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Old 07-05-2010, 10:26 AM   #1
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30 Year Old Plumbing System - Gravel Pit / No Permit or More Expensive Complete?


We moved into our house about 6 years ago. The house was vacant for about a year before moving in so I think we inherited a septic system problem.

We have had our tank pumped when we first moved in and then again a few years ago.

We have a pipe in our yard that has always had a constant flow of clear smelly water. Lately this has turned into a muddy area. There are two spots in our yard now that have a large mud area that's about 5' by 5'. One is by the pipe and the other spot is about 10 feet over from it.

I had a guy come out and take a look. He said he would come in and dig about 2-3 feet down and put gravel in and then cover the gravel. He said he would break off the leach lines and the water would then flow into the gravel area. His fee is about $1815. I am still waiting for another guy to come in who does complete septic systems. I don't know his price yet but I could imagine it would be greater than $6000 if not much more. The guy that offered to bury some gravel said he wanted to avoid getting the health department involved and that would raise the price significantly.

Since my system is 30 years old I am sure it probably needs to be replaced. The guy that can dig and bury gravel says it would probably fix the problem and doesn't want to touch the rest of the system which he thinks still may be working and doing it's job. I believe this guy does mostly demolition type of work but on his card it does say "septic systems / fields".

What would you do in this situation?

ps we don't notice any problems inside. my main concern is getting the system healthy again and preventing the leaks. We plan to live there at least another 3-5 years if not longer. The system appears to be working fine from inside the house (flushing, draining, etc.).



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Old 07-05-2010, 10:31 AM   #2
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Call the health department.

This HAS to be fix to code.

Your health and your neighbor's health depends on it.

Do not do any business with someone ducking the health department!!!


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Old 07-05-2010, 11:02 AM   #3
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There are two parts to the septic system, the tank and the leach field. One having a problem doe snot mean the other has a problem.

The tank needs to be inspected to be sure that the baffles or T-pipes at the inlet and outlet are intact.

The gravel pit fix is illegal in most areas. What it accomplishes is replace the leach field with a dry well. The leach field fails (becomes less absorbent) due to grease coming down from the tank because of a bad baffle or too seldom pumping, also by tree roots, and/or by a species of bacteria that specifically does that to leach fields. When the leach field fails, the outflow from the tank comes to the surface and may remain there for a long time. The inspector would have to check for this and if needed the grease/bacteria laden soil taken away and new soil/pipes put down. The soil around a dry well used in a septic system will eventually also fail in the same manner.

Pumping a septic tank a second time in quick succession accomplishes nothing. The liquid level is supposed to be about a foot below the top all the time.
The good conscientious technician or serviceperson will carry extra oils and lubricants in case the new pump did not come with oil or the oil was accidentally spilled, so the service call can be completed without an extra visit.

Last edited by AllanJ; 07-05-2010 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 07-05-2010, 03:26 PM   #4
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Sounds as though the drainfield is overly saturated/compacted. The easiest solution (if available in your area) would be a Terra Lift. It's a walk behind machine with wheels that's driven onto the drainfield, a probe is sent into the ground with hydrolics, pressure is built up, then blasts air and polystyrene beads into the soil to rejuvenate and aerate the soil allowing it to start taking effluent again. On their website you can search for a local provider. Hopefully you'll have one nearby. Pricing can range, but typically around $1,500 and will buy you several years (probably 95% success rate). Much cheaper than a new drainfield. As someone else suggested, I wouldn't allow anyone to do anything while dodging the health dept.
Brad Penske, Operations Manager - Coeur d'Alene, ID
CONCEPTS, LLC - Sewer & Septic Line - Video Inspection, Locating, Consulting
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