HELP! Septic Woes

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by SpiritoftheWind, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. SpiritoftheWind

    SpiritoftheWind Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Any advice or past experiences would be welcomed.

    1st question.

    How's the best way to change the septic pump? We have a large distribution box, I guess it's about 8 feet down-and the pump to the leach field has gone dead, leaving the box full of nasty water, as we have had some hard rains lately and the runoff has filled the box. We have the pump, but since it is such a short job, none of the local plumbers/septic people will come to help. So, we are stuck with changing it ourselves. Box is too small to fit a person, really, but I suppose in a pinch it can be done. Any pointers?


    2nd question.

    We live in an old house, built in '47. Our county has always been rural and sparsely populated, and no records were kept on septic systems at the health dept. until the 70's here. So, there is no record of our septic to reference where the tank is. The tank is in terrible need of being pumped, and may be dead now. But, none of the cleaning/pumping people here will come unless you already have your tank dug up so they can get the hose in. We have been digging between the house and the baffle pipe for about 2 days now, and haven't seen a hint of the tank. We tried to follow the pvc pipe from the house out to the tank, but after about 20 feet, it just disappears. Now my whole yard is a muddy, swampy mess from the rain and digging. Is there any way to get a bead on this thing? Oh yeah, we also tried a metal detector-we thought maybe the hatches would be made of metal-but it didn't help. Anyone had to find one themselves before?

    Thanks in advance for any ideas you might have. We are willing to try just about anything at this point, as the house is being appraised in about a week, and we HAVE to get this fixed, pronto. We are at our wit's end. :waa:
     
  2. GREEN_ALIEN

    GREEN_ALIEN Sunny, Wet, Tornadoey SD!

    Messages:
    436
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2004
    Location:
    South Dakota
    Explain disappears? It is pretty hard for pipe to disappear. If you follow it close it may make a turn or such and lead you on to the tank.

    Tank? 1947 huh? Not for sure, but there is a fair chance there is no tank and the sewage just drains right to the pump, or too a small tank and then pump.

    Your best bet is just to follow the PVC (actually should be ABS) from the house until you are absolutely sure it either ends or goes to a tank. If it ends, dig around and down in that area for good measure.

    If you do find a tank, a new pump can be installed in a box on the outfall pipe fairly easily.
     

  3. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,977
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Location:
    East TN
    I'm a little confused but I'll give some advice based on what you've stated.
    You say you have a septic pump, which I'm sure was not part of the original house plans, so I'd say it was added later. This would suggest an after 70's installation and probably to a working septic system. I doubt if anyone would install a septic pump which I'm assuming is installed to defy nature (pump it uphill) onto a non existent septic system. If the house had an original system it wouldn't have a pum and would use gravity to feed downhill. It also wouldn't have PVC because of the house's age.
    Installing the pump, if that's what's wrong, is probably not a pretty job which is why no one wants to do it. I'm sure it will take effort to work in that small area and not pleasant stuff to work with, but it is your stuff.
    To find your septic try this. Get a piece of rebar or similar steel and sharpen the end to a point. Follow the direction of your pipe and push the point into the ground. The tank is concrete and you will know when you hit it. Now that the ground is wet and soft is an ideal time to look for the tank. Don't dig at the first hard thing you hit. The tank will be fairly large so keep probing and map out the outine of the tank.
     
  4. HUBERT

    HUBERT Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2004
    Location:
    Upper Michigan
    How's the best way to change the septic pump? We have a large distribution box, I guess it's about 8 feet down-and the pump to the leach field has gone dead, leaving the box full of nasty water, as we have had some hard rains lately and the runoff has filled the box. We have the pump, but since it is such a short job, none of the local plumbers/septic people will come to help. So, we are stuck with changing it ourselves. Box is too small to fit a person, really, but I suppose in a pinch it can be done. Any pointers?


    YOU'LL HAVE TO PUMP SOME OUT ON GROUND (BUT DON'T TELL ANYONE)UNTIL YOU CAN SEE OUTLET.SOMETIMES FLOAT SWITCHES GO BAD.TRY MOVING FLOAT WITH A STICK .SOMETIMES THIS IS ENOUGH TO GET PUMP WORKING TEMPORARILY.WHEN YOU CAN SEE OUTLET YOU CAN JURY RIG NEW PUMP TO PUMP TANK DOWN.THEN INSTALL PROPERLY.DID YOU CHECK TO MAKE SURE YOUY HAVE POWER??



    AS FAR AS LOCATING TANK USUALLY THEY ARE BETWEEN 10 AND 20 FEET FROM HOUSE.LOOK FOR SUNKEN OR RAISED SPOT IN YARD ROUND OR RECTANGULAR .GRASS OFTEN DIFFERENT COLOR ON TOP.

    IF YOU CAN STICK A RIBBON ROD IN CLEANOUT GO AS FAR AS YOU CAN.THEN HAVE ONE PERSON GO OUT AND LISTEN (YOU CAN USUALLY HEAR)WHILE OTHER PERSON PULLS ROD BACK AN FOURTH.THIS WILL ALSO GIVE YOU AN IDEA HOW FAR FROM HOUSE TANK IS(UNLESS YOU HIT A 90 DEGREE BEND.

    INSTEAD OF DIGGING USE A PROBE TO FEEL AROUND FOR TANK.
     
  5. SpiritoftheWind

    SpiritoftheWind Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Hey everyone.

    We tried the rebar/rod thing first. We went down about 3 feet everywhere and found nothing. All the holes we have dug have immediately filled with water, as the rains just totally soaked the ground, and we live at the bottom of a steep hill. And I can see why everyone is confused. I live here and have seen what we've got and I'm confused, too. We have PVC pipe, which of course, wasn't laid back in 1947. We have metal/iron? pipes coming out of the ground about 5 feet from the PVC baffle and extending to about a 45 degree angle out of the ground. That is open pipe, and just the very tip top edge was sticking out of the ground. Lots of gravel, too, but we dug down about 1.5 feet there and nothing.

    We couldn't see yet where that goes because it just pools up as soon as we dig more. The PVC we followed from the house, well-we just can't explain that one. We were going to just trench it out after it disappeared(or whatever!), but like I said, we are getting ready to get an appraisal, and I don't think digging up more muddy piles is going to get us any points.

    Thanks everyone for trying to help. We are going to compile what we know and consider what you all have said, and hopefully come up with some sort of solution. Like I said, there is NO record of any permits at any time for a septic system at this address, so who knows what these people wound up doing???? According to the health department-we don't exist. Which is not too bad in case something goes bad, but it's not all that great, either, because this is a lot of frustration! LOL No one that has ever lived in this house lives here anymore. They are either dead or moved out of state. Dang!

    If anyone can think of anything else, post it. I'll keep checking back just in case someone gets a brainstorm.
     
  6. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

    Messages:
    7,380
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2003
    Location:
    east ont canada
    do not enter any part of a septic/sewage system!!! there can be poisonous gas present ,you will not have time to exit nor will anyone be able to save you .as to your tank a picture is worth a thousand words . does this pump lift the sewage to the septic or waste water to the leach field? if it,s water then your settling tank/septic tank is before this point. some very creative sewage systems have been installed over the years.you could get a submersable sump pump and pump the water out of the box to see where the inlet/outlet are. as to the mud ,after you are done level ground a sow oats.
     
  7. SpiritoftheWind

    SpiritoftheWind Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005


    Gads, thanks for telling me about the gases, FM. Geesh, I didn't even think about that, but it makes sense. The sulphur smell from the nastiness about knocks you over when the lid is taken of the distribution box. I was going to tell him to wrap a bandana around his face, but sounds like he needs an oxygen tank with a particle respirator attatched. Maybe a radiation or biohazard suit? LOL

    Anyway, I think we are going to try to pull the old pump up by the cords, as the starting place for them is only halfway down when you pump the water out. When we can see it and get it up a little, we can support it with something like a shovel or old fishing net or something and haul it up quickly.Yeah, I know that's no the safest way to get it out, but it's less dangerous than crawling down in that thing. We can tie a few ropes to the new pump and lower it in straight, so it will go in better than the old one comes out. The only thing I haven't figured out how we will manuver is the hose/ or pipe outlet from the pump. That may be another problem. We'll have to see. There has to be something hooked to that pump to direct the flow to the leach field.

    I don't care! As long as this thing gets fixed and nobody dies-I'll be perfectly happy about it.
     
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Most states around me have laws for a septic to pass code any time it is sold, so this might all be a moot point for you - have you looked into this?

    --->Paul
     
  9. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

    Messages:
    7,380
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2003
    Location:
    east ont canada
    no problem spirit! not many people do think of gas . my wife uses a scott pack and a man hoist up top to go down in any man hole or tank. as paul says ,many inspections now need to code systems, even if your system is over built they can ask you to replace it.depends on the engineer and municipality. hope you find the tank, if you are not selling fix what you have and check for grants for replacing antique systems. we had to replace our bed but the tank was fine. not hard to do but miserable when its wet!
     
  10. SpiritoftheWind

    SpiritoftheWind Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Hey y'all.

    No, not selling. We have lived here a little over 5 years, and are finally purchasing it from my parents, who we have been renting from.

    I'm sure we will eventually have to have it replaced(thank the lord my dad owns a backhoe and used to be a building contractor-or money issues would suck!), but for right now it's not feasable and we just need to get through this appraisal. The guy is coming too soon to get it fixed properly, and it was just poor timing for the thing to go kaplooey. Isn't that the way it always is, though? Gotta love the little tests life gives us. :D