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Bomb shelter , cesspool/septic tank or buried propane tank ?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by oldgrezmonke, Feb 8, 2009.

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  1. Jackpine Savage

    Jackpine Savage Member

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    A well driller shared this tip with me. Rather than a flashlight, use a small mirror to reflect sunlight down the hole. You will be amazed at how well you can see, ha.

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  2. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Why not? That's how you find out what's inside.

    Sounds like much to do about nothing to me. I find all kinds of odd things in rural homes. If I was interested in buying, I'd get permission from the actual owner of the property to pop the lid off, even if you have to take some bolt cutters to the padlock. I've had to do this many times, especially with foreclosures. Then, simply look down the hole and see what's going on. If you're worried about fumes, hold your breath. The reality is, if the house has sat vacant for a few years, it probably won't be bad at all. If it is an old cesspoll, the walls will be fabricated, i.e. built by hand. Often made with cement blocks stacked with gaps inbetween or rocks stacked in a circle. Cesspool usualy can't be square because it can cave in from ground pressure on the sides. If a septic tank, it can be anything. Some early ones were just 300 gallon steel cans, whereas later ones were cement or plastic.

    If it's some sort of water source, it will be clean inside unless there's been a cave in. I'm not sure where the idea of "atresian well" comes into play here. An artesian well sends water above ground level under some sort of pressure. If it doesn't, it's not artesian. Might just be an old dug well though. Many old homes have dug wells along with later added drilled wells.
  3. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I agree with jdemaris. I was trying to convey the same thought that unless it is a petroleum tank, it is no big deal. Either leave it alone, fill it with sand, or smash it in with a backhoe and backfill with soil. Whether it's poop, water, or a bomb shelter, it's cheap to get rid of and no reason at all to pass up a deal.

    I had this happen with an in-ground swimming pool once at a house I wanted to buy. The seller was way worried that the pool was a deal breaker since it needed some work. To me, the pool was 500 bucks worth of pit run to fill it and some backhoe time to break the upper 3 feet into the hole. I did use the seller's fear to my advantage when dealing.
  4. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    Artesian means it's under some pressure which will bring it up in the hole. If it is enough to bring it to grade, it is "flowing artesian". A desireable well...keep it for future irrigation or other uses.
    Someone asked us about some similar unknown item at a house he was rebuilding. By that time, however, he had already directed a truckload of stone into it for abandonement. No harm really, but might've been nice to keep.
    Good luck!
  5. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    Just trying to get an idea with what I might be dealing [and how much I might get off the price] . I haven't dealt with buying many houses and never one this old so I wanted to tap into other's experiences .
  6. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    After checking the NY Dept. Envir. Conservation webside I found no mention of a clean-up fund there so you're right to be concerned about old fuel tanks.
  7. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    To say "flowing artesian" is redundant. "Artesian" by the correct use means "flowing."

    That sort of word useage evolved from people using the word wrong. That's how language changes, gets corrupted and later sometimes becomes accepted by continual use.

    From my old well drillers handbook dictionary:
    French "artésien" is from Artois in France. Of or pertaining to Artois (anciently called Artesium ) Artesian wells are wells made by boring into the earth till the instrument reaches
    water, which, from internal pressure, flows spontaneously like a fountain


    An "artesian well" by the original and correct meaning is a well that water naturally comes out of due the source being higher than the well itself. The term was first used by Cartusian monks in France in the 1100s. They drilled wells and for those that water sprung out of on its own, they called them artois wells. The term used here in the north American i.e. "artesian well" is taken from Artois, France.

    The definition of a "dead language" is a language that no longer changes. Obviously, English still changes a lot, and often when words get used wrong frequently and/or long enough, they get accepted. Subsequently, I don't know who is saying what in other regions of the USA, Canada, or whereever.

    I've worked with well drillers over many years, and for us here in northeast - "artesian well" means only one thing and that is the original meaning. Anything else would be confusing. I live in an area where there are dug wells all over the place. Dig a hole 30 feet into the ground, and it fills with water. If the head of the water is below ground level, it is NOT artesian. If it overflows, it is. If you have water coming out of the ground naturally, we call it a spring.

    If you were trying to sell a home in my area and claimed it had an artesian well, and it all it really had was a well with water in it, below ground level, you'd be likely to be accused of false representation. Seen it happen a few times - but that becase it was a part-time artesian that ran in spring and stopped in mid-summer.
  8. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Pop the lid open and look inside, it's a simple as that.

    If you're truly intestested in buying an old house or farmstead, the last thing you want to do is starting calling government agencies. Once they get involved, you've totally screwed things up, just as they will. That goes for possible below ground fuel tanks, septic systems, etc.

    Take a flashlight and look down the hole. Not very complicated. If the seller won't let you, walk away. If you DO see an empty liquid fuel tank of some sort, then you DO have some concerns. Once a government agency gets invovled, they'll probably demand soil and well water samples be taken. If any evidence of contamination in the soil and/or water, then a clean up will probably be ordered along with a search of prior owners and who might be made to pay. At that point, it's not worth buying.

    I've bought such properties in the past, and if prior spills were small, I learned a long time ago to simply keep my mouth shut. Some slight signs of pollutions don't hurt a thing, and some have polluted water wells all over the place. Keep in mind that in many rural areas, oil was thrown on the dirt roads every summer for many years. Same with salt, often used more in the summer than the winter. Many water wells now are salt-polluted.

    You just have to look at things - whether its opening a closet door in the house - or popping the lid off an pipe sticking out of the ground - no big deal either way. Then, you have to make a choice of price versus risk and future repairs.
  9. Tarmsolo60

    Tarmsolo60 Feeling the Heat

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  10. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Here are two wells I have, one is a dug well where water comes to ground level in the spring and 20' down in mid summer. The well used to be in my backyard with a little well house sticking above ground. I dug around it, built a two-story addition to the house around it, and the well is now inside the house.

    The other well with the pitcher pump is one I drilled 225 deep at my Adirondack mountain cabin. It would up being a real Artesian well and runs out of the ground, all the time. In fact, I've run a pipe 20 feet in the air and it still runs. Note my dog enjoying the self-service water supply. We use a hand pump plus a spigot to fill buckets with no pump needed. Hand pump just makes getting a lot of water faster.

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  11. Ugly

    Ugly New Member

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    That's slicker than snot on a doorknob.

    Very nice, I'm green with envy. I live on the bedrock of mother earth (Canadian Shiield). Everything that won't dry up is drilled but on the other hand surface contamination is virtually impossible due to the nature of the beast (zero recorded cases).
  12. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Same here JD. It is not artesian unless it actually flows up to and above ground level. About every well I've ever been associated with comes up in the hole a little bit or a lot after you hit the water. Like the well is drilled 150 feet deep before hitting water and then the water level comes up to 20 feet below the hole after awhile. That doesn't make all of those wells artesian.

    A well in your house!
  13. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    You're in TN, probably part of a distillery!
  14. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    Oh No ! A Still ! If I buy the place , that means trouble with revenooers !
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