UGH!!! I have raw sewage in my house!!!

PoohpupNovember 20, 2012

Turns out that my kitchen contractor failed to hook up the septic alarm that had been under my main sink (after I'd told them repeatedly not to forget it!!). Arrived home after being gone all day to discover an ungodly smell in my house. Turns out the laundry room toilet backed up and spilled raw sewage on the floor. Thankfully it was just a very small amount so no damage. The float in our septic system failed and our alarm would have sounded IF IT HAD BEEN HOOKED UP!!!!

So gross. For those on a septic system, if your remodel involves your septic alarm at all, make sure it isn't forgotten! I'll be having a nice conversation with them tomorrow morning.


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Yuck! Very glad it was only a small amount, hope the smell is gone. We are on septic but I've never heard of an alarm. What does this do?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:57AM
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Yuck!!!! I've never even heard of a septic alarm despite living on septic for many years. Something I'll be asking about.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:59AM
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Aww, Pooh, so sorry to hear that:(

That's got to be glad it was only a small amount but i am sure it smells terrible.

good luck with the cleanup and give that contractor H*LL!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:43AM
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That is truly awful. I had a similar issue in my basement. I wish you a speedy clean-up! On a lighter note, this episode gives new meaning to your moniker :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Invite the contractor over to help clean up. :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 10:56AM
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Did you take pics?
And, I must ask, what did the contractor have to say about any of this?


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:00AM
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That is my biggest fear... so sorry!

Septic alarm.... warns you when the contents of the septic holding tank are too high. The tank needs time for everything to leave the tank to go to the drain field. If you use too much water inside too fast, the tank fills and a little floating indicator gets raised high enough to trigger an alarm. My alarm box is on the side of my house where the septic is with a red button on it. If the alarm goes off, you have to go press and hold that button to turn it off.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Just curious - if the alarm had gone off, would it have prevented anything or just warn you about what was about to happen. If the alarm had gone off, what steps could you take to prevent the backup?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:37PM
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At least you know the source of the sewage.

Any family members with strange diseases?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:40PM
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We had the same thing happen a couple of years ago where the float malfunctioned so the pump never kicked in and water rose to a dangerously high level. Dangerously high meaning it was in danger of backing up like it did last night. When the water hits that high level, it triggers the alarm, as it did that first time. We stopped all water usage and called the septic company who came out and replaced the float. Not a big deal. It was just an inconvenience because we had to seriously limit water usage until it was fixed.

Because we didn't have an alarm, we had no clue that the float had stopped working. The pump never kicked in causing water to back up in our first tank. Once that was full, it had nowhere to go so it started backing up into the house.

I can't imagine having a septic system without an alarm. I thought everyone with a septic system had one.

Just got off the phone with the company who did my kitchen. They were very apologetic and wanted to make sure I let them know what happens when the septic company comes out. Thankfully there isn't any damage. The only extra money we'll be out is the cost of a new alarm since the old one seems to have vanished.

We'll see what happens when the septic guys get out here to fix it. They're really booked today so may not be able to get out here until tomorrow morning. At least we were able to get the pump going by hard wiring it so the water levels have dropped. Just have to limit water usage until it is fixed.

Could be worse. Could have happened on Thursday. Could have started backing up while I was taking a long shower and unaware that raw sewage was pumping into the other end of the house.

BTW, all the sewage was my hubby's doing because I always tell him mine smells like roses. This definitely was not roses.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:58PM
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what a pain! so sorry.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:06PM
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"We are on septic but I've never heard of an alarm. "

same here. I've been on one again now for 14 yrs.

I've heard of having an alarm on a sump pump. We had one of those back in the 70s but didn't have an alarm on it either.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:34PM
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Bummer and yuck!
Hope it isn't too bad - and definitely must be DH!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:05PM
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That is sooo gross!! How fortunate that there wasn't a lot of spillage and that it didn't cause any damage. Still, a stinky and annoying issue with which to deal, especially right before Thanksgiving.

I've never lived on a septic system, but many family members have and I've never heard of an alarm either. They make sense though!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:29PM
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Years ago, my mom would go "honey" dipping to fix the septic. She told the neighbor kid that she was going HD and he wanted to come join the fun... It wasn't what he expected and still remembers this in his adulthood!

Happy T-day in any case!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:43PM
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What good would the alarm do if you weren't even home? Was someone else there that would have heard it?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:49PM
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The alarm goes off from you filling the tank up too quickly.... from washing machines, dishwashers, showers, toilets, sinks, etc. Most of those activities are while you are home, although obviously the first two you could leave on. The alarm goes off BEFORE there is a problem. It doesn't go off when the tank is full... it's set at a lower threshold to warn you (not sure exactly, but maybe 75% full or 80% full.) If the alarm worked, potentially it would have gone off the night before, morning of, etc. I'm guessing that while the OP was gone all day, water wasn't being pumped into the tank (maybe just a load of laundry or whatever.)

Our alarm has gone off once. We have a septic sized for 3 bedrooms (so, 4 ppl.) We had 7 ppl in our home for 5 days this year.... there was a toddler taking baths and playing in my shower, helpers in the kitchen running water endlessly, D/W running constantly, laundry running and everyone taking showers. On the last night, the alarm went off and taught us how much we can force into our lines before the septic needs to take a breath. We just minimized our output and let the system catch up. No issues. If that alarm hadn't gone off, we wouldn't have changed our habits and would likely have had the system backup.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:05PM
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I've never heard of an alarm either. We have a septic tank and have it pumped out every 2 to 3 years with 4 of us in the house. My neighbors added on to their house in 2000 and made their tank for 4 bedrooms. There are 4-5 people living there and they have yet to have it pumped out. I can't imagine how much crap is in there!! lol.

I wonder if the type of septic tank you have with the alarm is normal in certain part of the country? We are in the northeast.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:32PM
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Traditional gravity systems don't have an alarm.

I think most systems with pumps do... At least they do here.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:41PM
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This is our first septic system so I've been learning as we go. Ours is a mound system. We have two tanks. The first one is where the raw sewage enters and liquids and solids separate. I'm guessing because poo floats. The liquid passes through to the second tank and is then pumped up to our mound and from there filters down.

I wonder what the reasoning is for the different systems. Not having to use a pump sounds better than what we have. We're in the Seattle area.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Wow, so sorry. Ya learn something new every day. I had a septic system years ago, and a backup happened to us once but in the basement. Can't recall how -- I've blacked out the awful memory. Sure could have used an alarm.

The one thing I do vaguely recall is having to religiously put Rid-X down the toilet. Apparently it is a yeast and makes the solids break down. And NO kleenex or baby wipes, ever. TP only can go down the hatch. I remember having to learn that.

Again, so sorry this happened to you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:29PM
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This is our first system too, and I only know what I do from researching. We have a similar setup with the two tanks. The type of system depends on if you have to pump uphill or not, how your ground drains, etc. You don't need a pump if everything drained down hill (traditional gravity system.) I guess you wouldn't need an alarm then since gravity will pull the contents away from your house. You do need a pump to drain uphill, of course.... and an alarm because if something fails, the contents go back towards your house.

We don't have a mound system, but our ground is sandy and drains really fast. I'm in Tri-Cities... so there is also the lack of rain that helps our drain field do its thing without being up on a mound.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:35PM
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This sounds like an awful mess, I'm so sorry. Not to make light of a smelly situation, but as I opened up the forum on my laptop, my teenage son walked by and couldn't help but notice and point out that in the OP, raw sewage was directly over the word pooh...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:19PM
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Thinking of you and hoping this turns into a
Remember when....memory that won't ruin your turkey day.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 8:03PM
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Yuck. I am so sorry. We had a backup in the middle of the night. It spread over half the house. I still remember what a nightmare it was. We have gravity flow septic. I wonder if an alarm can be installed on it? We usually remember it's time to have it pumped just about the time it's totally full. Not good.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:33PM
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Thanks for all the good wishes! I appreciate it.

We're back in business! Hmmmm . . . . I guess you could take that two ways. lol We're able to use water again and our septic system is back up and running. Turns out the pump was shorting out. We now have a shiny new pump, at least it was until he stuck it down into the tank. Yuck. Unfortunately they didn't have time to install the new alarm so we won't have that until next week.

Didn't get it back until early afternoon so I was way behind prep for dinner tomorrow. But I'm pretty much caught up. Turkey is in its brine in the fridge (love, love, love my big new fridge!!), stuffing is done, salad made, pies almost done and I'm in good shape. First holiday dinner in my new kitchen and I'm so thankful I have such a beautiful, efficient space to prepare this dinner for my family.

marti8a, I cannot imagine the horror of the backup spreading over half the house. I'm sure nightmare doesn't begin to describe it. You poor thing. I have a reminder set on my smartphone to schedule septic pumping every 2 1/2 years. Having raw sewage backup into your house is worse than what you'd imagine. Just horrid!

Thanks again for all the good wishes. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 1:12AM
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