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Old 12-20-2010, 09:46 AM   #16
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septic emergency? help!


This is an excellent guide for homeowners also. Especially note the Do's and Dont's. (i.e multiple loads of laundry).
http://www.deq.idaho.gov/water/assis...ners_guide.pdf

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Old 12-20-2010, 09:52 AM   #17
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Hey all - the oririnal 1998 permit for when the house was built notes the soil has a perc rate of 40 min/in., the tank is 100 gallons, the apsoprtion field area is 1140 square feet, 380 linear feet, trench width of 36, and trench depty of 55. It is an INFILATRATOR system. Level of plumbing outlet is basement ,and field layout method is listed as serial distribution. Soil type hiawasse.

A hand drawn attachment shows the fiels in a wide S shape, and what looks like segements to it, with notes saying 11, 12, 7 matching the drawing (as in segments along the three field lines.

The 2008 new system shows a second field and diverter value out behind the original, and one note says "divert surface water". There were french drains installed in the back yard which pour into a ditch in the extreme back corner of my home.
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Old 12-20-2010, 10:43 AM   #18
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UPDATE:

I just talked to the designer of the system who sais he thought it was over saturated, or perhaps the original drain field (that I must have switched to when I turned the diverter value) isn't purging the system as well as the new drain field.

So he said to just switch back to the other field.

I decided to have the tank pumped, and a guy came out this AM. But the price went from $200 to "$1100 or $1200". He said he'd have to dig more than they thought, and then would "jet out" various elements.

So I sent him away. But he asked if I was handy. He said I could dig down (and he showed me where), and said to remove the cap on the septic tank and look in. Then, and only then - I could switch the diverter valve and I should see stuff flowing into that field. He basically implied this would tell me that the one field isn't purging water, and the other is OK. He said I'd see stuff rushing into that field - I guess through the little cap I remove on top of the septic tank?

But I also figure I could just switch the valve, and go flush toilets. If they work, I'm good.

All this - and perhaps the field that's turned on now is simply oversaturated from putting too much water in yesterday.

So perhaps if I ignore this all, leave it on the fields it's already on, and be more careful with water use, I'm OK.

Lots to think about...
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Old 12-20-2010, 10:55 AM   #19
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He said I could dig down (and he showed me where), and said to remove the cap on the septic tank and look in. Then, and only then - I could switch the diverter valve and I should see stuff flowing into that field. He basically implied this would tell me that the one field isn't purging water, and the other is OK. He said I'd see stuff rushing into that field - I guess through the little cap I remove on top of the septic tank?

But I also figure I could just switch the valve, and go flush toilets. If they work, I'm good.

All this - and perhaps the field that's turned on now is simply oversaturated from putting too much water in yesterday.
If you're getting clear water coming back, then a jetter won't do anything. Nor will it remedy a saturated drain field.

You mentioned you had a full basement. That means the system is deep. Deeper than you'll want to dig by hand. Most likely will require equipment (back-hoe). When the system was originally put in, were there risers installed over the septic lids? How about over the distribution box?

Can you post some pictures?
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Old 12-20-2010, 11:07 AM   #20
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I'm not sure what risers, septic lid, or distribution boxes are. The guy who came out this morning (who I sent away) probed the ground in front of me with a stick. I already knew where the tank was and showed him. And I watched as hit hit the top, and found the edges, and drew in the grass where the tank was. And in the area he showed me to dig - the stick went down about 2.5 feet. So that's how far down I'd have to dig (by hand). But he had a small backhoe with him I think he was going to use.

Right now, my main concern is simply getting through the next 10 days - the forcast shows little rain.

UPDATE: I mentioned that this AM, after 8+ hours of no water going into it, I was able to flush the basement toilet as usual - so perhaps the system did purge a bit. But now at noon - the problem is back - basement and first floor toilets won't flush.

It would seem my fastest and best solution would be to switch drain fields and go back to one that always seemed to work fine. And probably, get somebody out to pump the tank who won't try to sell me $1000 more in fixes that may or may not work.

My gut is telling me that my system simply cannot purge water fast enough. The rising water in the toilets is clear. So as suggested, the overall problem might be with my soil - not any backup or clog or failing of anything. If that's true - then I've got to look at the solutions suggested here - but that is not something I think I'd jump on today...
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Old 12-20-2010, 11:13 AM   #21
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If you really want to get a decent night's sleep, I'd certainly suggest digging the cover/tank out by hand. This site can't clear up all of the speculation, but witnessing the tank level, and having it pumped, certainly can...................
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Old 12-20-2010, 11:25 AM   #22
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It would seem my fastest and best solution would be to switch drain fields and go back to one that always seemed to work fine. And probably, get somebody out to pump the tank who won't try to sell me $1000 more in fixes that may or may not work.
Most service plumbing companies will try to sell more work. They don't make money pumping septic tanks, running cameras, or snaking lines. Once they're on site, a "quality" service plumbing company will discuss "options" with you, better educate you on the problem, and provide you with the best possible solution without aggressive sales tactics. In your case I would suggest, just as you mentioned; switch back to the other drainfield, and have the tank pumped to buy yourself some time over the holidays.

In my area average pricing to pump a 1000 gallon tank is about $315. A quick search revealed this ad from Mr. Rooter. $195. Sounds like a good deal to me. You may want to call them regarding the small print. Mr. Rooter franchises typically have all the equipment for servicing, repair, replacement, pumping, rejuvenation, etc. Keep in mind however they are all independently owned franchises. Some are ran very well. Other aren't. I personally don't know anything about the franchise in Atlanta. In my original post I also left a link for Terralift International. I noticed a septic pumping company listed on there. You may want to check with them also.
http://www.mrrooteronline.com/

Also if he only probed 2.5' to find the tank, that indicates there's some type of riser over the lid. If you decide to dig it up, I would also suggest adding risers to bring it to ground level. That would make it more serviceable in the future.
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:19 PM   #23
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UPDATE: I just went out and switched the fields. Since the diverter valve is in fact in a riser to the surface, I use a long water valve T pole to do this.

Immedidately after I turned the valve, I put my ear to the metal T-pole which is still on the valve. I could hear liquid flowing - which is what I had hoped for at least for now - I listened for a minute or so and it continued then I gave up listening.

I think this may be a clue. It would seem that the tank was high/full and for whatever reason field A wasn't purging. And my toilets were backing up.

Since I heard water flowing - I hope that was the sound of a fuller septic tank flowing out into the empty field B - (and not Field B full of water flooding my tank!)

I have no way of knowing whether I switched to or from the new field. But I hope I was switching from the old field (perhaps mostly failed) to the new one.

Worth noting is that while we haven't had much rain - the ground is saturated. And - when I looked down into the diverter valve riser (about maybe 3.5 feet down) I saw perhaps 2 inches of water on top. It was bone dry when I did this exercise 1.5 months ago. Maybe that's the water table or at least where it is today. Maybe that excess ground water combined with heavy water usage caused my probs with Field A.

In any event, I'm hopeful I've bought a little time. I'm feeling that the Terralift solution might be something I can look at after the holidays.

Does this all sound logical?
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:34 PM   #24
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Quote:
Does this all sound logical?
All sounds logical to me. Good luck and keep us posted on the outcome. I'm guessing since you switched to the other drainfield, your toilets are working again?
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:55 PM   #25
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Yes, everything is working.

Yesterday night, basement and first floor toilets were backing up.

This AM - both flushed normally (presumably a little water purged overnight)

By noon - both basement and first floor toilets were backing up again.

Switched diverter valve at 1PM, then flushed the basement toilet about 10 miutes later and it flushed fast and normal, and the first floor flushed fine too.

I'm terrified, of course, that the toilets will start backing up again even on this new field. If that happens, then perhaps the first field was fine too, but both fields are simply inundated with ground water. OR - there's a stoppage between my house and the tank. OR the tank is full.

I'm just preparing for the worst in case I need to act fast!
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Old 12-20-2010, 01:05 PM   #26
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While I'm at it - I should mention something else I've been thinking about. The previous owner had two french drains installed. The are green plastic grates in the grass near the back of my home and somewhat close to the original drain field. Piping goes to the backside of my property to a little drainage ditch. There, I can see two separate corregated plastic tubes coming out of the bank. I actually found two more of these along this drainage ditch - they appear to come from the gutter downspouts.

So these French drain pipes cross over both drain fields. With cooregated pipe, who knows how strong it is when buried.

In the summer, I noticed a horrible smell. I first though it was septic because the smell was similar. Then I realized it was coming from one of these french drains. With corregation on the plastic pipes, there are those little 1/2 inch ribs. Over a 75 foot run - they must hold a ton of water. It must rot and stagnate in there. I figured I could dump a jug of bleach into it, but was fearful of polluting the neighborhood or even eating away the plastic (since most of it would probably just sit in the first 2 feet). Or, if there happens to be a break in one of them - I was afraid I'd poison my septic system.

I stuck a hose in both. They drain really slow - but eventually, water does come out the ditch end. Somebody once told me corregated piping is bad - solid pipe is good. So I wonder if I have a break in one of those French drain lines - and if so - maybe it's dumping water into the septic fields vs. taking it away...

I have no way to tell. I was going to take a 5 gallon bucket and dump it in - and put another one at the other end. Then, I'd hope 5 gallons would come out the far end. But with all those little ridges in the pipe - I'm guessing very little would even come out the far end - it would all be caught in the pipe.
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Old 12-20-2010, 03:54 PM   #27
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If you want to you can have the septic tank pumped out with no oher work done. If the level of semisolid mater had reached above the halfway point in the tank or the thickness of grease (scum) on top was more than a foot then there is a significant chance that much of those materials found their way out of the tank and down to the leach field shortening the life of the field. This is where the pumping company would have told you that more work besides pumping the tank was probably necessary and the price estimate jumped to two or threefold. But you can still tell the pump technician that just emptying out the tank is all you want for now.

The inlet and outlet of the septic tank must be set off by baffles or by T shaped pipes with an open end pointing down so scum on the liquid surface does not enter these openings freely. Replacing these parts can be expensive particularly if the tank lid cannot be lifted completely off and someone has to climb down into the tank.

After the tank is pumped out, there is so much air inside that an impaired vent system back at the house may not reveal any problems. Also if the leach field was indeed the problem, that will not show up and nothing other than clogged drains can be proven until the septic tank has been used enough to bring the liquid level up to about a foot of the top which is the normal working level. (This latter may take a few days)

French drain lines must not be tied into a septic system. They must eigher go to a pit in your basement where you have a sump pump or go to a dry well or go to the outside. The third requires considerable ground slope down away from the house so that the also downward sloping outlet pipe from the French drains and the ground surface will eventually meet, some distance from the house.
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Old 12-20-2010, 04:08 PM   #28
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Thanks AllenJ - I've been thinking about that. If my field was overly saturated and couldn't purge - it wasn't letting liquids out into the field - so the tank filled with liquid and/or solids and thus backed up to the basement toilet.

Once that field dried out a little bit, it would start working propertly again.

But when I turned my diverter valve to my other fields today - since it was empty and the tank was presumably full - I wonder if I just sent a toxic mix of everything right into my good field. like suspended toilet paper or anything else that may have been at the very top of my septic tank - like grease and oils and scum.

Then again - regardless of which field I'm using - I suppose if the tank ever does get 100% full, once the fields start allowing liquid into them again - other stuff could enter them as well (vs just liquids).

So it would seem that if I have a soil problem - my fields can't purge liquids well - the possibility of the tank filling too high and allowing whatever down into the fields is always present every day, and it's only a matter of time before it fails - and again - the new field is only 2 years old. I just can't believe someone would pay so much to improve something, yet there still be problems.
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Old 12-20-2010, 06:33 PM   #29
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did you say that your tank was only 100 gallons, seems very small or did you mean 1000 gallons... is there any possibility that you have a solids filter on your outlet tee. if you were to use a large quantity of water ( laundry, dishwashers and showers as you mentioned ) this may have caused solids to try to push out of the outlet tee and plugged the filter. not all tanks have this filter but in some areas they are required.
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Old 12-20-2010, 09:27 PM   #30
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After the septic tank has been pumped, little if any more solid will get into the outlet even if the field is not absorbing liquid quickly and the tank fills all the way up again.

The solid material will sink to the bottom where most of it decomposes over a period of several weeks and turns to liquid while more liquid from the house comes in and goes out

After the septic tank has been pumped and the baffles at the inlet and outlet were found to be in good condition, if you still have problems, the septic tank is not at fault. Pumping out the tank again in short order accomplishes nothing.

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