Septic System + Heavy Prolonged Rain = Burping Toilet?

vgkgJanuary 16, 2013

Hi there, just me again to repost an old but updated question. Appreciate you humoring me ;)
I was wondering if what I'm observing is normal for an old septic system, or a new one for that matter. Here's what's going on -

I bought an old farm house that predates indoor plumbing but plumbing was installed a long time ago with a vented full bath upstairs and an unvented half bath downstairs. Everything works normal as it should 95% of the time but when we get a long heavy rainy period for several days with several inches of rain we notice that when the upstairs toilet is flushed the downstairs toilet burps. My "guess" is that the heavy rain saturates the drain field causing waste water to back up inside the septic tank, this covers up the end of the waste line inside the tank. So when the toilet upstairs is flushed this causes air to compress within the line which takes the path of least resistance to the intersecting downstairs unvented toilet line thus causing the burps.

The septic system is a terra cotta (sp?) type, we've never have a problem with it and do pump it out every 5 years. My main question - is it normal for it to back up a little as described above during these prolonged rainy periods? I can live with it as long as it doesn't back up all the way to the house but was wondering if this is typical in rain saturated soil? We do refrain from using excess water during these isolated burping times. If the downstairs toilet was vented I'd never know that this was occurring without the burp warning (the air pressure would go up the vent). Tell me I'm a worry wort, please ;)
Thanks a Bunch for any advice, be glad to give more info if it's helpful to find an answer.

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piedmontnc

My main question - is it normal for it to back up a little as described above during these prolonged rainy periods?

For a modern system, no. For one as old as yours, it may not be normal but it's also not unexpected.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 2:07PM
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vgkg

Thanks, then my next question would be if it's ok to proceed as usual with our daily wastewater routines without worry about a backup? An impossible question to answer perhaps. Just 2 old folks living here, our laundry is on a gray water system.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 2:49PM
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southerncanuck

If you have not had problems before and I am sure there were heavy rainfalls in the past I am sorry to say that old system is on it's last legs. I don't think it will get much worse over time. It looks like time to replace the weeping bed.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 8:42PM
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SnidelyWhiplash

"The septic system is a terra cotta (sp?) type, we've never have a problem with it..... "

I'm not an expert, but it sounds like you're describing a problem with it. Aren't you?

I'd think any situation where saturated ground leads to potential surface contamination from house sewage is 1) an issue under your local rules and 2) something you really should fix. Unless you really can't afford to.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 8:53PM
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southerncanuck

I misstated should have said won't get better over time. Yes as snidely states raw sewage is on the ground surface, very bad health issue. I could not afford my repair but couldn't afford not to. I put in a holding tank that comes with an annual bill of about $800.00 for pumping, a new peat moss system was around $20000.00 yes twenty thousand.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 3:33PM
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vgkg

Thanks for the feedback guys. To address two of your good points-
When I said "we never had a problem with it" I meant that there's never been a back-up into the house. The unvented toilet burping is evident only during extreme rain conditions such as the total of 6" fallen over the past few days on top of already rain saturated ground. Also there has Never been any evidence at all of septic leakage coming up to the ground surface, not ever in the 10 years we've lived here and I watch the ground closely, esp inspecting low puddling areas. The ground is very mushy but there's no sign of foul odors. Normal heavy rains = no problem. This type of flooding event which results in burping occurs about once per year. If the toilet was vented and didn't burp I'd probably never know or think that there was a "possible" problem. One thing I know for sure is that absolutely No sewage is coming to the surface, if it were I'd be asking other questions and getting estimates!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 4:16PM
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SnidelyWhiplash

I once had surface dampness above one of two leach fields (it was past due time to alternate from one to the other, I'd forgotten to do it). There was no smell at all. I'd bet your mushy area has surface contamination from your septic system. I hope you don't have well water.

Oftentimes leach fields aren't allowed in yard areas with seasonal drainage problems. I've known people who had to put in uphill systems with pumps because of health department concern about lower-lying ground.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 6:23PM
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