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johnny331 06-19-2007 10:49 PM

where is my septic cleanout?
 
I'm new to this house, and new to the idea of a septic system. I've had city sewer all my life. I've learned a lot as far as the operation.

However, oddly enough the other day the previous owner stopped by and told me that the "sewer used to backup once in a while".

I want to have it checked out, maybe I'll throw a video camera in the hole. The thing is, I haven't found the cleanout.

The photos show where the leach field is, and I have a general idea where the tank is. The circles are some sorts of piping access.

Another odd thing is, the sewer pipe runs all the way below my basement slab, meaning the tank has got to be pretty darn low in the ground...

Do you think I should just call a septic pumper, and they'd know just where to find the access?

Or should I call some sort of septic technician?


http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i2...elliteview.jpgI

jbfan 06-19-2007 10:56 PM

I have never seen a clean out on the leach field. My tank does not have a clean out. When mine is pumped, they bring in a mini back hoe, scrap the dirt, slide the cover and pump. My tank is about 2-3 feet deep.
You just may nor have a clean out. Most I have seen will rise from the ground a foot or so.
If the swer backs up from time to time, you may have a saturated leach field that may have to be replaced.

johnny331 06-19-2007 11:00 PM

I think those circles in my photo are some sort of way to flushout the leechfield, at least that's what a buddy said.

Doesn't the septic tank have to have some sort of riser pipe to stick a vacuum hose down? Everyone in town I drive past has one in the yard...

NateHanson 06-19-2007 11:03 PM

Around here septic tanks are buried, and to pump them out and inspect them you dig a hole down to the three access covers on top of the tank.

Leach fields sometimes have riser pipes (vents I think). Is that perhaps what you're interpreting as septic sucking ports?

johnny331 06-19-2007 11:12 PM

Well they could be some sort of vents, but they aren't the actual cleanouts.

Where I envision the tank being, right at the north edge of the leechfield, there are some odd looking holes. I'm just going to have to get dirty and start digging. I'll get some more pics.

jbfan 06-19-2007 11:17 PM

Don't dig, get a peice of rebar and push into the ground until you find the top.

Mike Swearingen 06-20-2007 03:31 AM

Your local Health Department is most likely the septic system permitting agency there and should have a rough sketch of the septic system layout and system description specifically for your property, including the approximate tank location. The tank clean-out access will be on top of the tank. You should be able to get a copy of the original permit from them.
Check with the Tax Department to find out when the home was built and that should correspond with the year the septic system was installed. It may be recorded by address or it may be recorded by the original property owners' name on the permit.
Usually a septic tank clean-out is a small square concrete "plug" with beveled sides in the top of the tank. Here in NC, NC State University has been doing septic system research for decades, and are the experts about them. Their basic information says that the only maintenance necessary is to pump the tank out at least every five years, and that all of those "additives" are a waste of money. Normal usage adds all of the bacteria needed for a septic system to operate properly.
We've been on septic systems for more than 31 years. The only maintenance that I do is to have the tank pumped out in every year that ends in 0 or 5 (about $250), and I flush a cup or two of copper sulphate crystals down a toilet about 3 times a years to keep roots out of the drain field. (We have a heavily landscaped yard.)
If your system backs up, then that's usually a problem with the drainfield. The only time that a system should get sluggish is during periods of extremely heavy rains and full ground saturation (here that means hurricanes), and that problem should go away very quickly, if you have it at all. If not, you may need to have the Health Department inspect your system and give you a permit for an additional drainfield line to help solve it. Hopefully, you won't have to replace the entire field.
Good Luck!
Mike
Edit P.S. It is best not to add anything into a septic system that isn't easily biodegradeable so it won't clog the system. That means anything from cigarette filters to feminine products to excess grease, bleach, paint, etc. We routinely pour used grease and cooking oils into the trash, for instance.

vapros 06-20-2007 01:07 PM

I'm glad this came up. I live in the woods and my system has a PVC pipe, @ 3 to 4" inside diameter, sticking up diagonally about 16". It has a screw-on cap that you would remove with a big wrench. Also, I don't think you could get closer than about sixty feet with a truck.

How often should it be pumped? How do you tell when it's time?

NateHanson 06-20-2007 02:10 PM

Vapros, if your system is anything like the ones around here, that's probably not a pump-out. But maybe things are different in your neck of the woods.

I've been advised exactly as Mike described - pump out and inspect the tank about every 5 years. (You can't tell how the tank is operating if you don't excavate the tank to pump it, so even if that pipe you've described IS for pumping out, I'd consider having the guys open things up to take a look and see how the water level is, how much grease/fat is on top of the tank, and generally give the system a check-up. Time and money well spent twice a decade, for a system that can cost thousands to repair, and tens of thousands to replace if a problem goes undetected and gets out of control.

Mike Swearingen 06-20-2007 02:44 PM

Everything going into a septic system, besides the waste water, should be trapped inside the tank. That's what the tank is for. Sand and other heavier particles will settle to the bottom, and sludge, grease, etc. will float on top. All of these "solids" are what should be removed at least every five years.
The waste water (only) should discharge from the tank into a small distribution box and then to all of the perforated drainfield lines. Waste water is absorbed and filtered into the ground, and methane sewer gas exits through the surface (makes grass greener). A basic system here is a 1,000-gallon tank, a d-box and 210' of drainfield line for up to 3-4 bedrooms.
Each system is specifically designed for the soil type and number of bedrooms of the home attached to it. Additions to the total drainfield length are determined by the soil type and usage.
Those stand pipes that you're describing are not required here, but I think that they're for visual inspection of the drainfield water, and not for pump out of a tank. If they were from a tank, the odor from a tank would be significantly stronger than from the far end of a drainfield line. The tank should be close to the house.
Mike


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