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Thread: Advice Needed - Septic problems

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    DIY Junior Member Jackie07's Avatar
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    Default Advice Needed - Septic problems

    Hi all, Glad to have found this forum and hope you all don't mind me asking such drawn out question.

    First let me give you some background. I have a home built in '64 who's waste is currently handled with a septic tank. Don't know the size. Before I purchased the home the previous owner had not pumped out the tank in many years so that was done as part of my contract, just slightly over two years ago. Only two of us in the house and we don't use huge amounts of water. I know in a normal situation the tank should be pumped approximately on a 2-3 year schedule but that should not be causing the problems I'm having. The leach field is actually a community leach field. Effluent from my septic tank overflows into the sump pit and I have a pump that moves effluent from the sump pit to the leach field. Here is my problem: I am ever so close to being hooked to brand new sanitary sewers that are being installed as part of a NID. I'm very happy about that, however, I have begun to have some back-ups and I don't know if they are related to the digging in the neighborhood (ie. damaging the community leach field further), a glogged vent, a broken effluent sump pump, or a tank that needs to be pumped. What is happening is that I'm getting septic back-up out of the basement floor drain in my basement everytime more than a few gallons of water enters a drain, like when doing even a super small load of laundry. Water is draining but vey very slowly. I started out thinking it was a vent problem because the nearby toilet would gurgle right before a back-up from the drain but have since thought that perhaps the gurgling is the result of water being pushed back into the house drain system because it can't get into the septic tank. No effluent back up into the toilet though and it appears to flush normally but does raise the level of water in the floor drain. I am hesitant to put a hose in my vent pipe to check it for glogsbecause I may find all that water backing up into the basement. I am within a month or two of being hooked to the new sewers so I want to spend as little money to investigate and/or fix the problem as possible. My options at this point are to have the septic tank pumped to see if that solves it. Do all my laundry at a lundromat, take really short showers, eat out all the time, etc.. ;( and wait to be hooked to the new sewers. Have a plumber come out to check that the effluent pump is working properly and if it isn't, replacing it. Or flushing the vent pipe at the risk of flooding my basement. My question to you is which would you think was the most logical problem, and which solution would you try first?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  2. #2
    Plumber BAPlumber's Avatar
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    sounds like you have some slow drainage, which would make me think that the problem is with either the line to the tank or the inlet baffle. if the pump wasn't working you'd have no drainage. I'd start by digging up the tank so the inlet and water level can be inspected.
    Brent

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    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BAPlumber View Post
    sounds like you have some slow drainage, which would make me think that the problem is with either the line to the tank or the inlet baffle. if the pump wasn't working you'd have no drainage. I'd start by digging up the tank so the inlet and water level can be inspected.
    That is the place I would start. It sounds like your baffle is clogged. This happens a lot. Putting a hose in the drain will just cause you a big mess.
    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    If you open the tank and the level is high (above the bottom of the outlet), your problem is farther on past the tank. Pumping the tank will not solve your problem, whatever it is, but being just as conservative as possible as you have mentioned and having the tank pumped again when it fills back up can help you delay any further expense for a month or two.

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    DIY Junior Member Jackie07's Avatar
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    Hi all. Thanks for the advice. As I was sitting on my deck watching the new sewer main being installed across the back of my property (I took the day off to watch) I was trying to think of a way to get around having to dig up my septic tank as you all suggested here. Your ideas were good. I hadn't thought of a clogged baffle but I should have. Anyhow, digging up even part of the septic is way beyond anything this woman wants to tackle. So when the heavy machinery stopped for the day my neighbors started trickling out to the back and we were all standing around discussing the progress when I mentioned that I was concerned the digging had destroyed what was left of the community latteral/leach lines causing my septic to empty slow. To my surprise I found I wasn't the only person having problems. One neighbor even said he had seen the old pipes broken and then covered with dirt and compacted by heavy equipment running over the area for hours. So, I am now fairly confident that my slow drainage is being caused by the fact that the over flow from my septic has nowhere to go but into the soil and that takes a long time. So we're taking super short showers, doing all laundry but socks and undies at the laundromat, eating out so as not to dirty dishes that will need to be washed, etc., for now. If we get to a point that we cannot flush then I will have the tank pumped which will buy us some time as stated by leejosepho. There is probably another week so until this section of the main is done and then when the manholes are installed they will test between manholes and if all is well they can then start hookiing up houses. So I'm looking at anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two at most. Of course weather could change that I suppose but we'll make do by any means we have to even if we have to go to the "Y" to shower. Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I'm really happy I didn't have to dig anything up!

  6. #6
    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    If the leech field is compramised.Then pump your tank out It will buy some
    time untill you can connect to the new sewer.Btw how many gal does tank hold?
    Last edited by cwhyu2; 11-03-2007 at 10:28 AM.

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    DIY Junior Member Jackie07's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwhyu2 View Post
    If the leech field is compramised.Then pump your tank out It will buy some
    time untill you can connect to the new sewer.Btw how many gal does tank hold?
    I have no idea how many gallons my tank is. I bought this house a couple of years ago knowing the new sewer was going in so I didn't even have an inspection. I got lucky until just now, which is typical for me. When I had it pumped out I was at work so I wasn't even here to ask the guy how much he took out. But, it's a three bedroom house with two bathrooms, built in the sixties so whatever was standard for code back then is probably what it has. I have just assumed worst case scenario and based maitanence interval on 500 gal.

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    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    If you use 500 gal a month Iwould be suprised.

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackie07 View Post
    So when the heavy machinery stopped for the day my neighbors started trickling out to the back and we were all standing around discussing the progress when I mentioned that I was concerned the digging had destroyed what was left of the community latteral/leach lines causing my septic to empty slow. To my surprise I found I wasn't the only person having problems. One neighbor even said he had seen the old pipes broken and then covered with dirt and compacted by heavy equipment running over the area for hours. So, I am now fairly confident that my slow drainage is being caused by the fact that the over flow from my septic has nowhere to go but into the soil and that takes a long time.
    Maybe all of you should ask whoever is in charge of the project where to have the interim pumping bills sent!

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Jackie07's Avatar
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    Just in case any of you are interested...

    I am finally hooked up to the new sewer main and I am happy to report that my drains work like a dream... knock on wood...

    The last two months before being hooked up was a nightmare. While the whole neighborhood was having some degree of problems due to the old laterals being destroyed my problems were the worst. I had been reduced to only flushing toilets and even then only a couple times a day. The gym came in handy for showing. Eveyone else's plumbing was for the most part working normally but effluent was surfacing where the old laterals ended. Mine was so bad my septic wasn't accepting much of anything. I finally started poking around to see if I could do something about moving water out of the sump pit and I noticed that my system was using a piggy back float switch. Just for grins I unplugged it and plugged the effluent pump directly into the outlet. Low and behold my sump pit was nearly empty in less than five minutes!!! So with about a week and a half to go before being hooked to the new sewer main I accidently discovered that if I had just checked for something as simple as a broken piggy back float switch I would have been spared sewage backing up into my basement and living like a heathen for several months . I hadn't even noticed the piggyback switch before! So just to keep from having to mess around with replacing it I just went to the breaker box about six times a day and turned on the electric to the pump for about five minutes.

    I stayed home and watched while the crew came to hook me up. They must have thought I was nuts to stand in the cold all day watching what they were doing, but I find it all so fascinating.

    Thanks again everyone for your advice. It helped to have other scenarios to mull over in my head.

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