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Septic system questions

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by kobudo, Nov 11, 2008.

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  1. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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    This will be our first year using a septic system we had installed at our cabin.

    1. What do you use to clean the toilets/shower. I assume we shouldn't use bleach because it will kill bacteria in the tank.

    2. We had a couple of the tank blankets laid down on the septic tank for insullation. We will also keep from packing down the snow on the tank and drainfield. What else should be done to prevent freezing? (especially with the pvc pipe carrying waste to the tank.)

    3. How much rv anti freeze to put in the toilet and tank when we leave it unoccupied for a while?

    Any other helpful hints?

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  2. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Is your tank not burried? I have septic but it's certainly deep enough not to have to worry about freezing. You shouldn't have any standing water (fluid/poo/etc) in your pipes if the PVC was installed correctly. That is unless you have traps that are exterior to the house? I guess I'm confused on your location. If it's underground and your piping is all underground I think you should be fine....
  3. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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    The tank is underground but a couple of years ago when there wasn't a ton of snow and temps dipped down to -40*F there were quite a few problems.
    The pvc pipe is suspended underneath the building. The building is off the ground on piers since it is built on Canadian shield bedrock.
  4. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Believe it or not, snow is a very good insulator.... But looking at your location (MN), I know it can get very very cold up there, perhaps the pipes aren't deep enough???

    Inside a snow cave, the temps will be a steady 32degF, because of the cell like structure of snowflakes trapping air inside. Not sure if it's closed cell or open cell but with enough snow, it acts like an insulator...

    Jay
  5. backpack09

    backpack09 Minister of Fire

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    Bleach is ok, even if you kill some of the bugs, they will come back poo is good food.
    RV anitfreeze is ok even in large quantities, if needed in your traps, but the buggies in your system should keep themselves nice and warm. My first thaw in the spring is on the shaded north side of my house where my septic system sits.

    If the septic was professionally installed and inspected (dont know about your locality) the system should be below the frost line (3' in my area, deeper the farther north you go) and belowground freezing should not be a problem.
  6. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    1) No bleach. Other cleansers, always liquid.

    2) There should never be water setting in the PVC pipes. They are sloped to drain. If you still have freeze problems due to bad install or just really cold weather then get some heat tape like people use on their domestic water lines. Frozen tank would be ridiculous. A bad install above the frost line plus low bacterial action. A perfect storm that I wouldn't worry about.

    3) Seriously? In your house? Are you heating the space? The trap is in the heated part of the toilet but to be safe then I would only add about a cup or whatever it appears to need to get a 50/50 mix. The RV antifreeze is non-toxic and works like vodka in the freezer to lower the freeze point.

    4) Keep your drainfield area free of any vegetation other than grass. Keep surface water from going there. Only uase liquid soaps and detergents in the laundry, dishwasher, etc. Don't cump mop fluid or any other jive down there. Only things that you've eaten or wash water.
  7. backpack09

    backpack09 Minister of Fire

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    What is your reasoning behind not recommending bleach? Household bleach is fairly low concentration and, unless you are dumping it straight down the sink, usually gets diluted even more. At that point the # of bacteria killed in your tank is so small that they can recoup in a matter of hours.
  8. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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    We do heat the space but propane heaters aren't fullproof and a few nights of thirty below zero and highs of minus five will freeze things up in a hurry. Sometimes we are away for 3 weeks at a time.
    The tank was laid on top of the bedrock and then gravel was brought in to cover it. I wasn't there to observe but I am guessing it is 3' under which is very touch and go for freezing that is why I had the special blankets on top.
    I do have heat tape on the line from the well to the building. Is it o.k. to install this tape to pvc pipes? If so I would then have to put insltn over the pipes or else the heat would just disipate into the air.
  9. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    yes you can place heat tape over the PVC in a straight line, tape it down then cover with insulation no to thick maybe 1/2" to 5/8" and tape also. I owuld even go as far as making some type of box enclosures for any exposed pipeing you supect may freeze.
    It way to cold there i'd move<<< LOL
  10. SnaykeByte

    SnaykeByte New Member

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    Agreed, household bleach won't hurt a thing.
  11. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I've never lived in a place that didn't have a septic system (other than my four years down south in New Hampshire at college :) ;) .)

    1) Bleach or any other household chemical . . . there should be enough water and other waste to not affect the bugs and their eating habits.

    2) In some ways my house has a similar set up to you . . . our tank and leachfield was built up since my house is right on top of rock (which is also why I don't have a full basement to my deep regret) . . . as mentioned the snow and what dirt is present keeps the pipe from freezing . . . plus there is some heat generated from septic tank and the little buggers digesting the "Baby Ruths" and "Devil Dogs" I keep sending their way. There should be little to no standing water in the waste lines anyways if it is sloped correctly.

    3) Not sure about the RV anti-freeze . . . never have done this, but in a situation where I would have a camp or home unoccupied and unchecked for several days or weeks at a time I would think this might be a good idea.

    Other helpful hints . . . 1) I have a cap over my septic with a straight shot to the tank . . . this has been helpful in being able to easily access the tank for pumping purposes, 2) Speaking of pumping . . . make sure you get it pumped every so often (every 2-5 years depending on usage), 3) Some folks like to dump Rid-X, yeast or other material down the drain . . . it's up to you . . . I personally think it's over-kill, but then again maybe the buggers view the yeast or Rid-X like getting a prime rib instead of the usual hamburger. :) ;)
  12. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    Don't use coloured toilet/tissue paper (why would you want extra dies on your a** but that is another story) as they are harder to brake down.
    Have been told that tissue shouldn't be thrown down either as it is harder to break down. Not sure but I have always abide by it.
    No feminine hygiene products down the loo.
    I would be careful of chemicals but thinking more the same of not dumping stuff down the drain no matter what you have.
    Bleach is ok. Don't dump a 55 gallon drum of it down though.

    I think if you are careful this 3-5 year pump out is a bit too conservative. My aunt had her tank pumped out after 20 years. They guy said next time you call make sure you wait at least 30 years. Now she had a big tank and an older system.

    Don't drive heavy equipment over your septic field.

    Also I am not a believer in those chemicals you dump down the system for maintenance. There are a lot of bacteria down there doing a fine job. Maybe if the system is seasonal, but even then they get going pretty quick.
  13. kobudo

    kobudo Member

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    Good information. Thanks guys.
    I wish I could have had a basement but that would have required explosives and blasting. Of course, that may have been fun!
    Fortunetly we do receive quite a bit of snow at my location. The trouble may be keeping our big dog off the tank, drainfield and other areas so it doesn't get packed down.
  14. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I seem to be the only guy with a problem using bleach. Well. It is on principle. Of course you can use a little bit of bleach and get away with it. You can use a lot of bleach and have a big problem. If you manage to "kill" the tank then you are up poo creek. We have some straight bleach in the house and I do use mildew remover for the showers which is basicly bleach so I suppose the real message is to use moderation with the bleach as it is one of the few things that really can kill the system if you go way overboard.

    So in your bedrock situation, how do you dispose of the effluent after the septic? Sprinklers? Surface discharge?
  15. Molson

    Molson New Member

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    He has a drainfield installed also.
  16. bjkjoseph

    bjkjoseph Member

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    before we were hooked up to sewers in the 70's everybody had a separate little septic tank for the washing machine.bleach is a very powerful bacteria killer even in small amounts.
  17. rphurley

    rphurley Feeling the Heat

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    I would say avoid the bleech, and have the system cleaned out every three years or so to prevent the small pvc pipes in your leachfield from becomming gummed up. My friend let his go for years and years and the system plugged up in the middle of February. It was a brutally expensive repair, so just do what the manufacturer recommends! Good Luck.
    Rick
  18. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    Interesting septic system installation for sure.

    How many gallon septic tank do you have?

    It would take some time to freeze 1000 gallons in a tank under 3 feet. I'd do some research if I was concerned about it and see if I could bring in another foot or two of soil and mound up over the tank to provide additional insulation.

    Secondly, your pvc drain to the tank, is it a 4 inch line? How long of a run until it reaches the tank? AND, does it run underground anywhere, and if so, for how long prior to reaching the tank?

    For now, my guess is to use the anti-freeze in proper quantity during cold spells, you have to know your tank volume.

    I'd also persue the electric heat tape, but there would be no need to have it turned on to keep the drain line from freezing if the cabin is empty for weeks at a time, you'd only need to turn it on when at the cabin and having sub freezing stretches of weather.

    Only other item would be to remain aware of where the drain field and tank are located and not drive over them.
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