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Thread: Seasonal septic drain field ground saturation?

  1. #1
    DIY Member Cubey's Avatar
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    Default Seasonal septic drain field ground saturation?

    I was out mowing my back yard for the first time this year and found a few very saturated places that are like small holes filled with water that I think are at the end of my drain field. The diagram I got from the health dept isn't even drawn properly in relation to a shed slab that has been here since 1972 even though the diagram should have been drawn around 1997. It shows the drain field in the exact place the stab is located and shows the slab where it isn't. So I'm not sure how much I can even trust the diagram. I bought the house exactly a year ago and was seeing some water saturation at that time. All during summer last year I kept my eye on the area when I did my mowing and I didn't see it at all which leads me to believe merely s a seasonal issue.


    I have no slow drains or backup issues in the house but... by design it can't unless the pump after the septpic tank quits working. The plot of land is under 1 acre and is a triangle shape so they had to design the system to fit in an oddly shaped, small amount of space. Plus I think the soil isn't too good (a lot of clay). The sewage exits the house, goes into the septic tank, the untreated water exits the septic tank and goes into a sump pit and is pumped uphill a good 100ft or so to a "rock filter bed" as the seller called it, then it gravity drains 100ft or more back down to the drain field. At the very corner of my back yard where the drain field REALLY is (which is just labeled "low area" on the health dept diagram, about 50+ ft from where the diagram shows the drain field) is where I found the small saturated areas.

    But there is no sewage smell to the water or sewage smells what so ever anywhere in the yard. Seems to me I may just need to bring in some dirt and build up the low areas around the drain field where it seems to be saturated. I will have to carry it in a 5 gallon bucket a time (or with a wheel barrow) so I don't drive over the drain field.

    However, it could be the guy the last owner rented the house to drove over it. he was a complete idiot who did major damage in the house, tore down the shed, left a half burned huge trash pile that I am still picking glass out of occasionally. He also did digging and burying of chunks of cement out in/around the drain field (i found this out after I got the house by talking to the neighbor). It's a wonder the septic system is working at all.

    A year ago I had the septic tank pumped so I know that's good and clean. It is about a 1000-1250 gallon septic tank and I live alone (except for about 4mos last year when a friend lived here too) so I know the tank is in good condition. I was concerned about this about this time last year as well. The saturated areas are very squishy, and squish up tan mud. But again, it's not the odor of sewage. it does have a slight smell to it... but there is a large cow pasture behind my house with a relatively small number of cows and a few donkeys. It could be that some of it is just runoff from that since it's within 20ft of the barbed wire fence where the cows walk up to.

    There was a fairly deep hole out in that corner which I have slowly filled in with dirt after removing the busted up pieces of cement the guy tried to bury. This is about 10ft from the current water saturated areas, however. When I had a plumber here to install a new washing drain (that's a whole other story about why I needed one) I showed him the hole that was still there at that time that looked to me like it had water/sewage in it and smelled of manure. He said it was not sewage from my septic system because it wouldn't smell like manure and he suspected it was just a water puddle from the recent rain and runoff from the cow pasture right near by.

    So I am hoping that maybe it's just a seasonal problem with purified water since it seems to have no sewer odor of any kind and is only a few very small areas where the ground is low.

    So does anyone think some top soil brought in by hand to build it up to help with the drainage a good idea or no?

    I may have to dig up the yard drainage I put in around my garage and south end of the house to send the water out to the back yard (to stop flooding of the house and garage in very sudden heavy rain/flash floods) and redo it out to ditch by the highway (if they'll grant permission) because now I am sending probably hundreds of gallons of rain water out to the back yard during heavy rains and yes, it floods the back yard. Although the suspected drain field area is built up higher so the water puddling MOSTLY isn't directly over the drain field. But it still absorbs into the ground very close to the drain field. That may be part of the problem too.

    Check out the diagram from the health dept with my notes (in red) pointing out how things really are:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...iop/septic.jpg

    There's actually a lot more to it that isn't accurate about the diagram but it's not related to the septic system so I didn't bother fixing everything.

    If the drain field is where the diagram show it roughly (it cant be EXACTLY there, a thick 16x16 ft slab is there and has been since the early to mid 70s) then the new well is about 25-75ft from the field line. I was told there is an old septic tank within 25 ft of the new well which I suspect is true since the sewer hookup at the RV carport (which I don't use of course!) is heading straight in that direction. The rough area of where they show the drain field in the diagram could be the OLD drain field for the OLD septic tank which would be about in the right place and distance for use with the the old septic tank, fed by gravity only. I suspect they drew the old drain field in the diagram and then put it somewhere else and the health dept just didn't dig deep enough to find the right document showing the change in plans. Or maybe another drain field was added after they used the old one for a while and it didn't work well with the new system.

    There's so many unknowns about this house.

  2. #2
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    Bringing in more soil really isn't going to do anything but raise the grade. The subsoil is still going to be saturated, which I would expect to be quite normal in a lot of places this time of the year.

  3. #3
    DIY Member Cubey's Avatar
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    Well, it was a thought as a way to help keep rainwater from pooling around the area. I did put some dirt over the exposed watery areas. At least I have a 6' privacy fence so the neighbor's can't see it when it happens. Like I said though, there's no odor to it so it can't be untreated. And the way my septic system is constructed, it doesn't drain directly from the tank anyway. Having a pump in the system forces the water into the ground to some extent even so it has no where to go but up at this time of the year I guess. Especially after all the unusual snow we had in January. I suspect the water table is very high this time of the year which is probably what is causing it.

    Still, it worries me when I see it, fearing septic system failure. But I suspect it's most likely a high water table/saturation issue instead.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    One physical feature of water is that it drains "DOWN", and only flows UP when it is under pressure. Therefore, unless those wet places are well below the level of the water in the septic tank, the water should NOT be coming to the surface. If it is a high ground water table, then it will enter the septic system and flood the tank, (and possibly the piping into the house).

  5. #5
    DIY Member Cubey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    One physical feature of water is that it drains "DOWN", and only flows UP when it is under pressure. Therefore, unless those wet places are well below the level of the water in the septic tank, the water should NOT be coming to the surface. If it is a high ground water table, then it will enter the septic system and flood the tank, (and possibly the piping into the house).
    The water IS under pressure as I pointed out in my original post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cubey
    The sewage exits the house, goes into the septic tank, the untreated water exits the septic tank and goes into a sump pit and is pumped uphill a good 100ft or so to a "rock filter bed" as the seller called it, then it gravity drains 100ft or more back down to the drain field.
    The most it can do is very slowly drain down into the sump where it would get pumped right back out again once the water level got high enough to turn on the pump. With normal usage throughout the day everyday, water keeps getting forced out to the drain field and eventually up out of the ground if the ground isn't absorbing water fast enough. The only way it can backup all the way to the house is if the pump quits working. So the septic tank is safe and so is the house so long as that pump is functioning.

    I may have gotten it slightly wrong when I said it "gravity drains" from the rock bed filter to the drain field. I suspect the pump is forcing the water through the filter bed to some extent. I'm sure some remaining water in the pipe that only made it 3/4 of the way to the filter bed drains back down to the sump when the pump turns off but the pump doesn't turn on again until the water level rises a considerable amount again. Unfortunately, there is no clean out and I don't know where the d-box is to check.

    But in any case yes... my septic system forces the water away from the septic tank so it's very much possible it's forcing the water up through the surface in a few small areas where the ground is lower near (over?) the drain field area.

    In which case the water isn't 100% treated, but thanks to the filter bed, it's probably filtered well enough not to have any odor since there is no sewage odor and it doesn't have a 'sewage' look do it. The ground/bit of grass isn't black anywhere around it like it would be for untreated septic water. I need to try to plant some more grass out there because there is very little right now. Poor soil + bright sunshine in summer (100+ heat) = grass won't grow naturally unless you baby it for a while first. LOL
    Last edited by Cubey; 03-13-2011 at 05:58 PM.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member Steve Langler 101's Avatar
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    Hi Cubey,

    I definitely can definitely relate. However, I found the cause, the root of the problem and the cheapest solution. Your drainfield has definitely failed or is failing due to soil saturation blocking your waterflow. Your lines are also mucked up with biomat. :

    Unfortunately I have alot of experience with this type of situation. If you read what I wrote on another blog you can see the solution is definitely not terralifting and the problem is caused by years of sewage buildup from the lack of digestion. You have grease in your diet. Big clue. See my story below:

    Best Septic Product to use by Far! Best tip you will get regarding this believe me.
    Read my story below that i posted on anothe blog I believe it answers your questions:
    I used to think like you that all septic tank additves were the way you described but recently I had experienced a totally different thing happened to me. I live in a house that is 43 years old in Connecticut. I have 3 kids and a wife. I had alot of friends over the years come by and visit my house. I have lived there for the past 15 years. Before me there was a family of about 5 as well. For 15 years I relied on pumpouts and used yeast or Rid x (along with other product ) which is basically the same thing except Rid x is bad because they add fillers. Anyhow, one day I noticed odors and backup inside my house so I pumped the tank like I had done for many years once every 3 years, The pumper and local officials told me never to add anything into the tank. When the pumper came this time he pumped the tank but run off came back into my tank from my field. So I ignored it even thought the pumper told me that my drainfiled was saturated, clogged and ruined. I asked him why and he didnt know. I did some research and called a co. which looked more reputable then the other co's which I saw online www.biosafeone.com a field tech there advised me that I needed to shock my system with their patented products that no other products would work. I was very skeptical and decided to wait. 2 weeks later the problems got worse there was a flood on top of my drainfield and black biomat shot up out of the ground as the biosafeone tech said would happen. I was very afraid of getting code enforced by the local health dept. which they would have mandated a new drainfield with a contractor which would have cost me $35,000, I did get three quotes from contractors they each tried to low ball me but I knew better they told me $8K for a new field but my neighbor Jim told me that was baloney that a new septic system would be about $35K. Contractors always quote low and charge high! I tried to first save some money with some cheaper septic products but nothing worked. Then I called back biosafeone is a desapate attempt to fix my septic system. Biosafeone was not cheap but turned out to be worth every penny!

    I called back BioSafeOne to order biosafeone products after all of biosafeone's references that were given to me came back very positive but I was still skeptical because nothing else had worked at this point.Yet all the references spoke highly of the biosafeone products. So I deceided to shock my system using 11 pails of their BIO-112 Heavy Sludge Digester along with their 3 Yr. BOSS product and 1 Biocube . Within 2 weeks all the flood had dried up within 3 days all backups and odors were gone. I was totally amazed in shock!! I could not believe how well the products reversed 43 years of sewage buildup! Just goes to show you the big lie is dont add anything to your septic and everything will be fine just pump it. I found out later that my pumper was directly related to the replacement guy. He was mad that I didnt hire him too. How ironic. My conclusion is that it is one VERY BIG LIE and MISCONSCEPTION TO NOT ADD ANYTHING TO YOUR SEPTIC TANK TO MAINTAIN. Another big lie iis to just rely on pumpouts nothing could be further from the truth. The local government, pumpers and replacement people all profit when the system fails so they tell you this to expect your system to fail in time. The Biosafeone tech explained to me that when their BOSS product is used from day one total and complete digestion occurs of all incoming waste therefore nothing accumulates in the tank or field or pipes so obviously there is nothing to pump out and even better no big replacement bill. I totally refute all other comments on this page if you havent tried these biosafeone.com products then you really have missed something! Thank you so much Biosafeone for saving me a fortune ! You guys are great!

  7. #7
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Would the mod please make this guy go away forever.

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