Calling all plumbers/septic experts

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by snoozy, Jan 1, 2005.

  1. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Naturally, our septic system starts backing up on New Year's Eve...it's mini-tsunami season in the mudroom :waa:

    What happens is that when the washing machine discharges its water, the mud room floor drain, which is apparently on the same line, backs up and starts to overflow onto the floor. The kitchen sink also contributes, as well as the upstairs bathroom sink. So far, no sewage or stuff directly from the toilet (thank God). Small amounts of water will go down, slowly, but large amounts it can't handle. We tried the draino thang to no avail. We tried snaking the mudroom drain, also to no avail. We checked the cleanout just outside the house, and it seemed a bit high. We are trying to locate the septic tank itself, but both my husband's back and my back have gone out in the endeavour. The idea being to clean the trap/filter(?) at the entrance to the tank. You'd think we would remember where the danged thing is, since we built this house from scratch, but after 6 years, who can remember where something is buried? We have never had the septic cleaned out. I believe it is a 3 bedroom-sized septic system, into which goes the waste and water of 2.5 people and one toilet. We do have a lot of dog hair...(I tell you, never a longhaired dog again!)

    Any advice?, while my husband is out getting some sort of balloon contraption which will supposedly block or blast the line clear. (Personally, I'm afraid it will make th ewashing machine water overflow where it emties into the wall thingee, so I am not optimistic.)

    This is a strawbale house, so when I see the wet floor and dampness rising up the wall, I'm panicking about wet (mouldy) bales...
     
  2. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    I see your in snow country, any chance the roof top vent is snow clogged? This would slow down fluid flow. Pouring muratic acid down the vent pipe also works for line stoppages.
     

  3. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    Before you start drastic action or use chemicals try and identify your problem. The roof vent can definitely cause a problem. You might have a blockage in the drain line, or you might have a drain field that is slogged, frozen, collapsed or for some reason not letting anything flow out thru it. The waste water from your house completely fills your septic and then leeches out thru the field line. If the water has no where to go it will back up into the house drain lines. If there is a cleanout somewhere in your line to the septic open it and see what happens.
    Have you had any trucks or heavy equipment driving near your septic? I've seen this happen and cause the problem you have. Have you had very heavy rains recently, or snow melt?
     
  4. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Sounds like a frozen line to the tank. You really should have the tank pumped every three years or so. I'd shop vac out the line and use the strongest lye and hot water you can in the empty line to put heat and the cuastic action where it matters at the plug. Curous your toilet hasn't contributed, you're sure its in the same system and what is backing up isn't a grey water system seperate from the septic tank?
     
  5. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Dig a hole,fill with gravel and drain the washer there.Not legal I dont think, but it works,have done it.Ive taken bathtub water and piped it to my lemon trees too.Really takes a huge load off the septic,if youre out in the boonies,not a subdivision,go for it.IMHO.
    BooBoo
    PS,this is how the old house was when we got it,and we left it alone,never had a septic draining problem while there, ever,10 years at least.
     
  6. Lt. Wombat

    Lt. Wombat Well-Known Member

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    I thought of doing that here but it would be one heck of a hole as our frost line is 80"
     
  7. BackwoodsIdaho

    BackwoodsIdaho Well-Known Member

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    wow, there is a shop vac I wouldn't want to use again :).

    I would be very careful with lye and hot water - combining lye with water that is too hot can cause a volcanic type eruption of lye solution that can be quite dangerous as well as a major pain to clean up. I would use water around 75 or 80 degrees max temp. Also, add lye to water, not the other way around to avoid splashing the lye.


    Before I would try the lye, open the cleanout and try snaking each direction and see if there is a plug and where. Your distribution box for the fingers could be plugged or frozen or you could have a restriction at the vent pipe or at either end of the tank. Or the drainfield might be fouled.

    As for locating the tank, there is a flushable device that plumber use. They flush it down the drain and then use a radio receiver to locate the beeping from the septic tank.

    good luck.

    jim
     
  8. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Not too practical,eh? :haha: :haha: :haha:

    Curious,I guess the whole septic just feezes up?
    BooBoo
     
  9. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for your replies, folks. Only thing is, we're in Pacifc NW Maritime (Zone 8), and we've not even gone down to freezing once this year yet. I've switched our kitchen sink to drain out the kitchen floor drain (cleverly positioned below the kitchen sink... ;) )which drains straight out the house, so I can get the dishes done. We're going to go to the County to see if we can get a plan of where the septic tank is exactly. My back is shot.

    I'm not sure if the drainfield is waterlogged -- I mean, it hasn't been particularly wetter than usual.

    Any more ideas?
     
  10. desdawg

    desdawg Well-Known Member

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    Try opening the cleanout and using the snake as suggested. If you get water coming out of the cleanout cover when you remove it chances are the stoppage is at the tank inlet. When you run the snake towards the septic tank it will stop when it hits the tee at the inlet. You can then measure the length of snake used to tell you where to dig for the tank cover. Find the septic tank and remove the cover at the inlet. There should be a tee there and that is where a stoppage usually occurs. A buildup develops from powdered soaps that don't dissolve completely, tp, kitchen grease etc. Looks kind of like drywall mud.
    I would also suggest seperating the washing machine from the septic system when time allows. All of that water retards the microbiotec ativity that dissolves the solids in the tank. This increases the possibility that you will wind up with solid matter in the effluent going into your leaching system and causing it to plug.
    I install septic systems and the majority of the pluggage we find is at the tank inlet. However, I live in the arid southwest and don't have to deal with freezing problems.
     
  11. pointer_hunter

    pointer_hunter Well-Known Member

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    They have an adapter that hooks on the end of a garden hose. You can open up the drain under your sink run that down about 6-10 inches and then turn on the hose. It has an outer bladder that fills up first and creates a seal in the pipe and then continues to force water down your drain and out to the septic. We have a crock for our sink that was pluged and wouldn't drain anywhere but the kitchen floor. I used the thing (about 10 bucks I think) and had it cleaned out in two minutes.
     
  12. Mastiff

    Mastiff Well-Known Member

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    I have two sizes of those they work pretty well for sinks or plugs. Certainly worth a try. I would certainly try a snake down the clean out.
    Last time we had that problem I had to rent one of those big comercial snakes with a motor that rotates and have different bits. It was a real pain to use. but it worked... Turned out it was roots somewere in the line to the septic...
     
  13. Lt. Wombat

    Lt. Wombat Well-Known Member

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    Never has yet, but I am told the pipes are 12' down as is the leech field
     
  14. kate

    kate Well-Known Member

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    decided where you are going to move to, yet.? s. dakota can be pretty mean this time of year......i hear.............
     
  15. crashy

    crashy chickaholic goddess

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    Yuck what a mess!!!
    Do you have a garbage disposal? I hear those are a HUGE nono if you have a septic tank in fact when we bought our house that was the first thing we did take it out. Bleach will kill all the good bacteria in your system use it sparingly and if it has been six years its time for a clean out. I live in Clark county and the make us do it like every 4-5 years. It sounds like you have either a full tank, grease clog, or worse lets just hope the dang thing it full....I agree with the gray water line. If you can get away with it plant water loving plants and put the outlet line in there no one would know.
    Good luck hope all works out.
     
  16. Lt. Wombat

    Lt. Wombat Well-Known Member

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    This year is interesting so far Kate. Hasn't snowed longer than a few hors at a time yet. Low temp has only been -25 ..... this is a sissy winter for the Dakota's.

    Haven't made our final decision yet on the move. Still leaning heavily towards very northern AR or very southern MO.
     
  17. ibcnya

    ibcnya Well-Known Member

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    Do you have any trees next to your septic line? Roots can also cause a problem depending on how old the system is. If I was you I would go to the nearest rental store and rent an electric snake and run the auger down the line starting at your cleanout. There are retrieval attachments and cutting blades. Use the cutting blade. Just be careful when feeding the cable down the line. If it starts to bind up that means it's caught and you need to jerk it back. Otherwise cable may fly everywhere or may break off in the line.
     
  18. Shagbarkmtcatle

    Shagbarkmtcatle Hillybilly cattle slaves

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    Sounds like tree roots, grease or the tank is full. As for bleach it's fine to use unless your gonna dump 5-6 gallons down at a time. I have lived at my house, which dh built 18 years ago and do all of my cleaning with bleach and have never had a problem. You also don't need to pump the tank unless it's full. I have never pumped it ever. Never needed to. Dh is a plumber and I have been careful about grease going down the drain. I don't let any go down. When we have to chlorinate a well for a customer, we dump a gallon of Chlorox down the well head and then turn every faucet on in the house wide open and run it until we can't smell the bleach anymore. So all of that bleach is going into your septic at once and it's fine. Grease is the very worst thing you can do. Tree roots are another story since you have not very much control over them. But they cause a lot of damage.
     
  19. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I finally fixed it! We had to really dig around to find the clean-out. Meanwhile, we have had freezing weather and 5 inches of snow.

    Anyway, at the end of the green drainpipe which empties out into the concrete tank there was a 6" T pipe which was mostly disconnected but clogged. I jiggled that and a bunch of stuff gushed out of the drainpipe into the tank. The T pipe was just bobbing around in it. I nabbed it with a stick with a screw in it (for lack of a hook type device.) I flushed out the lines from the house with hose and toilet flushing and running the washer.

    Everything seems fine except what should I do with the T pipe bobbing in the tank? (IfI can even find it again -- it maybe drowned forever.) It doesn't seem to be absolutely necessary since it connects to nothing. Seems to serve just as a baffle or something.

    I can still smell it. Bleah.
     
  20. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    That "t-pipe" is the tanks "inlet baffle" and it is very important. It directs the wastewater downward as it enters the tank....this helps solids to settle right away to the bottom of the tank. It also keeps floating scum (fats and grease) from plugging the inlet to the tank. It appears that the tee was never attached (glued) to the pipe coming from the house. I would call a septic installer this spring and have him uncover the tank, have it pumped, and then glue the tee to the waste pipe. Hopefully, it's a tank having a removable cover just above the inlet tee.

    Lt. Wombat, I seriously doubt that your leach lines are 12 ft below the surface. In Minnesota, which has frost depths as deep or deeper than where you are, requires that the bottom of the drainfield be no greater than 3 ft from the surface.