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Old 10-29-2015, 07:33 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by jagans View Post
Looks like mumbo jumbo to me, but who knows, maybe it works. It is basically back flushing the leach field and disrupting the soil, I just don't know how the field doesn't just clog up again in short order.
Here's something of a "logic tree" as to why things go wrong--along with an explanation for why pneumatic soil fracturing is a very good INGREDIENT in the recipe for successful septic rejuvenation.

When a system fails, it is either 1) poorly designed, 2) broken, or 3) poorly maintained.

1. If it's poorly designed, it may either be wholly inadequate from day one, or it could be that it is barely adequate if well-maintained. If it's the latter, the homeowner can manage to get by, but only with lots of care. If it's inadequate from day one, it simply needs to be replaced, amended, or rebuilt.

2. If the system is broken, then it needs to be fixed. This would include fixing broken pipes, re-leveling the D box, etc.

3. If it is poorly maintained, this is where the number of possibilities increase significantly. The bacterial processes in a well-designed, healthy, and well-maintained system should be adequate to break down the sewage at a faster rate than it is deposited into the system. That is, the solids break down into liquids, are distributed through the drain field, and from there, leach into the soil where they become inert. A system like this can last 20-30 years, or even longer, without any need for rebuilding or replacement. What makes it go wrong is generally:

+++ Introduction of things that should not be in a septic system. (Bleach, water softener, trash and other non-disolvable, non-human-waste item, etc.) These things can 1) physically clog the system, and 2) kill the bacteria that are needed for the speedy liquefying of solids. Replacing the drain field in such a case simply gives the homeowner a new system to clog up with the same bad habits. The best "repair" in this case is to fix the homeowner---that is, to get him or her to stop introducing those things into the system. Then rejuvenate the existing system, and everything will be OK. +++

When such a system is being serviced, you can service just the tank (pumping out the undissolved sludge and the trash), or you can tackle the drain lines, too (jetting, etc.). Or---and this is the best solution---you can take the COMPLETE approach, which includes also treating the drain field itself, remediating the buildup of "biomass"---the black, slimy "mat" that forms inside the drain field, acting something like a waterproof pool liner. It keeps the water from slowing away laterally. Instead, it's a bit like having an underground swimming pool with side walls. Yes, that pool is filled with dirt and gravel, but it has standing water in it, and that water will eventually reach the surface once enough has accumulated, because it has nowhere else to go.

The best relief for the biomat (or biomass) is pneumatic soil fracturing. It simply is not necessary to replace the field, because if the biomat is broken up and aerated, it will NATURALLY dissolve to a point where the drain field can drain properly again. Can you foul that up again by continuing to add bad things into the septic system? Sure you can---just like you can foul up a brand new septic system in the same way. The only difference is the amount of time it takes to foul up a system to the point of failure. On a brand new system, it may take some years to get it to fail by mistreating it, where a system that has been treated with a soil fracturing machine (Such as EarthBuster or Terralift) will begin to HEAL immediately, but requires that the abuse be stopped so that it can continue to heal completely in time.

So again, the first thing to "fix" is the homeowner---get them to stop introducing the wrong things into the system.

Then clean the system and rejuvenate the drain field with pneumatic soil fracturing. The biomat will recede and the absorption of the drain field will be restored. The results are immediate---in just minutes of beginning the pneumatic soil fracturing process, you can generally see gurgling in the septic tank, as well as at the surface where the effluent (the nasty liquid) is emerging from the ground. Not only can the water now pass through the fractured biomat, but so can air, which contains the oxygen necessary for the full-speed bacterial breakdown of the solids in the septic tank.

Early fracturing units like the walk-behind Terralift are still useful for drain field rejuvenation, while even better/faster results are gained from the tractor-mounted EarthBuster. The EarthBuster is much more efficient, bringing greater power and speed, helping the operator to get the job done much easier. Regardless, you'll be best served by a contractor who understands WHY systems fail, and who knows how to treat ALL of it, rather than one who simply wants to make a quick buck by simply pumping your tank every few months, or merely poking some holes in your yard.
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Old 10-29-2015, 08:18 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by pastorjoey View Post
Can someone tell me if $3900 is too much to pay for terralifting? I have seen prices of $1500-2000 but the company in my area that does it charges $3900.
To answer Pastorjoey's question for others who may be wondering the same thing---

++++++++
Short answer: It depends on how big your system is, and what your system actually NEEDS. All those prices you mention, from $1,500 to $3,900 or more could well make sense for a pneumatic soil fracturing job. See details below.
++++++++

What you want to pay for---what will be worth your money---is a job done right. There are reasons that a septic system fails, and the solution should squarely address ALL those reasons.

It's easy for a contractor to come pump out your septic tank---and they'll be glad to do that for $200-$400 (depending on a few factors) every few months forever. This is the equivalent of you not having a drain field at all, by the way. Your drain field is supposed to get rid of what's in the tank so that you don't HAVE to get the system pumped. (Don't get me wrong; sometimes a tank DOES need to be pumped.)

What's harder than pumping is getting someone to inspect your system to be sure exactly what is failing and why. This may include using a shovel to look inside your system at various places. It may also include things like cutting roots, replacing pipes, jetting out clogged drain field lines, etc.

And THEN, there's the part of the system that many contractors completely ignore: the drain field itself. When the septic system is abused (by the introduction of bleach, water softener, and non-human-waste items) it tends to kill the natural bacterial action that breaks down the solid human waste into a manageable liquid (effluent) that can be drained off through the drain field. As a result, too much of the solid material makes it out into the drain field, where a black, gooey, slimy substance known as biomat is formed as bacteria try to dissolve the waste underground. This process is not as efficient as it would be in the septic tank itself, and what usually happens is that the biomat grows thicker and thicker until it effectively waterproofs your drain field, leaving the nasty liquids no place to go but upward, through the lawn.

Many contractors believe that the solution for biomat is to put in a new drain field, or to rebuild the one you have. This is terribly inefficient and wasteful, however, as the drain field you have can be successfully rejuvenated through a COMPLETE approach. This includes:

1. Fix the homeowner first; get them to stop introducing non-human-waste items and substances into the system.
2. Check and repair as needed any broken drain lines, non-level distribution boxes, etc.
3. Treat the drain field with pneumatic soil fracturing (such as with the Terralift or the EarthBuster). This not only breaks up the biomat, allowing liquids to leach once again into the field, but also aerates the system, allowing crucial oxygen to begin breaking down the biomat at an accelerated rate.
4. Pump the tank if needed to speed up the system's healing process. (And this often proves unnecessary as the tank will drain immediately upon pneumatic soil fracturing. The solids will remain, but in the rejuvenated system, they'll break down as they should in short order. If you're in doubt, pump it out, or wait and see how it goes after a few days. But remember, if that tank is contaminated with chemicals that are bad for your system (such as bleach, water softener, etc), its better to pump it out. Why impede the healing process by leaving the problem chemicals in the system?)

So that brings us around to the answer to the original question. If a contractor's coming in just to treat your system with a pneumatic soil fracturing machine such as EarthBuster or Terralift, and then "see how it goes", then that's not worth as much money, and you should expect to pay somewhere closer to the bottom in the pricing scale. And it may turn out that you are completely satisfied with the job, and don't need any other service for years to come.

But if the contractor is coming in to inspect the whole system, determine exactly why it's failing, and treat ALL of its ailments, including a pneumatic soil fracturing treatment, then you should naturally expect this to cost more money. Be sure that the contractor you hire knows what he or she is talking about, and is the diligent sort who will deal with all the details. Paying more to get it done right the first time is almost always the better policy.

Oh, and don't let them inject polystyrene beads into your soil. (Terralift does this, where EarthBuster does not.) I have not been able to find any scientific evidence that supports this practice---and have found much to argue against it---including the fact that polystyrene is a known carcinogen that takes up to 500 years to biodegrade. Supposedly, the beads help to keep the newly-opened fissures from re-clogging, but it's fairly obvious that what they're doing instead is clogging them with polystyrene. In other words, they're clogging the fissures immediately with toxins, rather than letting them live out their natural usefulness over time.

*****In the interests of full disclosure, be advised that I do work for EarthBuster. I'm the one who heads up their scientific research and field trials.
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