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Here's a crappy question...

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Jay H, Apr 9, 2008.

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  1. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Since reading Lee's question, I am curious as I have a 1250gal septic tank for all the wastewater and greywater from my house. It's brand new when I moved in which would make it about 1.5 years old. It's sized for a 3-bedroom house but I live alone and doesn't get much use since I'm typically at work on the weekdays and out hiking/backpacking/camping on the weekends (sh*t in the woods, etc. etc) How long do you think I could or should go before having it pumped out, either by Lee (just kidding :)) or a septic company?

    Jay

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  2. hh3f

    hh3f Member

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    If its just you I wouldn't worry. If you have a family I believe its every 5 years for proper maintenance. The newer systems have a effluent filter( http://www.septicsolutions.net/store/effluentfilter.htm ) in the discharge before it goes to the fields. This is to catch lint and string and other things that might clog your fields. The filter is plastic and and is pulled out like a cartridge and cleaned once a year and placed back in. You have to dig up your access cover if you plan on doing it yourself. If you ever get a back up this is the first thing to check. If you don't have a idea where the cover is you can call the company that installed it and ask for the site plan or go to your sanitation department and get it there. And while your there ask what there time requirements are for pumping are. In my town in CT they recommend every 5 years.
  3. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Well, since my septic is newly installed in Dec,05 I actually have the septic plans! The company put 4 vented (capped) pipes in the drainfield and I have a manhole cover and an access port to something in my yard. I also have a septic alarm that is powered from my circuit panel that supposedly will go off (audibly) if there is a backup....

    Thanks for the filter warning, I didn't know this. Next to the manhole is a dark grey about 5"x5" square panel with a screwed in lid on it, maybe that is the access to the filter? I never bothered to really check...

    I used to have a greywater well but that isn't to code so when the seller sold the house, he had to get the greywater discharge and the wastewater into one septic.

    Jay
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Well Jay, with an alarm on your system I am fairly certain that you have pumps. Your grey panel is likely the junction/control box. You should have two separate tanks of 1000 gallons or so with one being a pump tank and one a septic tank. If there is a filter it would be between the two tanks but most pump systems do not have them since the pump grinds everything up so well. The riser lids are monitoring wells to be sure that the drainfield is keeping up. You shouldn't see liquid in these tubes. If your system is really fancy you may have a sand filter there but that is less common. If your power goes out, you have limited sewage capacity so be frugal with the water.

    Funny thing about a plugged up filter on the outlet which causes a backup into the home. These filters are typically accessed through the septic tank lid on the outlet chamber. If the filter is plugged the septic tank fills and fills until it backs up into the lowest plumbing fixture in the home. This can make a nice fountain looking thing in the basement shower if your mother in law is draining her bath tub in the top story of the home. But, it gets worse. You being a smart guy concludes that the effluent filter has plugged and must be cleaned. You go out and remove the lid above the filter and what do you suppose happens? Yep, wet feet. Not just water though, the layers of the septic tank are still stratified so you will get the rancid fat layer known as scum which looks like brown mashed potatoes squirting out. Then you get the nerve to reach into this glop and fish out the filter hoping to minimize the amount of funk that shoots down the now non-filtered line into your sensitive drainfield. Don't let this filter plug up!

    Here's my advice.

    1)There is almost always a cleanout between the first septic tank and the home. Loosen the lid fully and just set it on the riser. This is your safety overflow and prevents a backup into your home. Lots of money to clean this up.

    2) Before you remove any tank lid, tap it with your knuckle to be sure that there is a hollow sound. This is good for plastic lids but not so good for concrete.

    3) Clean that effluent filter often. I put an easy access valve box over my filter lid up to the surface and clean the filter regularly with a garden hose. Several times a year. There is no penalty for overcleaning this filter. It is an important filter to have but if it plugs up bad things happen. Easy to clean.

    One man on a 3 bedroom septic can easily go 10 years under normal conditions. Pump it at 10 and be there to ask how full it was. The sludge layer will accumulate on the bottom and scum layer on top. The clear zone is the good part and needs to be a certain percentage of the tank depth. I feel good about 5 years with my family of 4 but my local government requires 3 which I ignore and wait for the poop police to come and get me.
  5. hh3f

    hh3f Member

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    He's right you have a pump or pumps in your first tank. Your pumping up hill from there to a septic tank. And from there it sounds like a normal system after that. If you do have a effluent filter I would think it would be after the second tank before the fields because it would clog to quick from the raw sewage.
    There are two types of pumps you can have in this system one being a grinder pump. Very expensive and most can only afford one. The most common are sewage ejection pumps. Good for pumping volume and will pass solids. Needs 2 inch discharge line. Anything smaller it will clog. The reason I know this is I got screwed by a builder who put in a system with only 1 1/2 line and it clogged. I was forced to get a grinder pump so it would puree the poop and pass it through the line to city sewer. The builder payed for this. 2 years later the pump crapped out and I had to pay. That pump cost about 2 grand.
    When you have your septic tank cleaned it would be a good idea to also have him clean the pump tank and check the condition of the floats and check the amps on the pumps. Also try to use only liquid soap for laundry as the powdered stuff will build up as a cake in the bottom of the pump tank. And tell the women none of there junk either(wink wink).
    Good luck with yours as you can see I didn't have much with mine. If it was professionally installed you should be fine. I talked with alot of people with the same system and many went went decades without any problem. Keep your warranty handy and educate yourself as to how the system works in case there is a problem.
  6. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Cool, the house I grew up in was city sewer so I never had any XP with septic systems and this septic system was done by a professional.

    I always use liquid laundry detergent and I filter the output of my washing machine so I collect whatever lint that comes out of the machine. I actually have a couple of pumps in the systme, there is an up-pump from the laundry tub and washing machine as it's below the main septic line, My washing machine basically drains to the laundry tub and the laundry tub drains to a "Little Giant" up pump through a one-way check valve to some PVC running the length of my basement to the main discharge line. I think I shall go home and study the septic plan since frankly, I haven't much looked at the plans (or had to anyway, knock on wood). I'll see if the efluenty filter is on the septic plan.....

    Jay
  7. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    C'mon hunting season!
    I have a septic...I pump once a year for 100 bucks. I look at it as cheap insurance. In a new system like yours I would go every 3 years or so...unless you get a letter from your city. A lot of municipalities require it every other year.
  8. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    With the cost of a new septic system, plus consideration of where to put it, I opt for more frequent pumping. We have gravity fed system and a new system would require a lift pump. Wife and I, with family guests from time to time, pump every 3 years. We have two 1250 gal tanks then to drainfield. Cheap insurance is where I am too.
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