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nopilot 01-15-2009 08:47 AM

Septic tank options
If this is the wrong forum just direct me to the correct one. I would like to get some info on one's options concerning my system. This will sound like a lie but I moved into this home, which I had built, in September 1973. As of now I haven't had the septic tank pumped out. I just never gave it a thought till a couple years ago and a friend said that it's supposed to be pumped every seven years or so. I kept meaning to do it, it will be a real hassle, but just kept putting it off. Now I notice the ground just below where the tank is, is wetter than the surrounding ground. If I dig this thing up and it's all plugged up, what are my options?

Code in '73 said the tank could be no farther than 8' from the house. I had an addition added in about '81. And the back wall had to be cantelevered to miss the tank. After that a deck was built and board walk. The walk would have to be removed to even get at the tank which is very close to the back wall. (I had it dug up when the wall was built so we could see where the tank was located.) I remember thinking at the time that the casement windows would have to be closed in order to dig up the opening on the tank. It's that close!

majakdragon 01-15-2009 09:36 AM

Sounds like you have a real problem and only one answer. You need to get access to have the tank pumped. Most times, the leech field is where the worst problems happen, not the tank itself, unless you have put too many solids in it.

woodchuck 01-15-2009 10:21 AM

I waited 30 years to have mine pumped out also. I already knew my leach field was shot. I just decided to work on it some to get the sewage away from where it was. We could smell it if the wind was right. The two chambers in the tank are supposed to be one solid waste and the second one liquid (after the bacteria in the first chamber has worked on it.) After 30 years that's not the case. Solid was even in the fill line as everything was going straight through. After it was pumped out I just hooked on to the end of the existing fill line and extended it. I have unlimited space to extend it till it no longer comes to the surface.

I've heard of chemicals that can restore failed fill lines and also changing it to an aerobic system is supposed to make it function again. I haven't tried either. It's cheaper to extend it for me.

AU_Prospector 01-15-2009 11:39 AM

You really need access to the tank. It could be a very simple fix or a costly one. Point is you are in danger of backing up into the lower levels of your home which will be a disaster, time is a factor. You could simply be clogged with solids and fluid is seeping through the top lid(s) which might be corrected with a $200 pump job.

Moved into a home last year (Georgia). The home was built in 2002. I asked for, but did not receive a septic pump from the seller. My RE agent looked at me like I had two heads on my shoulder saying pumping wasnt necessary and is never done around here unless there is a problem. Well where I came from it is mandatory to pump no longer than 6 months prior to sale of a home. I did mine every 5 years as normal maintenance.

Long story short, when the pump guy came over and we pryed the two lids off my tank I saw a hint of yellow coming from the exit pipe to the leach field. The contractor stated it must be the pre filter which it was you just couldnt see it through all the condoms, hypodermic needles and tampon applicators. (seller had two teenage girls one of which was diabetic) Problem was it was impacted with the latex and plastic and preventing fluid from leaving the tank. I was days away from an overflow and I had not a clue. Those things definetly NOT supposed to go down the toilet!

I will never buy another home again unless the seller has records indicating a regular septic pump, at the least one within the last few months.

BTW, on a side note from all that I know about buying/selling recently, your tank placement reletive to the structure of the home may not be to code and might come up on a home inspection if/when you ever decide to sell.

inspectorD 01-15-2009 05:22 PM

Well, the advice from everyone here is great stuff. I wish I could say septics are all the same and there are only a couple of answers. Truth is , they are really complicated.
Do you have a steel tank or concrete?
First, Pump the tank to see what condition the Tank is in. You have baffles which rot out on a concrete tank if you have a water softener(salt).If these are shot, and the solids got past the baffle, your lines downstream are probably plugged.
Some systems are no problem if the soil is sandy and can take lots of water, some are clay and terrible.
How many folks live in the house? This has a huge result on when it needs to be pumped. Every 2 years for a family of four is standard.
For future reference.
When I do septic inspections,(Thousands) I have a septic company come to pump the tank on the day of inspection. You use the water, flush toilets and run the showers and dishwasher. This gives me an adequate ratio of water in and water out, If I see water coming back from the field line, I know there are major problems.
Any good septic company will tell you what you are up against, just have it pumped and go from there.
Let us know what happens, It does not sound good to my ears. I wish I could tell you different, and I hope I am wrong.

nopilot 01-16-2009 09:04 AM

Thanks for the advice. My tank is concrete. I have four lines leaving the distribution box. I live in the country and have room to extend the lines but the phone company ran new wire and it is near the end of the existing drain field. To go the other way, the land drops off quite a bit which would require the lines to be very deep near the house. Plus it's all wooded back there. I quess the next thing to do is dig up the box and have it pumped. I know that at least two of the leach lines were working this past summer because the grass was green over them during the past summer's dry spell.
Can the old leach lines be dug up and new ones put in their place? Or, can the old ones be cleaned out? My home originally had one bath but I added another one in '81. I had two kids but it's just me and the wife now with occaisional guests. We've always been careful not to put the afformentioned items or the kind of stuff you might flush down in the city. There's no indication inside the home of any problem. Please give me a final look and I thank you all.

inspectorD 01-16-2009 11:31 AM

Anything can be done for a price. New gallies have been installed over old systems as long as the soil is good. But the bottom line is , you need an expert there to give you a written report as to what you actually have. Soil, size and nearby water or wetlands you may not think are there are all concerns.
Only someone from your area health department will be able to answer those questions.
First I would have it pumped, then explore your options. There may not even be an issue, Good luck.:)

nopilot 01-16-2009 12:44 PM

OK. I'll set that up. Thanks to all who responded.

wastetech 06-06-2009 01:36 AM

Septic Tank Emptying
Here in the UK and Ireland, we empty septic tanks annually. In France it is mandatory to empty them at least once every 4 years and the tanks are no smaller than those in the US.
In my job as a sewage consultant, I deal with blocked drainfields every day and nearly all of them are due to infrequent emptying of the septic tank. I have literally stood on the solid mass 2 inches below the surface, inside a septic tank which had not been emptied for over 20 years. We emptied it with a shovel and - yes - the drainfield was blocked with solids.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to septic tank emptying intervals as a lot depends on how many people use the system and lifestyle. It is amazing how much soil enters a septic tank, soil from washing dirty clothes, the dog, vegatables, etc. and nothing can digest it in the tank as soil is, after all, rock. A football playing family of five will have to get their tank emptied much more frequently than a couple whose hobby is photography. The rule is, as the solids build up in the tank, the depth for settlement of suspended solids becomes less and more solids exit the tank to block the drainfield. Annual emptying for the family detailed above is a very good idea, wheras the couple may go 3 to 4 years.

Waste Tech Environmental Ltd. Selby, UK

If in doubt, suck it out.

slownsteady 08-17-2009 09:18 PM

It is WAAAAY more expensive to replace the drain field than it is to pump your tank every three years.

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