How do I find out where my leach field is?

robincoNovember 14, 2006

I'm assuming that those of you who looked at my subject line had to open this to see who could possibly be this dumb... BUT We recently (~1 year ago) moved into a house (built in 1967) on 1.5 acres with a septic system. The septic tank is original and is about 6 feet below ground(we had it pumped and inspected last fall), so I'm assuming the leach field must be quite deep down (the house is not on any sort of appreciable slope), but I have no idea exactly how deep or how far behind the house into the pasture it extends. There was no evidence of a gravel layer at about 24 inches down in the pasture when we dug holes for new fence posts.

I'm asking if there's any way to know because I would like to plant my pumpkin patch and potager about 75 feet from the back of the house but I don't want to plant on top of the leach field ( I hear that's a no-no).

Any ideas? Thanks.

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If the top of your septic tank is 6' below grade the leachfield must be at least 7' below grade. There would be no problem with planting over the leach field, in fact, it might have some advantage to both your plants and the septic system.

1. The leach field would keep the soil moist which provides additional water to the crop.

2. The crops extact water which diminishes ground saturation making the leach field work easier.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 11:50AM
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Thanks, lazypup! That makes sense.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 12:00PM
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Pooh Bear

Erma Bombeck wrote a book appropriately called:
"The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank."

Same applies to all the leech fields I have seen.

Just look for a place where the grass seems to grow faster and greener.
I can trace the leech line in my yard real easy before mowing.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 8:56AM
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That's exactly how I thought it would be, but there's no discernible "green zone" perhaps because of the depth of septic tank and the fact that the overlying soils are pretty darn clayey. OR it may be because I neglected my back lawn so terribly this year while remodeling and turning the huge gravel drive out front into a lawn and perennial border that it was hard to distinguish between "dead" and "dying" grass...

    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 9:54AM
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In my area, the maximum permissible burial depth for leach lines is 3'. It is necessary for us to use the area carefully, if at all.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 9:15AM
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Thanks, bus_driver. I suppose I could get a copy of the code at the time the house was built to find out if there was a maximum permissible depth (although I imagine the reason for that would be due to water table depth - NOT an issue here in semi-arid northern Colorado). I think I will stick to raised beds and relatively shallow-rooted annuals.

We will probably have the tank pumped again in the Spring (recommended because the system is so old and we have 5 people and a 1250 gallon tank), 18 months since the last pumping. I'll ask the septic guy then if he has any recommendations.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 9:45AM
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The depth of burial must consider such factors as frost depth and prevailing geological conditions.

In my region the frost depth is 30" and all lines must be a minimum of 6" below frost depth therefore our minimum depth is 36" and maximum is 48".

In regards to pumping, i fail to see why so many people insist on annually pumping a septic tank. If the tank and leachfield are properly installed and functioning correctly the only time it should require pumping is when there is a buildup of non-digestible waste such as plastics which effects flow. In my region the need to pump septic tanks is so seldom that there is only one pumping truck in the county and it is currently for sale because of a lack of work. The septic tank at my mothers house was installed in 1965 and it has never been pumped.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 1:34PM
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Once again the Lazypup School of Master Plumbing is in session - thank you as always.

One fact that needs to be reinforced regarding septic tanks - LP alluded to it but I am not the gentleman he is and am given to very direct talk. DO NOT flush feminine hygiene products or prophylactic devices down the can. They never do any good to your system. The septic tank and leach field are living things - they don't process plastic.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 9:37AM
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No need for delicacy in matters regarding poo disposal! I'm glad to hear from someone else that pumping is (or at least should not be) necessary. When we moved in, the system had not been used very heavily for some time, and the sudden shock of 5 people's worth of not only toilet stuff but wash water (no bleach, though), shower water, etc. seemed to really throw off the bacteria population (read: STINKY!!!!) - SO, we had it pumped completely and got some sort of super-duper bacteria inoculation and we haven't had any odor since. I won't rush into another pumping, however.

And no, nothing goes into the tank that couldn't be (or already hasn't been) digested by the human body.

Mmmmmm... nothing like a little septic talk with that morning coffee ;-)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 12:24PM
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I helped with my first septic tank installtion about 1951. I now own that property and it has never been pumped. But nearby, a house was torn down and the area converted to cemetery. So that a future gravedigger would not encounter a nasty surprise, the septic tank was pumped and removed. Water had to be hauled in and the tank filled and pumped several times to beak up the caked material in the bottom. I do think pumping about every 5 years is advisable. Most operators can "backflush" and pump the liquid back into the tank to break up the caked solids, then pump again. This is advisable.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 3:05PM
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