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Old 06-15-2010, 01:49 AM   #1
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How do i fix/install septic tank drainage field?

My friend's backyard fills with water which rises from the ground and since this happens and stays wet almost all year round we think that the septic tank drainage field is screwed up somehow.

We have dug three holes, two where the water was, and the other closer to the distribution box, and it goes well until we get close to or hit the bed of rocks surrounding the pipe. At that point the water quickly floods the hole and we then have to pump and dig and root around in muck.

The problem is that she wants to install a new system of pipes and leave the old field the way it is, but, i'm not sure how to install a drainage field. How do I connect the field to the existing system? Is there any way to temporarily dry out the system while we connect the new pipes to the field, or do I have to work ankle deep in her waste run off? Is there a quicker and easier way to unclog a drainage field system? I am not sure if it's clogged with roots, or clay, or if it just became that way after years of neglect. Is there an alternative to installingn a whole new drainage field?


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Old 06-15-2010, 03:02 AM   #2
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V, Welcome to the Forum.

It is very commendable for you to help your friend but your question really requires professional advice where the site can be physically inspected by someone who is knowledgeable with your local regs and knows how they are implemented.


& Stay Safe
.....Bob Lavery
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Old 06-15-2010, 05:56 AM   #3
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What Bob said. Way too many variables for a DIY solution.
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:02 AM   #4
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You most definately need an "outdoor" plumbing lisence here for septic work. This is a health issue not only for your friend, but for neighbors, future homeowners, guest, etc... She needs to call a pro no matter what.
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:40 AM   #5
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She needs to start with a permit from the local Health Department with a final inspection of the finished prorfessional work before it can be covered back up. A Health Department Septic Technician should inspect the site and the soil, and design a repair system for a new drainfield separate from the old field.
Here, the Health Department designs new systems with a drainfield "repair area" already designated for each specific site based on the soil sample tests in any case.
Sorry, but this needs to be left to licensed pros as advised.
Good Luck!
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Old 06-15-2010, 07:33 AM   #6
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The ground has to be inspected (perk tests done). For replacement systems it may be necessary to remove and replace all the dirt about the pipes, which may be laden with grease or with a species of bacteria that specializes in clogging septic drain fields.

Sometimes the location doesn't absorb water well and this means you cannot install or reinstall a drainage field in the soil there. (They have specialized systems called mound systems involving a thick layer of sand on top of the existing soil, that may cure that problem.)
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.
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:53 AM   #7
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Same here in GA. By law-NOT a DIY project. State, local Health Department Laws kick in with septic systems. Licensed professionals only are allowed to do any work on them. David
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Old 06-15-2010, 01:42 PM   #8
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Where I live, homeowners by law cannot install their own septic system. Even licensed contractors must be separately licensed by the Health Department for such work.
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Old 06-15-2010, 02:36 PM   #9
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Like the others said, most areas won't let homeowners do a septic field. If yours does you'll need to talk with the permitting dept (usually health dept) as the requirements can vary by area. You usually can't unclog or recondition a drain field unless you get lucky and find a blockage in a distribution box that won't allow water down the laterals. You'll usually have to add additional laterals or just totally abandon the old field and put a new one in nearby.

The permitting office can tell you how to do a perc test to determine how much drain field is needed. There is no point doing anything without a perc test first. You'll need to either add or change distribution boxes to accommodate more laterals. The permit office can tell you what type of distribution systems they allow and the construction details.

The best way to avoid working in the muck is to have the tank pumped the morning you're going to start working. Most systems that are having trouble could use a good pumping/cleaning anyway. But you'll want to finish digging that day (or two depending on how much water the house is putting into the tank per day) because pumping is expensive. Another technique is to dig a small relief pit so that the water flows to the pit rather than where you're working.

By the way I hope you have a backhoe for all this digging. These systems are pretty big and you sure don't want to try with a shovel.

One alternative to a septic field is a lagoon but again you'll need to make sure that's ok in your area.
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Old 06-15-2010, 06:10 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by vcordon View Post
My friend's backyard fills with water which rises from the ground and since this happens and stays wet almost all year round we think that the septic tank drainage field is screwed up somehow.
I fully concur with all of the comments that this problem and its resolution will almost certainly require permits, inspections and licensed contractors.

I just want to add the your description of the problem sounds like the water may be much more than a malfunctioning septic system--there may be a high water table and the area may not be suitable for the type of system presently installed (presumably a traditional inground septic system).
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Old 06-15-2010, 10:20 PM   #11
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A professional job. The tank needs to be pumped and inspected also to make sure the baffle is in place. If the baffle is gone a new leach field will not last.


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