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Thread: Septic system backup under load/rain

  1. #1

    Default Septic system backup under load/rain

    Hey guys,

    I think I have a problem with my drain field. Durring heavy rain, or times of heavy load (3-4 loads of laundry, and a couple showers) our toilets become very slow to drain and on at least one occasion we had septic waste backflow into one of our tubs.

    I really cannot afford a drain field repair as I believe they can cost thousands of dollars. I have vaugely read about possible chemical solutions that could help the drain field soak the liquid waste.

    Do any of these chemical solutions work?

    My situation:

    4 person home
    all waste routed through septic (including dishwasher/washing machine)
    normally ok unless we wash a few loads of clothes or heavy rain.
    Tank has no easy access (hard concreat flat covers that are burried in flower garden.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Kent, WA
    Posts
    8,426

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    Since access to the tank lids is difficult, how often do you pump it out? Hopefully, you've been checking the tank every 3 to 5 years and pumping when needed.

    If you have not, you may have sludge overflow into your drainfield. If that has happened, you may be able to save it by digging some access holes and sucking out or otherwise cleaning the drainfield pipes and distribution box.

    If the field is just old and at end of life, there isn't much you can do. Most people who don't sell chemicals say not to try these "remedies", as they don't work. Some could for a while, but the money would be better spent on adding a section of new field than trying to fix a dead one.

    A new field could be a $5K to $10K update depending on how many new rules you have and you can use the same design. If your soil conditions don't meet current requirements, you could be looking at even more money for a pump and mound system or worse.

    Best to get a repair guy there and see what you're up against. In the mean time, spread out laundry (one load per day) and conserve water (and make sure your toilets and sinks are not constantly dripping or leaking.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by suemarkp View Post
    Since access to the tank lids is difficult, how often do you pump it out? Hopefully, you've been checking the tank every 3 to 5 years and pumping when needed.

    If you have not, you may have sludge overflow into your drainfield. If that has happened, you may be able to save it by digging some access holes and sucking out or otherwise cleaning the drainfield pipes and distribution box.

    If the field is just old and at end of life, there isn't much you can do. Most people who don't sell chemicals say not to try these "remedies", as they don't work. Some could for a while, but the money would be better spent on adding a section of new field than trying to fix a dead one.

    A new field could be a $5K to $10K update depending on how many new rules you have and you can use the same design. If your soil conditions don't meet current requirements, you could be looking at even more money for a pump and mound system or worse.

    Best to get a repair guy there and see what you're up against. In the mean time, spread out laundry (one load per day) and conserve water (and make sure your toilets and sinks are not constantly dripping or leaking.
    Thank you Mark for your quick reply.

    I failed to mention that the tank has been pumped out twice in 24 months.

    I will avoid a new field for as long as possible, trust me... Do these companies that don't distribute chemicals claim that chemicals don't work because they want your $5k-10k?

    I guess I wouldn't mind losing $500 in an effort to see if it would work. But I would like to know if anyone here had ANY improvement with these chemicals.

    I specifically saw this page and it peaked my interest and simultaneously made me cautious LOL :

    http://www.septicseep.com/


    What are the normal laws with diverting laundry waste? Can I just re-route this outside the home somewhere, or does this have to be contained as well?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Kent, WA
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    It is usually the public health departments that say to use no additives or quick fixes. Ultimately they want a properly working system and not a band aid (and perhaps your permit fee too). But they are regulators and don't have to pay for all the recommendations and rules they create.

    I think most health departments consider washing machine waste to be black water because soiled diapers or clothes could be washed. But the specific answer would depend on your local regulators.

    I don't know anyone who has tried any of these solution. You could try and post back with success or failure.

    Do you have low flush toilets (1.6 gallons or less per flush)? If not, that could be one improvement. Or just don't flush when the guys pee.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  5. #5

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    Update - Septic man came out and diagnosed the field lines as having tree roots. This analysis was performed without even looking in the tank or anything. Just simply on my description of the problem.

    Quoted me $2000 to install 300ft of new field lines in a new location, install risers, and a baffle filter.

    Sound about right?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Kent, WA
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    Prices vary widely. Seems inexpensive to me. Is he bringing in lots of gravel or using the gravel-less chamber leaching system?
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  7. #7

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    Using lots of pea-gravel...2 truck full. Stated 1-1.5ft below line and 1ft above I believe.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Kent, WA
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    Gravel bed seems a little small. They used to make them 3' wide and it sounds like he'll make them about 2' tall. That would be 6 cu ft for every foot of drain pipe. 300' of pipe x 6 = 1800 cu ft of gravel. A truck is generally 10 yds (270 cu ft) so it sound like the pipe trench is only going to be 18" wide instead of 36.

    I think I'd want about 4 cu ft of gravel per foot of drain pipe (so 1200 cu ft of gravel). May want to ask what size trenches he's planning and if that is normal for your area.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks Mark, I will check with him.

    I am starting to doubt I actually need a new field put in... No inspection was performed, he only listened to my case and decided tree roots wer ethe cause.

    We have no issues during normal use and good weather conditions. During rainy periods and/or heavy use we get slow drainage and once we had a very small amount backflow.

    Couldn't this just be a partial obstruction in the out pipe between the tank and the field?

    Are there companies that can snake the outpipe with a camera?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Kent, WA
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    I would expect an obstruction in the output pipes to cause backups whenever you use a lot of water, and be independent of rain. If rainy weather is the main driver, your field is failing (from biomat, roots, crushed pipes, whatever and it doesn't really matter as the fix is the same).

    Ideally, you would find your distribution box (where the pipe from the tank goes to split to the multiple leach branch lines). If you can dig that up and see if it has crud in it, then that could easily be snaked or cleaned. Finding it can be problematic. If you find it, put a cover over it so you know where it is. People seem to have an aversion to green lids in their yard, but the time and effort to locate buried things can be expensive if you don't put some kind of marker at the surface. I'd also put a lid at the end of every leach line so again they can be inspected and you know exactly where they are.

    Do you have trees in or near your leach lines? If so, that is bad. You want nothing near those lines except grass. Maybe certain trees with deep roots only, but I wouldn't risk any tree.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

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