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Septic overflow ?

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Apr 11, 2013, 03:25 AM
crafdragon
Septic overflow ?
I hope this is the right place to ask about this. We have a septic tank that has had no issues till now. It was emptied last about 2 years ago, but the people who did it said it should be good for 5-7 years. I was doing laundry yesterday and when the washer was draining I would hear the toilet bubbling as well as the bathtub drain. No water coming thru, just bubbling a little. Then my Husband hollered to turn off the washer. I did. Outside where the big round thing they empty the tank from was overflowing with what looked like grey water. Does that mean we are full again?? It has been a long Winter with loads of melting snow and the runoff from it. But lately there has been alot of rain. We cannot afford to redo the drain field as we have no $ to use for it. But could it be the ground is just saturated and therefore the drain field is not working as well as it could be? We have lived here for almost 6 years but each Winter things drained well and we did not have this problem.
Thank You for any info, I appreciate it.


Janet Smile

Rubberstamping makes the world more colorful!!
Apr 11, 2013, 08:47 AM
joecaption
Could be a number of things.
Older systems used Terra Cotta clay tiles or Orange Berg leach field lines.
Both can collapes or get roots in them.
The distribution box cover could have collaped.
The D box could be plugged up.
At some point all leach fields are going to load to the point there going have to be dug up and replaced.


joecaption
Apr 11, 2013, 01:21 PM
swschrad
if the leachfield is loaded with water already from rain, etc, where does the septic water flow to?

there is no trick answer. there is only the "aw, shucks" answer... you have to cut your water use to almost nothing until the field starts breathing again.

dig a hole a foot deep or so and put a pipe or a tube in it. when that's no longer full of water, the septic service folks can evaluate whether you have big issues, or you have just been getting frog-drowner rain that has set your system to "full."

that might mean using the laundromat, paper plates, and the health club showers/bathrooms until your system restores. when it does, toss a load of enzyme down the can and start gently testing the system. the leachfield might need a little help to decompose again after the backwash of rain.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Apr 11, 2013, 05:36 PM
Jaybee
Just to clarify one fact: The only times that a septic tank is not full is when it is brand new and right after it has been pumped out. Other than that it is normal for the tank to be full (or actually about 7/8 full). The tank is designed to retain 'fluids'. When solid waste is added to the system, it all ferments inside the septic tank - eventually turning into fluid that moves on to the leaching field.

If your tank has backed up like you say than that's a good indicator that your leaching field is no longer working properly. This could be from years of sewage and sediment clogging the leaching lines, or super saturated ground around the leaching lines keeping them from draining into the soil. Lots of large amounts of rain can easily overtax a leaching system, especially if it's not functioning at 100% already.

If you have really had an unusually large amount of rain and snow melt then just waiting for the weather to clear could solve your problem. Nothing else would have to be done to 'fix' the system. However, it this happens more and more often with even moderate rains, then you have something else going on.

Leaching fields have a lifespan. Depending on the field design and how well your soil perks you can expect to have to dig up and replace the leaching field after 20...30..40 years go by. There is no definite time-frame here as there are too many variables. The fix is to remove the leaching field - with all its sludge packed soil. If you have the land available, a simpler fix is to add on more leaching pipe.

Whatever you do DO NOT just pump out the tank again. This cold give you a false sense that you have fixed the problem when all it really does is give your leaching field a rest for a few days. That's all it will take for your 900 gallon septic tank to fill back up and start flowing into the leaching field again. The only reason to pump out a septic tank is if there is a significant level of solids that are not breaking down into liquids. some chemicals and detergents can kill the bacteria that are needed for the fermentation process to work. If it turns out that this is what is going on then you'll need to change what is going into your drains and possibly purchase some bacteria "boost" to add to your drain system.


Jaybee
Apr 12, 2013, 10:28 AM
Sparky617
I would be inclined to have the septic tank serviced. The company that does that work can assess the system and whether the problem is big requiring a new and relocated leaching field or a minor fix like cleaning out the distribution box.

The heavy rain and snow melt has clearly saturated your leaching field whether this is a temporary problem or a system failure no one on a bulletin board is going to be able to say. The leach field may dry out enough to support your septic system but I suspect that it has partially failed or your water usage has increased dramatically in the past several months.

Was two years ago the first time you had the tank pumped during your six years of ownership.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Apr 13, 2013, 11:17 AM
Conrad
Just a side note:
A friend with a leach field, was going to need a few extra runs to cover water usage, when her son moved in with her. She bought a front load washer (uses so much less water than her top loader) and the septic was then able to handle the water load.
Apr 13, 2013, 02:28 PM
Sparky617
Good point Conrad. A front loader uses about a third of the water that a top loader uses a definite plus for those on well and septic.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Apr 13, 2013, 05:12 PM
swschrad
we got a low-water-use top loader, and it's also a good third to a quarter less water use than the old traditional top-load washer.

there are many options to reduce water use. out in the desert southwest, for instance, folks are forced now to live with very little water use. new mexico is one example of a place where watering lawns and gardens is strictly prohibited. rinse and sink water, "grey water," is saved for the garden.

plumbing that drainage for either/or has got to be a real challenge.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Apr 13, 2013, 06:25 PM
GardenSprite
Swschrad, interesting reports on reducing water use. Even though we're not in the desert, some SE Michigan communities have had even/odd water use restrictions for years. But folks still water their lawns heavily on allowed days, and some even sneak around the restriction by turning sprinklers on at night.

In the 1970s when the oil embargo forced people to look at resources in a different way, alternative energy and water use ideas were raised and sometimes adopted. You may remember magazines like New Shelter, published by the Rodale Group, which provided information on use of grey water. If I remember correctly, there were articles on how to replumb to capture grey water and use it for lawn and garden watering.

Haven't heard much about that measure for a long time. I've always thought it unfortunate that this option wasn't added to new homes, as so much wash water is just wasted. And retrofitting for grey water recapture is probably beyond the plumbing budget of all but well-to-do families.

Has New Mexico provided for an energy credits for replumbing to save grey water, if you know? Otherwise, I'm wondering how folks manage to do it, other than switch to xeriscaping.

I did try hauling buckets of grey water once. Only once. That was enough.
Apr 14, 2013, 08:22 AM
Sparky617
GS,
Gray water systems are illegal in most communities. They require more maintenance than the average homeowner is willing to do. Around here for a while they were saying you couldn't even capture water in a bucket while showering to water plants, they have since gone a little easier on that, something that would be impossible to police anyway.

Ask This Old House did a segment on a program out in California that redirected water from the washing machine into the garden that was fairly low maintenance. I doubt I could do it here in Cary.

Our town started a water reuse program for treated water from our nearby sewage plant. The mains for it run 100 yards behind my house but they didn't plumb my neighborhood for the system. They plumbed one existing neighborhood but decided the cost was too high. So the new neighborhood beside ours was plumbed because they were installing all the utilities when it became available but they by-passed my neighborhood. I suspect they only built the system to get approval to pull more water from Lake Jordan while dumping the treated water into the Neuse River which is a "interbasin transfer" because Lake Jordan goes to the Cape Fear River. The feds held up the approval for the expansion until they did the reuse system. My employer is along the system and they replumbed the cooling towers to use reclaimed water and cut about a million gallons of water a month off the drinking water system.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Apr 15, 2013, 02:00 PM
swschrad
I suspect most grey water collection is done on the sly, and the next folks to buy that house may find a lot of substandard issues that let in bugs and the like.

if you're collecting your rainwater, you probably have found out how well skeeters and crud grow in there. tip of the iceberg.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Apr 16, 2013, 05:28 PM
GardenSprite
Sparky617,

I wasn't aware that greywater systems were illegal. I did a bit of research and found a greywater action group that still advocates its use. Honestly I haven't even checked locally to see if they are illegal; never occurred to me that they would be.

Do you recall the title of the Ask TOH program? I'd like to see if I can find it; maybe it will be re-aired sometime.

Your town's position on an apparent compromise in order to draw more water would probably be typical of municipal water systems. Many municipalities are hurting economically and can't afford to foot the cost of upgrading existing systems, especially if the break-even point is way, way down the road.


Swschrad,

I assume you're referring to subsequent homeowner problems because greywater systems would presumably be installed by a homeowner, and not necessarily conform to code or meet professional standards?

It seems to me, though, that if they were professionally connected the problems wouldn't be in the linkages but as you say in the retention basins.

I think use of greywater would absolutely require other adaptations, including something for mosquitoes as well as methods to keep out the local quadriped population, especially the masked marauders who are so smart they know when garbage collection takes place.

Still, I don't think these are reasons to reject the concept, which I still feel would be viable under the right circumstances (which might include a powerful lobby).

I doubt if it would ever be done in SE Michigan because the Detroit Water System controls water distribution, and given all the political complications, such as entrenched interests, graft and corruption, I can't see any changes being made unless they're forced by the State or done as part of the Emergency Manager actions.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Apr 18, 2013, 04:15 AM
crafdragon
Thank You Everybody for all the information. Very helpful and very much appreciated Smile
After giving it a rest, so far there has been no more water leaking. We have not been running the washer but did run the dishwasher. we are trying to get a person from one of the businesses that service septic systems. the ones we have called so far have a waiting list so I got us onto one. They can come out in about a month. So we will just be careful not to do more that one water usage a day. The toilets we have are the water saver kind. I think they use 3 gallons of water per flush as apposed to 15 gallons. We have used a monthly treatment for the septic since we have lived here. I think it puts bacteria stuff in the tank that breaks down the waste. I try to stick to a schedule with it but have missed a month here and there. Don't know if that could have caused the problem or not. But I will ask when we talk to a person who is more informed than we are.


Janet Smile

Rubberstamping makes the world more colorful!!
Apr 18, 2013, 08:03 AM
Jaybee
Glad you are taking the steps to work things out.

FYI to give you better info if you are talking to anyone: Your average toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush. Old style toilets (from about 20 years ago or longer) could use as much as 3 to 5 gallons.


Jaybee
Apr 18, 2013, 08:10 PM
Sparky617
I've read from university websites and from government sites that you really don't need to add treatments to septic tanks to have them work properly. The bacteria needed to break down the waste is there in the waste. It won't hurt but you're probably spending money needlessly.

I haven't had a septic tank in any of my four homes. We had one in the house I grew up in until I was about 12 when they put in public sewers. Back then my dad could call and get the honey dippers out the same day. You must have a lot of septic tanks or your area or very few companies servicing them or both to have to wait a month to get it serviced.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Apr 18, 2013, 09:55 PM
joecaption
I agree, it's a waste of money.


joecaption
Apr 19, 2013, 08:21 AM
Sparky617
GardenSprite,
I don't recall the program number. It was in the last 6 months on my local PBS station. I know PBS has full episodes of This Old House online, I suspect they do for Ask This Old House as well.


General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Apr 19, 2013, 06:03 PM
GardenSprite
Thanks Sparky, I'll check out their listings.
Apr 19, 2013, 11:47 PM
crafdragon
I will check out online for This Old House. We haven't had TV here for a long time. Most of the homes around here that are outside the city limit have septic. It is very 'country' and homes are a long ways out from town. Farmland mostly or out in the forest like we are.
This is our first home as owners, it took us that long to save up to get it LOL! (we are in our 50's) We don't regret it, buying this place, We just did not realize all that was involved until we were living it and paying to have things fixed or learning to do it ourselves. Many people do not share info on anything because they want the $ to share the info Or do the work. Since we put everything into the home(had to put a new well in 2008, repair plumbing, replace carpet the realtor had damaged by fixing the leaking toilet himself after telling us he had a plumber fix it~ it still leaked and when we were moving in we found the whole floor upstairs wet and the downstairs hardwood floors damaged all beyond use., drywall in bathroom had to be replaced and the mold taken care of). Books like Time Life series have helped a lot! It has been a little like the money pit but we are getting by.


Janet Smile

Rubberstamping makes the world more colorful!!
Apr 21, 2013, 06:23 PM
swschrad
oh, yeah. if you have extra money, buy a house. it will disappear Wink it's the nature of the beast, they require maintenance regularly, and some major things done irregulary, or else they are going to tumbledown shacks within a surprising number of years.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?