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Old 09-28-2008, 09:43 AM   #1
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Septic and leach field design questions


This question somewhat piggy backs on this thread. I'm reviving it because heavy rain is tripping pump alarms:
Septic Tank Vent Pipe

The yard has only a slight grade and is fairly flat. In fact, from the house to the tank actually goes UP the grade slightly. Our septic system has two tanks, and two cement covers over each (I've never looked in, but been told by the folks pumping the system that inside there are covers over each tank). Next to the house is a cleanout, another 50 feet out, and two more next to the two tanks. We have an odd candycane shaped vent whose purpose has never been fully explained, put appears positioned over the origin of the drainfields, which extend to the right in the picture.

1. What do the two pumps do? I assume one might move liquid from one tank to the other but the other? Is it a helper pump moving waste from the house to the first tank, or perhaps moving liquid from the second tank to the drain fields?
2. Any further thought on the purpose of the candy cane pipe?
3. Recently, during heavy rains, the pump alarms go crazy for a few minutes then can be reset. Perhaps water is pooling around the lids and getting in?

Some photos:








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Old 09-28-2008, 11:30 AM   #2
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Septic and leach field design questions


but of course I'm not sure, am not the plumber, but anyway, candy cane pipe, I believe as stated in another thread, is a vent, as for the two pumps, one backs up the other, you must be in an area where the waste is pumped up to the fields. As for the alarms, they ringaling when the level in the pit rises above the level the pump should of come on at. I'm not sure but even if rain was getting in there, the pump would start up, the floats might be gummed up causing the alarm to activate. The alarm sounds when the level gets too high, alerting you to a problem, hopefully before it backs up into the house.

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Old 09-29-2008, 11:39 AM   #3
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Septic and leach field design questions


You didn't tell us the locations of the pumps. There are a couple of scenarios that use 2 pumps. Are the pumps both at the tank? Or is one in the house and one in the tank? Do any of them run continuously?

Aside from those questions, you might want to check the connections on the tank alarms. They are usually a simple float switch. What I have found is that the connections made in the tank are sometimes not very water tight. On mine, rain water was leaking in around the lid and soaking the connection, sending a false signal to the panel. I had to redo it because the original installer used only heat shrink tubing inside a metal junction box. The float switch controlling the pump suffered from the same issues.

Last edited by Maintenance 6; 09-29-2008 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:42 PM   #4
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Septic and leach field design questions


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Originally Posted by Maintenance 6 View Post
You didn't tell us the locations of the pumps. There are a couple of scenarios that use 2 pumps. Are the pumps both at the tank? Or is one in the house and one in the tank? Do any of them run continuously?
I honestly don't know the location of the two pumps, although I believe both are outside the house as I don't hear any pump at the foundation where the waste line exits the house in the basement. I hear water passing through only (note we have a sewer injection sump in the basement to handle the basement bathroom, and that DOES have a pump obviously, but doesn't appear connected to the panel I show in the photo above).

The home inspection packet we got doesn't provide any details regarding the setup, although the septic company I called today to schedule getting the tank pumped out seems to think one pump moves liquid from the tank to the "dry well", and the 2nd pump is a backup for that. I can't be there when they come Thursday to ask lots of questions but I've asked them to look when they remove the cement covers and open the tanks up, and tell me if they see any pump/alarm components.

The septic company suggested getting info off my well cap and calling the county health department regarding the design of our septic system, since it should be on record for some reason. I guess that is a start...

John
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Old 09-30-2008, 06:43 AM   #5
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Septic and leach field design questions


Design info is kept on file by some municipalities when the septic permit application is placed. This would be the first I've heard of a two pump system with one acting as a back up. If this system is slightly up grade from your home, I would have thought one would be a transfer pump to get the waste to the distribution box or the tank(s) and a second pump perhaps to work as a dose pump to put the water into the drain field. There are systems that use an aeration pump to mix air into the waste to get it digested better too, but those pumps usually run continuously and need an intake for air. Regardless, I would check the electrical connections.
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Old 09-30-2008, 07:04 PM   #6
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Septic and leach field design questions


It's most likely a city or town code, in my town, yes you need two pumps, the couple I"ve seen and been around are set up so in theory, they take turns pumping. Where I worked before, there was a baffle in the center of the holding tank, the incomeing pipe dumped dead center of the pit. If one pump failed, water flowed over the baffle into the other side where hopefully the other pump was operating. Where I work now, pipe dumps into a pit, holding two pumps, not sure how the floats work so the two pumps alternate. And also, I was told you could only use Enviromental pumps out of new york in our town, that being the name brand.
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Old 10-01-2008, 07:39 AM   #7
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Septic and leach field design questions


An alternating pump set up would be called a lead/lag system. It's done with a latching double pole switch in the control box. When one pump shuts off, the switch flops over to contacts for the other pump. The next time a pump starts it resets the switch to go back. If the local code is requiring that set up for a residential system, somebody on the city council must own stock in a pump controls company. And if they are specifying a brand, I'll bet I know which one.

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