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Old 08-25-2011, 11:22 AM   #1
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Septic System Trouble

I have some questions about our septic system.

Background to the question: The house is about 36 years old. My family has lived here 6 years. When we move in we knew nothing about septic systems. We were told that if everything was working properly that the septic tank would "never" need pumped. We haven't had any problems up until recently when our toilets quit flushing properly. We were concerned so had a plumbing company pump the tank. They said it was bad and had "extra heavy" sludge. We have no idea when it last pumped. Anyhow.. Found out we have 2 - 1000 gallon tanks. After pumping the toilets still were not flushing properly and had someone come out again because we thought the lines might need cleaned out. Well.. one of our three toilets did seem to be working and we could also run the dishwasher and washing machine/other drains were all working properly so the plumber did not think it had anything to do with the lines. He inspected the toilets, snaked, etc and couldn't find a blockage. He ended up just adding water to the tank of the toilets that weren't working and it seemed to fix the problem. He recommended that we replace the toilets or at least the "guts" because of rust issues and the parts were probably worn out.

The toilets seemed to function after the water was added to the toilet, but we noticed after flushing the toilet in one of the bathroom there was really bad 'sewer" odor that lingered in the bathroom. (this primarily was in one of the 3 bathrooms) This smell seems to come and go when flushing the toilet. Now a few weeks later our toilets again don't seem to be flushing correctly.. They do not flush sporadically or sometimes just don't flush completely. Perhaps the toilets all need replaced and that would fix the problem, but do you have any idea of what else might be going on? Thank you so much!


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Old 08-25-2011, 11:42 AM   #2
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THe plumbing vents need to be checked for blockage.

The drain pipes may need "jetting". A hand held snake or small powered snake may go down easily while not clearing out much of the diameter of a drain pipe.

Dig up one of the septic tank hatches and lift the cover. If the liquid level is consistently about 9 inches below the top then the septic tank should be okay.

Does the toilet flush properly if you use a bucket with about 3 gallons of water in it (2 gallons for new style toilets) instead of pushing the flush lever on the tank?


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; 08-25-2011 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:55 AM   #3
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Thank you!
The toilets do seem to flush properly when you pour in a bucket of water.
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:33 PM   #4
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I agree with AlanJ. Sounds like a partially blocked vent to me too. Have someone go up on the roof and check all of the vents with a flashlight, clean out any leaves or debris that can be reached by hand and flush them down with a garden hose.
As far as the toilets, they probably just need the tank innards float-cup type water inlet valve and new toilet flapper. I would go with a Fluidmaster kit. They come with easy illustrated installation instructions.
As far as your septic tanks go, have them pumped out every five years minimum (three years if you have a real large family or lots of company). My home has been on a septic system for more than 35 years and I have the tank pumped out in every year that ends in a 0 or 5 to keep it idiot proof. I have never had any problems.
Good Luck!
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