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jra2127 05-26-2009 08:19 AM

leaking drainage field
I know that it is hard to diagnosis problems through the internet, but our knowledge of our septic is slim and we need a bit of knowledge for a leg up.

Our drainage field is leaking in to the yard where it exits the tank. We know that there are a few problems:

1. We know the tank needs to be pumped and are having that done today. Last done 4 years ago when we bought the house. We did get a lecture about not pumping our tank enough. We do think that a little ridiculous to say that this is the whole problem since both sets of our parents have lived in lived in their homes forever and they have had their tanks pumped a combined total of 1 time and have never had problems.

2. We know that our septic system isn't deep. The tank is maybe 6" deep and the spot were it is leaking is maybe 1' deep. This is thanks to the genius that owned the house previously who thought he would try to level off the massive hillside our house is on. He told us that he had to stop because he hit the septic.

3. We removed a tree a couple years back right where it is know leaking. Since then we have always had greener, lusher grass then the rest of our yard.

We are not stupid about what we put down our drains. we had been putting septic treatment in for the last 3 years, now we know that this may have not been the best thing.

We were told (after they asked what we did for a living, in which my husband said he was an engineer) that we would need a whole new drainage field. Obviously, we would like to not do that. We were also told that it needs to be in a completely new spot, which is difficult to do because of the wooded hill side we live on.

Any suggestions? Yes we are getting a second, third, fourth opinion from others not concerned about how much money we make.

Speedbump 05-26-2009 09:12 AM

I'm not Septic expert, but have had many over the years and I agree with you. Pumping every four years is a little bit excessive. The house I live in now and have for the past eight years has been pumped twice. I discovered that toilet paper was piling up around the inlet pipe in the tank. This would actually stop flow into the tank after a couple years. We removed the fitting at the end of the pipe which was a tee and problem solved. I also learned that certain types of paper are not so bio degradable as the tank might like and switched brands.

Now for your problem. It sounds like the pipe leaving the tank is either broken, plugged or simply not letting water get to the drain field. Or the worse thing could be that the drain field is plugged as well. If there were no elbow on the outlet pipe pointing down, this could be the problem.

I would dig around the leak area and see what condition these pipes are in. Years ago, they used clay tiles about a foot long end to end. If one of them tipped somehow, that could stop the flow.

jra2127 05-26-2009 09:38 AM

Yeah, I am not saying that pumping often is not the correct thing to do, but to ruin our whole drainage field because we didn't pump in 4 years...We are hoping that it is a broken pipe. People have driven on it, not often but it is kind of a necessity when moving large items in or out of the house and you can't expect all of you visitors to know where you septic is. So we are hoping since it isn't very deep that this is the source of the problem and not the field

Speedbump 05-26-2009 10:51 AM


but to ruin our whole drainage field because we didn't pump in 4 years...
If the system was installed properly, there is no danger to the drain field by not pumping the tank.

jra2127 05-26-2009 12:13 PM

We just had the tank pumped. The guy told me again that we need a whole new field because we don't pump often enough. Then I got another lecture about pumping and how when people like us think we need to move out in the country we need to know that the septic tank needs to be pumped at least once a year. Gosh, I am stupid, here I thought it was a septic tank not a port-a-potty. I guess that when I have a "professional" look at it, expect to hear the reason why we need a new field not just that we needed to pump more often. I want to hear the reasoning behind why our 30 year old septic system has failed.

Blue Jay 05-26-2009 03:40 PM

The only reason's the tank should need pumped every year:
1. to keep the guy pumping it in cash
2. flushing something that destroys the bacteria (ie bleach)

If you don't have a baffle or a T at the outlet yes you could have something that has floated into the field and caused a plug. I would guess that since you talked about removing a tree close to the area where the water comes to the surface that the tile is full of roots, I would dig up the tile and take a look, may be time for roto-router.

majakdragon 05-27-2009 08:23 AM

I agree that the old tree is probably the problem. Roots from it could still be in the pipe, or it may have broken the piping. Find another pumping company since it is evident this one only wants money. I am originally a "city boy" and when I moved into my first home with a septic system, I read all I could and educated the family about what not to put down the drains. 5 of us lived in the last house for 11 years with no pumping, no additives and no problems.

inspectorD 05-27-2009 05:43 PM

The option you have is to go to your area health dept and get as much info as you can. This way you are not looking for advice from a guy that want's to sell you something.
It sounds to me like your baffle in the tank has decayed and let solids into the field. I have seen tanks freeze, pop out of the ground and collapse.They are made of concrete, stone and steel, and they all have issues sooner or later.
This will happen on a system of your age and not being pumped for 4 years.
The rule of thumb is have it checked every 2 years, regardless of how many folks are using it. For the 300 bucks it is worth every penny. The reasoning is "stuff happens" underground and you need to check on it. This is an expensive part of a home and sometimes gets really expensive when you need to engineer a new one because there is insufficient room for a new on. Plus the fact that after 30 years the rules have changed.
I hope you find a reputable company in your area, ask around and ask lots of questions., and good luck.

Redwood 05-30-2009 05:54 PM

Okay we have a lot of misconceptions here...
The frequency at which you need to have the tank cleaned is determined by the number of people in the house using the system and the size of the tank. See the link below for some excellent information.

Septic Tank Pumping Frequency Guidelines

I would recommend reading other subjects there as well...

Septic Tank Treatments

The Causes of Septic System Drainfield Failure

Thats good for starters... Read more there as well...

The skinny is when the pumper comes he will check your systems and offer steps to take care of your problem. There is probably little you can do unless your husband is a licensed civil engineer. Anything you do will habe to have plans submitted by a licensed civil engineer.

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