Septic System Issues

Discussion in 'General Plumbing Help' started by loaba, Dec 7, 2016.

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  1. Dec 7, 2016 #1

    loaba

    loaba

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    1. Septic Tank periodically overflows through the inspection ports (seems to be mainly the inlet side)

    2. ALL house drains/lines periodically back up and snaking appears to help alleviate the problem for a few days

    Tank was pumped about 5 or 6 weeks ago, no drain backup was noted at the time. Now the laundry room line needs to be snaked every 3-4 days and standing water appears above the tank regularly. We are a family of 5 and I know we're putting 100-150 gallons of water down the drain lines every day. Washer drain line is separate and doesn't go to the tank.

    Basically - where's the clog?

    [​IMG]

    This map isn't to scale.

    I can get 50' of auger down the laundry room line and that definitely makes it to the main T-out - but which way does it go from there? I mean, does it turn out the septic or go on towards the main bath line?

    I'm at a loss here. Pumping the tank is not cheap (we live in the boonies), should I head to Home Depot and invest in different auger cutter tips? Like I said, running the snake a few times tends to clear the lines for a few days, but the problem always comes back.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
    -Jonathan
     
  2. Dec 7, 2016 #2

    johnjh2o

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    Sounds like you have a problem with the drain field.
     
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  3. Dec 8, 2016 #3

    JerryB41

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    As johnjh2o wrote, you most likely have a problem with the leach field.

    Backups of toilet paper and sewage in the drain lines before the septic tank are commonly caused by the septic tank being flooded, which is commonly caused by water being unable to get out of the tank and be absorbed into the ground in the leach field. If your leach field is old, or marginal, those problems are frequently worse in wet weather. Your large number of users doesn't help!

    Assuming your septic tank has two access ports, take a look at the secondary (outlet) side: Is there water up to or over the outlet? That is a pretty clear indication of leach field problems. Depending on your soil, vegetation and other factors, the most common way to fix this is to rebuild the leach field. That either requires digging up and replacing the old failed field (piping, gravel, and what ever else your local codes require) or if you have the space, building a new field. About the same cost.

    As to your unclogging the lines, that is really a very temporary solution. As soon as the septic tank outlet becomes flooded (water over the outlet pipe), the paper and other waste will once again be unable to exit the plumbing.

    Pumping the tank is also a very temporary solution: As soon as the tank becomes full again, you are right back to lots of clogs. IMO, the septic pumping service should have inspected the lines that go to the leach field and advised as to their condition.

    I have lived with a septic system for over 30 years. Only had the tank pumped one time, and even then there was only a small amount of solids in the bottom of the tank. In our case, we are planning to put in a new leach field next spring, as we are experiencing occasional backups as you originally described.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
  4. Dec 9, 2016 #4

    SHEPLMBR

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    Companies around where I am, when they pump they also power wash the tank and inspect incoming and outgoing lines
     
  5. Dec 9, 2016 #5

    KULTULZ

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    Good practices, but how do you determine how the tank drains unless you open the D-Box and monitor effluent test flow (garden hose)?
     
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  6. Dec 9, 2016 #6

    SHEPLMBR

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    Well yeah. I strongly and have always strongly advised against diy septic problems. It's a health hazard.
     
  7. Dec 9, 2016 #7

    KULTULZ

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    :confused:

    I wonder if a riser kit is available for a D-Box (or if one can be bought that way)? Easier than locating and digging.
     
  8. Dec 10, 2016 #8

    loaba

    loaba

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    Thanks for the input, folks.

    Gotta neighbor coming over tomorrow morning to clear the brush over the leach field. Prepping for a possible field rebuild. Before I do that, I'm gonna lug the auger up to the roof and check the air vent, I mean, could that be part of the problem, or not likely?

    *Preliminary quotes for repairing and/or extending the leach field start at 3k...
     
  9. Dec 10, 2016 #9

    KULTULZ

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    :confused:

    Nothing should be at or around the leach-field other than grass.
     
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  10. Dec 10, 2016 #10

    loaba

    loaba

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    Little history on the place; site is probably 10 years old and it sat vacant for 3 of the last 4-5 years. We've been here since June, prior owner was here for a year or so before he sold it to us. Far as I know, there has always been a massive a growth of brush and bramble sitting atop the leach field.

    Judging by your comment, I'm thinking that's a bad thing. Is the damage already done, or will clearing the field provide some relief?

    /this is my first septic rodeo, in case you couldn't tell...
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  11. Dec 10, 2016 #11

    JerryB41

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    As KULTULZ wrote above, nothing but grass should be on or even near the leach field. The roots from bushes, trees, etc. seek the water and grow into the holes in the leach field pipe. This has the effect of eventually plugging both the spaces in the leach field aggregate and the holes in the pipe itself. Nothing wrong with eliminating the growth now, but that probably won't help if the leach field has actually failed. The roots will still be there! And, there is really no way to eliminate them except by digging up the leach field.

    Some septic service companies now have camera systems that are capable of examining the leach field. they run an optical fiber cable into the pipe and are able to see obstructions (such as roots) as well as broken piping.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  12. Dec 10, 2016 #12

    loaba

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    Question: if I were able to dig up the field myself (*doubtful), could the gravel in the trenches be reused? I am capable of installing the pipes.

    *ground here is hard as concrete
     
  13. Dec 10, 2016 #13

    loaba

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    Like many people on this forum, I'm not made of money and rebuilding the leach field is cost-prohibitive right now. That said, here's my plan going forward.

    1. clear the field
    2. apply heavy duty root/vegetation killer over field
    3. divine some method of dissolving possible grease build up in leach field

    Thoughts? Forget about the roots and grease and just gut it out until I can afford to rebuild the field?
     
  14. Dec 10, 2016 #14

    loaba

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    UPDATE

    Neighbor came over with a tractor and cleared the bramble over the drain field. We cracked the inspection port on the outlet side and gave it a good stir. The outlet pipe rides quite a bit on the high side and was pointed up a little. Was semi-blocked. Knocked off some crud and then got a snake about 20' down. Seems like the scum started leisurely flowing towards the out... I hope? Anyway, gonna watch the thing the rest of the day.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  15. Dec 10, 2016 #15

    KULTULZ

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    :confused:

    Just came on. I was going to warn you about heavy equipment over drainage or leach-field. May damage what's underneath.

    If she is starting to flow, all may be well. If you can find the D-Box and uncover it, it will be easier to monitor flow.

    Check with your local authority. Working on a septic system with no license/permit may be frowned upon.

    GOOD LUCK with it!
     
  16. Dec 10, 2016 #16

    loaba

    loaba

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    Sadly, it was a risk that had to be taken. The "bramble field" was probably 30x30, thick and full of 5' tall sage bushes. There was no way I was going to be able to clear that be hand.

    Per my neighbor, it's not gonna flow too fast. Does that make sense in your experience? I figure I got 20' of snake down the line, so that's probably how far out the D-box is. Again, does that make sense? If I need to dig it up, I'll do that.

    Yeah... there's a lot of stuff that goes on out here without the proper permits... But no, I don't think I've broken any laws yet.

    About the luck - yessir, I need all the luck I can get.
     
  17. Dec 11, 2016 #17

    KULTULZ

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    Hey, if it wasn't for bad luck I would have none at all... :cool:

    Well, you are right about clearing the brush. What are you going to do?

    It will flow (empty) slowly as the inlet and outlet should have been mounted at (or near - the outlet baffle maybe slightly lower) the same height. It will empty only as fast (if working properly) as it accepts waste from the house.

    You said your outlet baffle was at an angle? You have inspection ports (IN and OUT) or do you have an inspection riser(s)? There are many designs of tanks.

    Septic System Operation Dia.jpg

    Septic Tank.gif
     
  18. Dec 11, 2016 #18

    frodo

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    septic.jpg

    as you can see in the drawing, the ''out'' has a tee [or baffle] that

    points down.

    during normal operation, the scum line is above the inlet of this pipe.
    the reason it points down is to keep the scum from clogging the pipe.
    when your tank was pumped out.
    the scum floated up as the tank filled. the scum blocked the baffle when it reached that height
    causing you twitterpation and consternation :D:D
     
  19. Dec 11, 2016 #19

    loaba

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    No baffle on the outlet. Only thing there is a straight, horizontal, pipe going to the D-box (I assume.) Inlet side does have baffle.

    Is this a problem, or is it THE problem?
     
  20. Dec 11, 2016 #20

    KULTULZ

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    :eek:

    You need the baffle and an effluent filter would be a nice touch also. Just an open pipe will allow nasty things to go to the D-Box.

    What type of drain pipe (PVC) is used?
     

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