Help! Tree may fall on our septic drain field!

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by deb, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. deb

    deb Well-Known Member

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    We live in an 135 year old house that uses an old dry well as the septic tank. The septic tank - dry well then feeds into a septic field on our side yard.

    We had a very nasty storm with torrential rain and 50+ mph winds this past Saturday night. Sunday morning we found that one of our huge Burr Oaks in the front of our side yard was badly damaged.

    This Burr Oak is 4-5 stories tall and has a massive leaf canopy. The damage occurred about 15ft up the Oak's trunk, where a big chunck of the trunk & some branches split off and they dropped away from our septic field.

    The majority of the Oak's leaf canopy and branches remain up, but they are now being supported by a fairly thin portion of the trunk. To make matters worse, that portion of the trunk curves back and leans over our septic field. If the rest of the Oak goes down, it will definitely land on our septic field.

    At this point DH & I don't think the canopy of the Oak can survive the massive trunk loss, but we don't enough to know what to do next!

    If you can answer some of our questions, it would be most helpful:

    How far down are septic fields laid?

    If the Oak collapses on our septic field can it/will it ruin our septic field?

    Should we hire someone with a cherry picker to cut the Oak down?

    Will our homeowner's insurance pay for the removal of the Oak before
    it falls on our septic field and ruins it?

    Any advice would be most appreciated!!
    Thank you,

    Deb
    in WI
     
  2. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Tell us more about your septic field. Is it a mound? Is it rock-filled trenches? Is it a seepage bed? Is it a gravity system or pressure-dosed?
     

  3. Pink_Carnation

    Pink_Carnation Well-Known Member

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    I would also call and get an estimate on removing the tree. That might will at least give you some numbers to work with to see if it would be worth talking to your insurance company. We had one tree removed that $75..smaller than yours though.

    As for damage to the drainfield I don't know but the branches when a tree falls can be driven several feet into the ground which I would expect to be a problem.
     
  4. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    You might as well have the tree cut up/removed sooner rather than later. I dont think most tree specialists would need a cherry picker for the job, though. I kind of doubt insurance would pay, but they might.
     
  5. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    JMHO but i just had a tremendous oak tree fall. my thinking tells me it would be cheaper to fix any damage to the leech field manually than to hire tree removal folks. they don't work for cheap. they may need to drive heavy machinery over the field anyway.

    personally, and my opinions are often held as bunk, i would wait for the tree to fall and see what happens. cutting down a large oak with a large canopy and a damaged trunk may be rather dangerous as it could snap. trees can fool you...you think it will go one way and it may go another. i think i would just let it fall and cut it up when it falls on it's own.

    my massive oak fell and it's impact was dispersed by it's massive canopy. there were two spots where broken limbs penetrated the earth by less than a foot. i think the limbs of the canopy acted like shock absorbers and broke the fall to some extent. it eventually rested on about four big limbs. if the full weight of the trunk were to fall on the field, i bet it could do some damage to the piping. if the canopy will take the hit, i would worry less.

    i would call the insurance company and see where they stand. maybe they would rather pay for a tree removal solely as opposed to a tree removal and septic repairs.
     
  6. deb

    deb Well-Known Member

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    Hi Cabin Fever,
    I don't know anything about the septic field except where it is and it isn't a mound. It is flat, solid ground and creates one line of really green grass in the lawn.

    The septic system is old, but not as old as the 135 yr old house. We had it inspected prior to buying the house 3 years ago and we were told that the septic system was in "good shape".

    Would an inspector be able to tell what kind of septic field it had by just looking at it? Should I call the inspector?

    Thanks so much!
    deb
    in wi
     
  7. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    Depends on who put them in. DH is from Illinois and he buries them 3 feet. I'm from the south where they are often buried 3 inches.

    If a limb punctures into the line it could cause serious problems. Again, it depends on how deep the lines are buried.

    Instead of hiring a tree trimmer, why not see if someone wants to cut it for firewood, you might get lucky and have someone come cut and remove for the wood. I have people stop by every now and then asking if they can cut a tree in my pasture that was struck by lightening.

    Depends on the coverage you bought. Many insurance companies will pay for damage to mature trees. They also may pay for removal to prevent more expensive damage to the property. Depends on your policy and any riders you may have.
     
  8. sullen

    sullen Question Answerer

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    There should have been septic design papers that came with the house...anyway mine is a leach field mound and it is 8 feet to the pipes.
     
  9. mink

    mink Well-Known Member

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    the leach field is the green strip going down your lawn.....here in new york their typically 2 feet deep .....a 4 inch perferated pipe and a bed of crush stone . and tree damage to the leach would be minimal conpared to the tree falling on your house....mink
     
  10. deb

    deb Well-Known Member

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    Let's see if I can answer everybody.

    The house is in Central Wisconsin near Green Lake county and we do have cold winters

    If the the Oak falls it will not hit the house or any building.

    There are no design papers for the septic system or house. The house was built by the original settlers of this farm about 145 years ago (I made a math error in my earlier post.) It has a stone basement, the timbers used to build the house were cut down nearby and hewn by hand, there are no sawmill marks. The house got electricity about 1950 and the septic system probably came in after that.

    The Oak is massive and it basically lost about 4/5 of the trunk in one spot (think of a giant taking a bite out of the trunk about 12 ft up). Most of the leaf canopy and branches above the "bite" are intact and are being supported by that small 1/5 of the trunk that still remains at the bite site. It appears that the trunk at the bite site is slowly losing strength and the crown is tipping over. There is no way I would allow anyone, even a professional tree trimmer to climb the remaining 1/5 of the trunk because it is too dangerous.

    If we hired help, it would be only be for someone to safely cut down the Oak using a cherry picker. Money is tight and we aren't afraid of hard work. DH and I would cut the logs, stack the wood and do the clean up by ourselves..

    Tomorrow I will call the folks who inspected & drained the septic system and see if they have any ideas.

    Thanks!
    Deb
    in WI


    .
     
  11. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    Deb, have you called your insurance agent? The ins. may take care of it and replace it with a new tree.
     
  12. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Well, it would appear that you have a single drainfield trench based on your observation of one green stripe across the yard. I am assuming the trench is not too deep because moisture from the wastewater is evaporating or wicking to the surface...if the trech was deeper this would not likely be evident.

    I would shovel down to the top of the rock right in the middle of that green stripe to determine the amount of soil over the trench. In Minnesota, the shallowest depth to the top of the drainfield rock is 6 inches.

    The depth of the drainfields is dependant on many variables. There is no "standard depths". If the watertable is deep, the depth of the drainfield is usually based on getting enough slope to get the wastewater to drain downhill from the septic tank. The depth of the septic tank is based on how deep the sewer pipe is coming out of the house.

    In Minnesota, the bottom of the trench cannot be any deeper than 4 feet below the surface....this would put the top of the rock about 3 feet below the surface.

    At any rate, if I had only one line....I would allow the tree to fall where it may. The chances of a limb penetrating the perforated pipe in the drainfield trench is pretty slim. Even if a limb did break the pipe, it would be an easy fix. The fact is, no one ever needs all that perforated pipe in a drainfield trench anyhow. All of the wastewater drains out of the first three or four holes all of the time.

    As others have said, it would be very expensive to hire someone to cut the tree down. It would be a lot cheaper to dig up a broken piece of perforated pipe and replace it.

    And forget about contacting the insurance companies. Insurance companies reimburse people for actual damages...not to prevent damage from happening.
     
  13. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    Depends on the insurance company. Ours paid to have a tree removed and they replaced it with a younger tree of the same type. Like I said above, it depends on the policy you have. Evidently we had a very good one.
     
  14. electronrider

    electronrider Well-Known Member

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    Ya, I agree with NOT calling the insurance company. Next thing you know, they will be damanding that you install a new sewer, AND pay to have the tree taken down. They are vultures, and thats some nice fresh meat there.
     
  15. motdaugrnds

    motdaugrnds II Corinthians 5:7 Supporter

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    Deb have you considered not .. not .. removing the tree at all; but getting a professional to only "top" it? I had 6 very large trees topped for under $600 recently; but topping only one would be miminal. A professional tree topper can take it down right to where the trunk is weakest without killing the tree, providing you would still have enough limbs and leaves to keep it alive afterward.

    Also, if it is anywhere near an electrical line, your electrical company may cut it down for free. They did 3 of ours!
     
  16. BILL LUBS

    BILL LUBS New Member

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    i would recomend dropping a number of smaller limbs over the drainfield prior to dropping the tree. this should cushion the impact of the tree and spread out the weight over a larger area. deal with any damage that occurs to the drainfield, grass etc if it happens. do not get in a hurry- i learned this lesson the hard way!