septic problem

choochnbobApril 19, 2011

OUr septic is having troubles ( smells, standing water over leachfield, tank refilling from leachfield after being pumped) and we were told that it is failing. Recommended treatment was an aerator with beneficial aerobic bugs system called White Knight. It is a costly fix though and i hate the idea of using electricity 24/7 for the aeration.

Has anyone used bio-safe-one beneficial enzymes? Or any other additive good bugs product? It would be a slight;y cheaper fix but won;t use electricity 24/7 which is the part I like. We need to do something to rejuvenate our clogged leachfield. Apparently there is biomat clogging it up so it can't process the liquid properly.

Thanks for any help.

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barbcollins

My DH (plumber) recommends Bio-Clean by Statewide Supply to his customer's. I can't personally vouch for it, but I know it is inexpensive. It can't hurt to try it.

What state are you in?

Here in Maryland there is a grant program to help pay to replace failing septic systems with an aerobic one. You may want to check with your State Health Dept.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 7:36AM
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brickeyee

If the field is no longer absorbing waste water (a common cause is not pumping the tank often enough allowing solids to enter the drain field) there is not a lot to do.

A new field (and it will either require another area or very rarely you can replace the dirt in the field) or a switch to an aerobic system (that uses power).

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 9:52AM
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choochnbob

Thanks for the replies!
Apparently the aerating systems that are Massachusetts state approved have beneficial waste eating bugs added with them. I was wondering if we could add the bugs ourselves (like Bio Clean) and pipe in air via a passive whirligig(chef hat spinner thing). It would cost us about the same amount of up front $ but won;t require the 24/7 electricity usage. We live on an open field hill with a ton of wind so aeration would be pretty darn good most of the time.
Thanks again for taking the time to reply, I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 7:44AM
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brickeyee

The aeration takes a decent size pump and you are not going to get it with a "whirligig."

You have to drive the air into the water, not just blow it over the top and it takes a decent volume of air to make the system work.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:47AM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Septic 101:

1) Size the drain field properly for your soil conditions (if your drain field is old, this may be the problem)

2) Install the drain field properly so that it is not driven-over by heavy equipment and collapsed (this is also a common issue)

3) Never pump a properly working septic. Septic systems work by good bacteria chewing up solids. When you pump a septic, you remove most of the bacteria that are already acclimated to your particular mix of waste. It takes a long time to get the correct bacteria in the tank again after pumping. It only takes a matter of days to fill the septic tank up again, at which point extra oils and solids less dense than water will flow out of the tank into your drainfield causing additional problems. The idea of pumping a properly operating septic is recommended by folks that make money pumping tanks, never by people who actually understand septic systems. If sludge is building up too much and actually seeping into your drain field then either a) you are placing inappropriate items in the septic, or b) the tank is not large enough.

4) Once your septic is not draining properly, you need to fix your drain field or replace it.

5) Things to avoid placing in a septic system: extraneous proteins, fats and oils, bleach, sanitary pads, tampons, diapers, cat litter or other hard soils that can't be broken down by bacteria, chemicals, paint.

6) Do not place additives (such as RidX or BioClean) into your septic. All you are doing is introducing bacteria that are designed to quickly break up the necessary sludge and scum layers in your septic tank (notice I said break up, not digest). When these layers break up they exist the tank into your drain field and damage your system further. Your own digestive system provides the correct bacteria for your septic system.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 1:51PM
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barbcollins

aliceinwonderland_id - I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

We have a friend who is a septic installer/expert. He advised us to pump ours about every 3 years (before our kids moved out). If solids get in our seepage pits, we will be digging up the yard. Everything I have read has recommended they are pumped on a regular basis.

I do agree in being careful in what you put down the drain. Would like to add to the list: Baby wipes!!
About 6 months after we bought our house we found out the previous owner was flushing them. DH pulled a 5 gallon bucket of baby wipes out of the end of the pipe going in the tank.

Golf Balls - Ok this one's funny. In our first house DH was down working in the basement, when he heard one kid, yell out that another kid dropped a golf ball in the toilet. Just has he shouted out "Don't Flush it!!!!" he hears them flush the toilet. He stood in the basement and held his breath as heard the tap, tap, tap, tap, as the ball rattled it's way down pipe ;)

choochnbob - there is a lot more to an aerobic septic system then a fan. I don't think a whirlygig is going to help you at this point :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 7:38AM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Is your friend an installer or a civil engineer who designs septic systems?

I understand why recommendations are made to pump every few years. Most people abuse their septic systems - abused systems require pumping. Most builders and installers haven't a clue how to properly design a septic system and install undersized tanks and undersized drain fields, often pushed by the home owner to save money. Now we have a situation where an entire industry has sprung up to pump septic systems that were designed to fail and then abused by ignorant homeowners. It's a vicious cycle.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:37PM
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barbcollins

No he is not a "civil engineer", but he has been installing septic systems for over 30 years. I don't think he would be in business that long if he "didn't have a clue" and I don't you think you should make that general assumption.

Am I to assume that you are a engineer who designs septic systems?

For me it is a financial gamble I don't want to take. Do I want to spend $125-$150 to have the tank pumped every 3-5 years, or do I want to take a chance of having it fail because solids got in the seepage pits? Then be looking at a very large repair bill.

So is the government and State University's in on the conspiracy too? I found a lot government health dept and University Extension Services experts that say you need to pump your tank.

Here are a few:

University of Maryland Extension Service: Septic Systems from A to Z
http://extension.umd.edu/environment/water/files/septic.html

City of Virginia Beach:
http://vbgov.com/vgn.aspx?vgnextoid=1eceb2c08804c010VgnVCM1000006310640aRCRD&vgnextchannel=7e4354cf18ad9010VgnVCM100000870b640aRCRD&vgnextparchannel=92d154cf18ad9010VgnVCM100000870b640aRCRD

North Carolina University, Dept of Soil Science:
http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications/Soilfacts/AG-439-13/

Can you please post some links to engineers or soil scientists who state it is uncessary to pump a tank?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 6:18PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Perhaps I need to clarify a bit. Never pump a properly operating septic tank is not the same thing as never pump a septic tank at all. A pump schedule based on a chart of how many people are in the house and the size of the tank, such as those put out by government agencies, is for the worst case scenario - people who abuse their systems. Determining when to pump your tank should only be done by measuring sludge depth in the tank. This should be done annually. My tank, for instance, has not been pumped for over 15 years, but as there is nearly no sludge in it, there is not a reason in the world to pump the tank. None. That is what I mean when I say never to pump a properly operating tank. Installers or pumpers who recommend pumping based on anything but actual sludge level either 1) don't know any better or 2) want your money (they are in business to make money, after all).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 7:11PM
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barbcollins

I am curious.

How much do they charge you to come out and measure your sludge depth annually?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 8:13AM
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brickeyee

"Never pump a properly working septic."

This is th edeath of many septic systems.

As soilds accunulate in the tank, there is less and less volume available for digestpon.

Eventually solids make it into the drain fild and clog the field destroying its ability to dispers liqwuids.

Time for a new field.

Not enough room for another field?
pay the freight for aerobic and you no longer need a field.
The final liquid can be discharged on the ground.

Of course it requires aeration pumps, chlorine tablets, and three tanks (digest, chlorinate, de-chlorinate).

But you saved on pumping!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:42AM
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shadetree_bob

I have to ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY AGREE with aliceinwonderland, never, never, pump a septic tank unless you have absolutely no other choices, those that recommend pumping as your first choice have absolutely no idea how the septic system works. A properly designed and maintained septic system will never need pumping, sorry brckeyee but a properly maintained system will never get this sludge backup you are talking about! That is not to say things can or will go wrong and you will have to pump it to restore it to it's original condition. I have been working on septic systems for several decades and 98% of the time the problem is either people over using the tanks capacity or putting things in it that do not belong there or the drain field is either not big enough or is blocked with roots. The first thing I do when analysing a backed up system is to open up the outlet from the tank to the field, if you get a large rush of water or something that could possibly pass as water then the next step is to replace the drain field, DO NOT PUMP THE TANK AT THIS POINT, give the new drain field a chance to do it's job. 95% of the people that preach pumping are making money off of the pumping someway !!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 2:20PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

brickeye - Did you skim instead of reading? You pump only when necessary and only when sludge has accumulated (from abuse of the system). This will not be the death of any system because you will know if and when pumping becomes necessary.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 3:29PM
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barbcollins

alice - could you please post links to this information that septics don't need to be pumped regularly?

Also, how much to do they charge you to come out and measure the sludge annually?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 8:16AM
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aliceinwonderland_id

They don't measure the sludge annually - I do. I suppose they would if asked, but I have no idea what the charge would be. Seriously - this is common sense. You pump to remove sludge - no sludge, no pumping necessary. This is the very first thing you learn in septic design.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 9:16AM
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brickeyee

"brickeye - Did you skim instead of reading? You pump only when necessary and only when sludge has accumulated (from abuse of the system). This will not be the death of any system because you will know if and when pumping becomes necessary."

You are spending way to much time trying to avoid a simple job, pump the tank.

By the time you have decided there is enough buildup to pump you have been wrecking the drainage field for some period of time.

You can always just replace it though.
Hope you have enough land or money for an aerobic system.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 7:45PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

15 years, three inches of sludge. My system is just fine, thanks.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 10:15PM
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barbcollins

Like I said; at this point I think we all need to agree to disagree. Alice if your comfortable with measuring your sludge so be it. The average homeowner is not going to do this.

For me, making DH go out there and dig up the cap and then tell him to just to measure it is going to cause another kind of problem :)

It's easier for me to just call a scavenger every couple of years. Your not going to convince me that pumping my tank on a regular basis is harmful.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 8:53AM
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aliceinwonderland_id

That's fine - your choice. But please, please, please quit advising people to place additives in their septic systems. This absolutely, without question, will damage their systems. The only result of those additives, when they do anything at all, is to break up scum and sludge layers in the tank, causing them to enter the drain field - I think we can all agree that this is the worst possible outcome.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:04AM
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brickeyee

"But please, please, please quit advising people to place additives in their septic systems. "

Everything the septic system requires comes as the output from the toilets it is serving.

Nothing more is needed, and in some states it is actually illegal to advertise things to add to the system.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 10:27AM
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live_wire_oak

I have a 40 year old properly sized and functioning tank that has never been pumped. Never needed to be pumped because it was never abused. No grease. No food waste. No feminine or baby products. No bleach cleaners or rinsing paint or other household project residues into the tank. And the laundry system drains to it's own tank/drywell digester. And it was sized and constructed properly for it's location and soil type. Clay soil needed a lot of gravel bedding for the leach field, and it needed to be larger than one in better draining soil would need. All of that was done, and there's never been a problem. Not even when we had the 9 inches of rain in three days recently. Yes, it saturated the soil completely and lots of other people were having septic issues because of that. Not us. The leach field was done properly to account for this one in 50 year event.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 12:32PM
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brickeyee

"Never needed to be pumped because it was never abused. "

You do not use toilet paper?

The cellulose in the paper is NOT digested in the tank.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 1:51PM
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barbcollins

live_wire_oak - You're lucky. Most people don't have a septic system designed well enough that it never needs to be pumped. I would think that very few have a separate system for their laundry.

I remember when I was young my mother's washer emptied outside on the ground. Phew... can't do that now!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 7:38AM
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choochnbob

Well I don't know anything about the 'to pump or not to pump' issue but I thought I'd give you all an update. We found out that we had a very leaky toilet, about 2-3 gallons and hour so obviously that didn't help our system any. And we weren't being particularly water wise with washing either. So we replaced the toilet with a low volume toilet and have done laundry at the laundrymat for the past few weeks and we're being very water wise with short showers. As a result, the ground is no longer squishy out there and there is no smell and no more gurgling coming from any toilets or pipes. So it may be too soon to tell but we are treating the system with the kindness and respect it has always deserved. Now we hope it returns the favor. We are giving it a little while longer to 'dry out' a bit. It has been rainy enough here so I don't plan to start introducing clothes washing water to it for a couple weeks. Hopefully it doesn't protest when we do because the laundrymat is a bit inconvenient.
Thanks for all the input. If there are any changes, I'll let you know. In the meantime my lucky husband gets to replace two other older big tank toilets with new low flow ones and what the heck we figure we'll change out the shower heads to low flows (and i'm secretly hoping for a fancy new front load low water washing machine....shhhhh I haven't mentioned that part yet). I figure I ought to take it one low flow toilet at t a time and work up ! So even if we haven't solved the problem and a big ticket fix is in our future, at the very least this issue has resulted in our family being a bit more respectful and we are wasting less water for sure. So it's a blessing. A stinky one, but a blessing nonetheless. Thanks all for your help and advice.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 8:09AM
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barbcollins

Got this in an email today, and thought a little levity might be helpful here:

------------------------------------------------------------
As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Kentucky back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.
There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothing' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 8:16PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Too funny!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:03PM
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vieja_gw

Nephew had his new septic tank installed when he had his new double-wide 4 bedroom home brought in on his 5 acres. The size of the tank was specific to code for the 4 bedrooms & number of occupants he was told. After 10 years the tank began to overflow x the first tank last month. He had someone come to empty the tank & was chastized for waiting so long & for putting baker's yeast (or anything else) down the tank via the toilets.... told to have it emptied at least every 5-7 years. Now I read that the yeast is good to use? What exactly is 'ridex or Bio Clean?

Oh Barbcollins, that is SO funny ... thanks!!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 9:18PM
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brickeyee

"Now I read that the yeast is good to use? What exactly is 'ridex or Bio Clean? "

Wrong organisms.

The input to the tank has everything needed, including the correct organisms.

Failing ti pump can allow solids to pass into the field destroying it

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 11:58AM
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