Friday, March 28, 2014

The Septic System





Whelp it looks like the rainy time has started finally. Had a large tornado cell zip over our heads yesterday evening and my gauge tells me we got somewhere between half an inch and an inch of rain. At one point even a bit of nickle sized hail to go with all that wind as well.

My drain pipe set up at the barn directed most of the runoff away from the trouble area but it still leaked around the connector. I stood down there in the rain and watched it a while and determined that it's because the light plastic is warped a bit out of round and it fits up into the connector rather than the reducer going into the pipe. This allows the water to run over and around the edges a bit. I have some idea on how to fix that issue but I will need another support hanger and I am not running into town just for that today. Maybe this weekend if I run in with the Mrs. I will get one.

Today was semi-annual septic tank clean out day. Oh joy. Not on the top of my favorite list to say the least.

By and large I can't complain, having a septic tank saves me money overall I imagine since I don't have a sewer bill but when the tank fills up the financial scales go almost back to even in one lump sum. I always know it's getting to be that time again when the pipes gurgle a bit so I start watching my clean outs for signs of water seepage. If it starts to happen when it's warmer it's easy to deal with but this year I first noticed it in January when everything was froze up. It finally warmed up enough for me to dig down to the cap but then when I called I got put on a waiting list and it has taken the guys almost three weeks to get here.

So this morning I was up at dawn getting everything cleared away and exposed for the pumper truck guy. YA that'll wake ya up in the morning let me tell ya.

Most of these guys never listen to a thing you tell em and I imagine for good reason as I am sure the home owners think they know and give worse directions than the pumper guys would do winging it. I just by pass all the questions and guessing and have the tank exposed for them as soon as they arrive so there aren't any issues or hidden charges. I have done this enough times over the years that I know right where the cap is and I just dig it out so all I have to do is flip it open for them.

It actually takes the guy more time to get the truck backed up as close as he can get without sinking into the yard than anything else and as usual he was completely surprised I had it ready to go. Within a few minutes we were all done and I was handing the guy three bills.

That's the part that hurts....

The question I usually end up asking myself though is just how I would handle this is a grid down situation. I am pretty good about keeping the entire system running and I know most of our problem comes down to the shower and laundry water going into the tank although the drain field does get most of that out of the picture. In a grid down situation we would be doing laundry by hand more than likely and not running the detergent into the tank which kills the bacteria that reduces the waste and therefore makes it fill up faster.

Even if there was nothing going into the system besides solid waste it's still going to eventually fill up. Of course how long that would take is something I can only guess at but if I figure it would double the time I am still looking at a fill up every 4 to 6 years or so.

Now how one would handle that situation is something I have rarely ever seen anyone tackle either in fiction or on a blog etc. I have to give ol Rawles some credit here as he actually mentioned such a problem in his first book although the work around was less than ideal in my opinion.

When you get right down to it I imagine the only thing that could be done would be to just open up the tank and start scooping as nasty as that sounds then hauling it away to a safe location/distance and letting it cool off. A lagoon might be more sustainable but I dislike them myself.

Definitely something to think about. I am not partial to digging my own outhouse as a back up either as to be honest with the clay we have around here cleaning out the septic tank by hand might just be easier and less painful than digging a suitable pit overall.

My bet is that in a grid down situation though there are going to end up being an awful lot of mini-lagoons appearing in back yards all over the countryside. As bad as that sounds however I bet the cities will be much worse.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


52 comments:

  1. would the red stuff you flush down the toilet not help here?

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    1. Matt - I am assuming you mean the bacteria adding stuff, I know it is sometimes a red/brick color but I have seen it in other colors too and yes it does help. It breaks the solids down faster but the problem is laundry detergent kills that bacteria. Used to be the laundry water lines did not go to the septic system and instead were just shot out somewhere but EPA and county regulations won't let you do that anymore so now the grey water goes into the septic tanks and make em fill up faster.

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  2. Is there any kind of organic compound that you could dump in the tank?? Could you install a bypass valve so gray water doesn't enter the tank in grid down ??

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    1. Rob - Nope. Gray water is no longer allowed to be dumped either. I suppose I could put in an entirely separate tank for it though. I am thinking about it for the new house when we get started on it.

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  3. When I lived in Fl, my washer water was routed to a drain line in the yard. I also had a trash pump & a long hose & pumped the tank into the orange grove. Very little smell & it all dried out in a day. Free fertilizer.

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    1. MV - Yes that used to be the way all these places were done but these days the county health people will come down on you like a swarm of vultures if you run gray water straight out. They now say it must go into the septic system or you have to build a separate system for the gray water.

      Pumping it out myself is an option but I am not sure if I would have enough battery power ina grid down situation.

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  4. Ok, I may be jinxing myself here, but we've been in this house for eight years, and the previous owners were here for at least three (they built it), but we've never septic problems nor had to have the tank pumped. Makes me wonder why.

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    1. Carolyn - We never had problems with this one or I should say my Mom didn't when she lived here before we bought the place until we had the plumbing re-done and the county regulations made us run all pipes into the septic system. After that it became a standard every three or four year pumping issue.

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  5. Keeping a sourdough culture helps. Not only does it make bread, but part of keeping a sourdough is throwing some away on a semi-regular basis. Washing it down the sink adds to the bacterial community, and helps break down solids. I don't know much about your system, of course, but it sounds like you're filling up with liquids, not solids. I would check the drain field for stuck pipes. It may not be a bad idea to extend the drain field, or at least make sure it isn't blocked. The septic tank at the farm I grew up on only fills up about every ten years. The drain field dynamic is different there, of course, because its on a gravel and bedrock bench, rather than a clay shelf.

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    1. Wolfman - The drain field could stand to be redone but I will be damned if I am going to do it because once I do I will have to upgrade the entire system. As I said we never had an issue with filling up until the county health people made use run all the pipes into the septic system. After that the laundry detergent pretty much killed all the bacteria and kept it from doing it's job. We have a different system in mind for our new house if we ever get it going. Once that happens this old house won't even be lived in so I don't want to pump money into it. The law states though that is I work on any part of it I have to redo the entire thing.... SO not happening right now.

      What will happen is that once Summer hits allt he water will be gone. It's only Winter and early Spring that it builds up.

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    2. Of course, when you go to work on it you are required to 'Upgrade' a system with exactly zero moving parts which has worked for hundreds of years to the new 'Improved' system which requires serviceable electric pumps, switches, float sensors, abd a completely redesigned tank system. Its pretty f-ing stupid.

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    3. Wolfman - What they want you to do here now if you touch the drain field is to put in a lagoon after the tank. They are attempting to make everyone do away with drain fields.

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  6. I actually asked my septic guy (also a prepper) about this last time he was out to pump our tank. His answer was 'have five gallon buckets and rope handy'...

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    1. RK - Ya that's what I kinda thought... The first thing I will do in a grid down situation is take all my pipes but the actual sewage ones and run them back into the original gray water pipe we used to use. I's still there just not being used.

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  7. I've never pumped my septic tank in all the years I've lived here. I think there are some reasons for that. One, the tank was designed , and the drain field was designed, to handle twice the number of people who actually live here. Next, I never put bleach or mouth wash into the septic system.
    I put additives into it once a year to keep the bacteria strong.

    Probably the main reason though is that no more than four people ever lived here, and now just two do.

    On the other hand, a man I know built his little house with a small tank designed just for him and his wife. His drain field was tiny. When his daughter , her boyfriend, and her son came to live with them after the 2007 crunch, the tank backed up and flooded the basement. He had to have a new tank and drain field put in.

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    1. Harry - I am sure you are right. I would also bet you have a separate outflow for your washing machine as well. Honestly that is a big culprit for us. When it was just my son and I out here the thing never filled up even with the laundry water going into it.

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    2. I will also add that the county won't let you build the type you want per person either. Now you have to build one that fits their figures per the size of the house and barn/out buildings count as a house too. The one we are going to need for our new house is absolutely huge and it will be just my wife and I.

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    3. What the hell? They have to come give you approval before you put in the tank? Maybe they do that here now, I don't know. But in 1986, the guy came out and did a five minute perk test, gave you a piece of paper, told you not to put your drain line in within 400 feet of your water source or a property line, and the rest was up to you. Don't they understand "one size fits all" rules don't get it when a man is building his house?

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    4. Harry - Yep we have to have a perk test and then they figure the size of the tank/field/lagoon by the square feet of space that is roofed over on the property. The house my wife wants means we need a system designed for 12 people.

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  8. They say to have the tank pumped here about every 5 years so that solids don't get into the drain lines and ruin them. In grid down, I will reroute the line back into the old line that flows into the creek but is now just for rain water off the roof. Not the best solution but what do you do other than use a shovel. Besides the S will hit the fan for the government and they won't be interested in my S by then.

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    1. Sf - Ya pretty much what I was saying I would do in a grid down situation the non-sewer is going out into the field and not into my tank. I would prolly dig out my drain field by hand then too because I could actually fix it without interference then.

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  9. Yep, five gallon bucket. Then spread the contents on your garden. In China they call it, Night Earth. Ummmm good.

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    1. Stephen - The one issue I see with that is I will need to make the hole larger on the top of the tank. No way I am getting a five gallon bucket in there as it is. But yep that's what I would need to do....

      Not looking forward to it either lol

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  10. Senior had to dig an entirely new septic tank field at our old house... horrible!
    I remember time after time, my dad getting out in the back yard and having to dig out the tank for one reason or the other...mainly because we could not afford a plumber. Then there was the time my ex sister in law thought it would be okay to flush a tampon--we won't go in to my Dads reaction over that one! lol

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    1. JuGM - I know and the old tanks like your dad prolly messed with and one like mine are not nearly as big as they are today. I snake my outlet pipe at least every six months and put all my bacteria in it. It just eventually fills up, especially in the rainy season.

      LOL I imagine the feminine hygiene item flushing was a big hit :)

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  11. We moved to a home with a septic system about a year and a half ago. I was really nervous as I had no experience with these systems. Here's what I do: I compost all vegetable waste, nothing down the disposal; wipe out all pans after frying anything so no grease goes into the septic; use Rid-X once a month (it comes in little tiny packs, you flush one down the toilet at night or when you do not expect to be using the system for a while; and use an "environmentally friendly" laundry detergent. Here's a great link to what is safe to use in septic systems:

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080707214605AAhihzi

    There are four of us in the family. If you are sure that the laundry detergent is your problem, shop around and find something else to use! - Pamela

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  12. I forgot to add that I only use non-toxic cleaners in my bathroom. Plain vinegar and water works well for cleaning toilets, sinks, tubs and mirrors. It dissolves calcium deposits and helps prevent mold and mildew. I do not use any bleach in the bathroom or laundry. Also we try to take short showers. The only dishwasher detergent I use is a liquid. I've also heard that vinegar can be used instead of a commercial rinse aid or laundry softener, but I have not tried it personally. - Pamela

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    1. Pamela - Ya I dump the rid-x type stuff in and keep it opened up. It's pretty much a combination of things although I do think the laundry is the main culprit. We also compost all veggy matter so none of that stuff is getting dumped in there not to mention the wife is rabid about her sink drain traps.

      It's not a huge big deal really about once every three to four years I have to have the things pumped. With luck this will be the last time as we are suppose to start building our new house this year...

      Of course I been saying that for two years now :)

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  13. i cut out the gray water from the septic. my grandad did this and he never once had his tank pumped, even when 10 kids lived in the house. i never heard of pumping a tank until the 90's. too much detergent n bleach going in.

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    1. RR - That's the way we always did it before and the way I wish I could do it now. Problem is putting the washer into the septic tank was NOT my idea it is a county regulation they made back in 2004 and they come and inspect for it now.

      Believe me I know and wish I could redirect the washer back out the way it was for decades before.

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  14. A pump out every 4 to 5 years is as good as it gets. The guy telling you he never has to do that is going to get the same wake up call as the guy who claims he never changes the oil because it isn't needed; prolly at about the same cost.

    If you are going to persist in running the washer into the tank, put a filter on the discharge and clean it regularly. Would also probably be a good ideal to use the cold setting whenever possible. Heat turns your clothes to lint and lint doesn't sink. Prolly also be a good ideal to use dryer sheets instead of liquid fabric softer.

    Personally I would just run another line and put a rose bush over where it comes out the ground.

    Best,
    Dan

    P.s. Don't go overboard on the DWV system on the new system. If it is at the proper pitch the grey water from your sink, tub, etc scours the line and passes right through to the leach field anyway.

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    1. Dan - Believe me I wish I could just run the washer water out like it always was before. The county started new regulations in 2004 and these days they are making new construction put in a tank, drain field and a lagoon and all pipes must go into the tank. Thats when we had our issues start as we had a new line put in when we moved the washer upstairs and the plumber said he was required to put it into the main sewer pipe and showed us the regulation. I went and checked and sure enough it was there and after I checked within a few weeks the inspector was out poking around the place too.

      With our property and out buildings they are going to require we have a septic/lagoon system that is rated by their figures for 12 people and it will just be the wife and I living here.

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  15. The purpose of the rose bush is to hide the discharge line. However, with that large a system you may get away with not pumping it for decades. In the meantime a lint trap over the discharge would probably help. However then you will need to clean the filter regularly.

    Best,
    Dan

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    1. Dan - A lint trap is a good idea. In fact I have been thinking about a few things now better left un-typed if you get my meaning :)

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  16. I see you got more comments about your poop than almost anything else you posted, makes one wonder doesn't it? :) When I was a kid, our septic tank had a short run of field line then it dumped into a wide, shallow ditch which was actually a lagoon. We never had the tank pumped in the 15 years we lived there. By the way, we used to take rakes and rake out the ditch, you wouldn't believe the types of creatures we raked out of that ditch!

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    1. Swamp Dog is right. Seems a strange topic to generate so much interest. But then, maybe most of the people who come here have septic tanks, and if you got one you worry about it. Maybe I will do a post about hemorrhoids and see if I can hit 50 comments! Or, maybe not.

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    2. SD - I was cleaning out the end drain of my field a couple years ago and kept pulling turtles out of it so ya the things you find.

      Harry - Well I think this is a topic that is on pretty much every rural dwellers mind. We know the stuff doesn't just magically disappear and will need to be taken care of some how. Everyone has some idea how to handle it or how they are already handling it.

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  17. how much effort would the separate gray water system cost - it would really cut down on the abuse on the septic...

    we run our graywater into a seperate drain filed - septic is a hunk of junk made from two huge old metal tanks - hasn't failed us yet - only kymber and me though.

    as people have mentioned in a grid-down shtf - run it right out into the yard,

    for now you could dig a drain pit somewhere hidden (with roses like dan says) and then put a hidden diverter in an awkward place... when the inspectors come, they will think it all goes to the septic - do they come unannounced? how hard do they inspect??

    suck buddy - you know what the problem is - it is government!!!

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    1. oh, if shtf - we can all go back to outhouses anyway - save on power for pumps ;-)

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  18. Grid down, I think I would consider a grey water system. Too much potential work to get the water in the first place to just flush it away without a second use.

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  19. Sanitation is my big concern and I'm in a city with no septic tank and dependent on the local sewer system. I have a couple of solutions for myself but I fear what my neighbor will do or not do when it comes to sanitation!

    My parents have a septic tank and I have one of those back up black water tanks for an RV, but their septic tank will fill quickly if all us kids start dumping our waste into their tank.
    While a five gallon bucket is a great back up for a toilet for the short term. What will people do when the bucket is full and there is no sewer or trash pick up if the grid goes down for weeks or months at a time?



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  20. In order to increase the life span of your septic tanks it is recommended to use your local services and make use of their skilled technicians.


    Septic Tank Pumping

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  21. Is my septic tank far enough in the ground that I don't have to worry about the weather affecting the Earth around the tank? I am always mindful of my septic system because of all the horror stories I've heard. The last thing I want is to have to have my whole yard dug up entirely.

    http://www.southernsanitarysystems.com/Septic_Systems_of_Sarasota_FL.html

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  22. My husband and I just bought a new cabin! It is in really great shape, except for the septic tank. It needs to be replaced, and that will be the first thing that gets done. I know how important it is to have a nice septic tank, so I will be sure to find the best one I can.

    http://www.swenvironmental.com

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  23. There's been a foul odor on my property over the past couple of days. I've found out that the smell is caused by my backed up septic system. It really stinks inside my house. The smell is so much worse when you step outside. I can't imagine how Andy in Shawshank Redemption could stand crawling through several football fields of a sewer line. I can barely stand the smell of my own house right now. I hope that I can find someone to pump my septic system by tomorrow.
    http://www.sani-can.biz/septic-systems

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  24. I cannot say how important it is to do that septic tank clean out. You can get some really bad smells and really bad clogs if you don't get those cleaned up every few years. I I think a lot of people have caught on to how important it is to clean the septic tanks. You don't hear very often people having tank problems as much as before. http://www.southernsanitarysystems.com

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  25. I had a neighbor a couple of years ago whose septic tank backed up and it waxes a huge mess. It was because he did not do any service or cleaning of his septic tank. So it is super important to have it checked up on so that this doesn't happen to you, because it is a huge mess to clean up. http://www.freeflowusa.com/septic/

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  26. Thanks for the information about septic tanks and how to take care of them. I never even realized that septic tanks need maintenance so I am glad that I came across this article and the great tips in it. I will have to remember the information in this article so that I can take the right care for my septic tank and keep it working well. Do you have any other tips or advice on how to make sure that a septic tank is working right and having no problems? http://falcann.com/septic_cleaning.html

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  27. Its interesting to think that the septic tank is actually saving you money. You mentioned that it seems to almost go back up when you have to get the tank cleaned. Have you ever calculated how much you are actually saving by having a septic tank? http://www.ri-septic.com/services.html

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  28. If you are that worried about your septic system, then you are definitely going to want to get some septic services. That way you can get these things taken care of as soon as possible. You do not want to leave your septic system not taken care of and need to get it checked up.
    http://www.capitalsepticservices.ca

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