped the first time I blew the vent out with compressed air & it bubbled up in the toilet.
I’m thinking about running a snake down the old vent pipe that goes thru the roof & then add a vent cap to it. Wish I could put a brush or something on the snake that is same size as the pipe inside diameter for a second or third run through it, but I can’t find anything like that. Also, I’ll have to replace the pipe that I drilled. I’m thinking about adding a 12 inch tall vertical pipe on the new horizontal PVC & put an “in wall vent” on top of it. Sound logical?
04-28-2013, 08:55 PM
If your system is not functioning correctly the Division of Ground Water Protection encourages you to apply for a repair permit. There is no charge for the application or resulting field visit by local environmental specialist staff. I would apply for a repair . That way you could get free advise from a professional. Then you can do what ever you want to do. It may save you a lot of time and money.
04-28-2013, 09:14 PM
04-29-2013, 09:09 AM
The building drain should never hold any liquid in it. If the piping is properly installed and clear of clogs the liquid from the toilet will flow all the way to the tank. A vent or lack thereof will not stop gravity, so your diagnosis is not correct.
04-29-2013, 04:04 PM
A professional drain cleaner's snake with a properly sized cutting head will ream out the pipe to the original size...a typical homeowner's snake head is usually not that large and just pokes holes in obstructions. Because of the significant torque, a big head when it meets an obstruction, can generate some huge forces, and is best left to a pro to use. The snake can twist and break bones, lacerate fingers, tear things off, etc, when not used by someone with experience (and even then, if they have a lapse!). An AAV, should you add one where you already have an atmospheric vent, is a waste. Plus, it must be left accessible for replacement, since they do fail eventually.
05-06-2013, 08:15 PM
I now come, hat in hand & bow humbly to the wise.
As before mentioned, I replaced the toilet & the section of pipe directly beneath & gave it a more aggressive slope & a vent. It worked great for 3 days. Then on the fourth day it wouldn’t flush at all, but the shower & sink still worked great…cut to chase, I went outside & dug up more of the pipe & found a huge root knot in the pipe where someone had knocked a hole in it years ago. I don’t see how anything was ever getting past it, but it was. It appears to me that someone had knocked a whole in the top of the iron pipe at sometime to snake it & didn’t close it back up. Got that out & everything is working great again. So, now I am going to replace all of the old iron pipe & add a clean out in the run out to the tank, which is about twenty feet from the house. I’ll do it all to code, except I’ll shallowly bury the outside clean out & put a galvanized steel plate on top of it, so it can be found with a metal detector. I’ll write that on the easily accessible basement pipe with a Sharpie. I can’t tell you how many cleanout plugs I’ve hit with a lawn mower.
I just wanted to follow up & say Thanks!!! To all of the people, that didn’t have to, but did try to help a po boy out…