Septic field and animals

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by CountryMamaof5, Sep 4, 2006.

  1. CountryMamaof5

    CountryMamaof5 Well-Known Member

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    While discussing future sections for animals my husband brought up the fact he doesn't believe we could allow a cow in the area where our septic field is. The tank isn't an issue but just the field itself. It has some of the nicest grass lol so if i was a cow, thats where i would want to go. Dh told me to come on here and ask so I am.

    Would it damage our field to have a cow or even full grown pigs walking on this area? I know its bad to drive vehicles but they are much heavier. I am looking for either black angus or a jersey cow in the spring so they will not be the heaviest of cows...

    So keep them off the septic field or is it okay as long as its not a small section towhere they wont spend all their time on it?
     
  2. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Actually the compaction factor is much worse from a hoof than from a car - the hoof is so much smaller, it compacts into such a small but deep layer.

    I would not, under any cercomstances, run cattle esp or any livestock at all on a septic leech field. Here in MN new septic systems are very expensive, and the lines need to be very close to the surface.

    The chance for costing me $10,000 to put in a new septic is _way_ too high to take the chance of the livestock compacting the soil & turning the leech field into a compacted mess.

    That's me.

    Others will say the field has been in the pasture for 25 years and doesn't make a difference, as theirs is intalled 6 feet deep or some such.

    As it sounds you are going to have a lot of livestock on a real small property, I think you are closer to the edge of damaging the field than some pastures with 10 acres per head, etc.....

    --->Paul
     

  3. CountryMamaof5

    CountryMamaof5 Well-Known Member

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    Alright we will not use that part of our yard.

    In maybe 5 years we plan on moving to a larger piece of property but in the mean time i want to try and use what I have but it definately wouldn't be worth ruining my septic field over. The field is less than 7 yrs old and it probably isn't as deep as older ones would be. I know my dads was only about a foot under and his place was built in 83'

    I wish we could buy the surrounding land but its zoned residental and cannot have farm animals there but it really isn't much for pasture land anyways
     
  4. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you are rotating chickens they could go there from time to time. If you pick _dry_ periods the hogs could maybe go there for brief periods - but hogs have sharp feet & love damp places & love to root all of which packs soil when they are done with it so I would get nervious myself....

    --->Paul
     
  5. CountryMamaof5

    CountryMamaof5 Well-Known Member

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    Good things to keep in mind. I appreciate your advice
     
  6. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Mow and bag the grass, then give it to the cow. We used to rake our yard and throw the clippings to the steers. It was pretty funny since they had a whole huge (10 acres plus) pasture for just a few of them but they would come begging for the grass every time we raked.
     
  7. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, the grass is beautiful and green, but our cows won't touch the grass over the septic leakage area. Just like they will leave the beautiful, big clumps of deep green grass around piles of their manure. They want clean grass. :)
     
  8. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I have thought of this myself. I won't do it unless the septic just happened to be in a large pasture and was a small part of the whole and not in a high traffic area. Mine doesn't fit the criteria, so no go.

    I had it installed this year and it was $4271 for a new tank and leach field. Four runs on on the leach field and no...it's surprisingly shallow.

    Jena
     
  9. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I find it pretty strange that as the EPA claims to be making our soil and water cleaner and safer that they permit leach fields to be closer and closer to the soil surface. 50 years ago when leach fields were run they were run deep so you couldn't tell where pipes ran. Now you can drive down rural roads past recent construction and see exactly where the leach pipes are laid. Personally, I'ld prefer to have the whole yard looking unusually green and lush rather than have a few stripes of sickly light green grass that continues to grow no matter how cold it gets. But the EPA in it's infinite stupidity says the pipes must be run within the top foot of soil. :shrug:
     
  10. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Well Danaus29 while you’re bashing the EPA, perhaps you should have your facts straight. EPA really has very little involvement in regulating on-site sewage systems. This responsibility is usually left up to each state to regulate. First of all, the depth of a drainfield is measured from the soil surface to the bottom of the rock-filled trench. In Minnesota, the minimum allowed depth is 18 inches from the surface to the bottom of the trench; the maximum allowed depth is 48 inches. Of course the actually depth of a drainfield trench, within the minimum and maximum allowed, is dictated by several factors including topography, depth to watertable and the elevation of the septic tank’s outlet.

    The reason that you don’t want a drainfield trench too deep is that there is very little oxygen in the soil at deeper depths. Without oxygen, the microorganisms in the drainfield cannot do their job and the organic matter that is in the wastewater will not decompose…this situation results in plugging of the drainfield and early failure of the system.

    A shallow drainfield is a good idea for several reasons: (1) more wastewater is evaporated to the atmosphere, in other words, less wastewater finds its way to the groundwater, (2) nitrogen in the wastewater can be absorbed by plant roots which results in less nitrate contamination of groundwater and (3) the wastewater travels through more unsaturated soil as it moves to groundwater thereby pathogen removal by the soil is more effective. And remember, when I talk about “shallow drainfields,” I’m talking about the minimum depth allowed in Minnesota which is 18 inches.
     
  11. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Couple years ago looking at the various example mound systems they had set up from one of the UofM branches, there were several where the top of the drain pipe was less than 1 foot from the soil surface. This was on a mound yet.....

    I don't grasp how that works in a climate where frost will go 4 feet deep?

    I do understand 'why' shallower is better.

    I aslo see a lot of folks digging up their system when stuff freezes & breaks & does not work.

    It seems to be a real problem, and one that hasn't been addressed - just mandated & let the homeowner deal with the problems.

    --->Paul
     
  12. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    There are many reasons why septic systems freeze up in Minnesota. In my area of the State, it is rarely the drainfield or mound bed that freezes up. The pipes to the mound or drainfield are typically the areas that freeze. Many times the installer did not allow for drainback to the pumping station or the pipe to the drainfield or mound has a dip in it. Consequently, water sits in the pipe and it freezes. Another problem is low water use or infrequent water use during the winter. Another problem is leaking toilets and/or faucets that allow a slow trickle of water into the system. This trickle freezes before it even gets to the drainfield. I rarely see freezing of the soil absorption part of a septic system that was designed properly and is used on a daily basis.

    Rambler, you’re gonna freak at this. In a standard mound, the distance to the top of the distribution pipe is only 8” from the surface of the mound! Even in a shallow in-ground trench system, the top of the pipe can be as shallow as 8” from the soil surface. But please understand, the depth to the top of the pipe has no bearing on freezing. If a system was going to freeze up, it’s going to freeze where the wastewater enters the soil (in a drainfield trench) or where the water enters the sand bed (in a mound). As I said before, that depth has to be at least 18” from the surface. Relatively speaking, wastewater is warm and as long as water use in a household is “normal” the amount of heat going to the drainfield is sufficient to keep it from freezing.
     
  13. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My sis & BiL bought a farm site, someday wish to live on it, for now they flush every weekend or so, couple weeks they or I or others are around.

    Myself, wife has a house in town, I have my farmsite. The farm toilet/septic is used every week, but certainly not regularly.

    A roofing company I drive by every day had to put in a mound system. Winter is their off season, likely only a skeleton crew there douring the winter - or open 3 days, closed 4 days a week. I've seen their new mound dug up 2x last winter. Will they have it any better in future years?

    Up by you & to the west, lot of cabins. People visit for a week or 2 in winter snowmobiling. hunting, whatever.

    Frankly, I'm really only familiar with iregular use of the septic.

    I hear a whole lot of issues with it.

    What does the state do for these situations? As you say, with regular use they work ok. If something doesn't work ok, then what is the fix? Does the state have an answer for this? Irregular use is pretty darn common. They mandate systems that only work with regular use........

    I am not shooting the messenger, I understand where we are at, & thank you for the replies. :)

    --->Paul

    I see it just dropped in the lap of home/business owners
     
  14. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Educating people on the problem is about the best we can do. (See: Freezing Problemns and Septic Systems ). Really the only other option is require more engineering to help the 10% (or less) of the systems that have a problem. But who wants to require more mandates of the 90% that do not have a problem. Mandates to solve a “sometime” problem cost everyone money. So, requirements are targeted to solve the majority of problems, not every problem. With that said, I have heard of people using stock water tank heaters in their septic tanks to keep things warmer. In addition, there is a new device being marketed called the “septic heater” (www.SepticHeater.com). But before I would recommend any of these devices, I’d make sure I’ve considered the advice in the extension factsheet that I referenced above.
     
  15. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks Cabin.

    Down here in southern MN, the problem is a bit more than 10%. But folks are dealing with it themselves as I hear. Already too many contraptions that fail in the systems now, like anyone would want to add yet another electricity-consuming/ horrible maintenence item! Sheez. That's govt for you - the answer to low-usage it to make the contraption cost more & break more, waste more resources.

    Only ones that really work (as in, don't give the owner on-going grief) are the old setups that are grandfathered in. 10% - that's a hoot. :)

    Thanks again. Not shooting the messenger. :)

    --->Paul
     
  16. gunslinger598

    gunslinger598 Well-Known Member

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    I've raised horses & cattle many years, they wouldn't touch a blade of grass that grows from a septic drain field. some others might I suppose but mine never have. if the ground isn't wet where the stock will sink, I'd let them in there if i needed the space. But feeding mowed clippings to stock has the potential of being dangerous and has coliced many a horse and killed a few. Cattle have a little better tolerance.
     
  17. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Cabin Fever, who do you think sets state and local regs? The state and local EPA. I have seen too many incidents where the EPA gives variances to the local Health Depts for whatever reason which end up screwing the homeowner down the line. In our little town on site septic disposal was common with 18" to 2' deep leach lines (gravel bed systems, most have held up very well for decades with no soil level contamination). The new construction sites (outside our "blighted town" and very high priced) have 6" deep leach lines with those plastic vents all over in the yard, but they never test those soils for contamination. State EPA mandates REQUIRE 5 acres now for on site disposal BUT the local Health Dept gets variances from the EPA to allow aerator systems with effluent being discharged into streams directly. God forbid if they discharge into a storm drain which empties into the same stream. That's one whopper of a fine! Unless the house is in a higher priced neighborhood, then their effluent is ok to discharge into a storm drain. Also state laws require homes within 250' of a newly constructed sewer system to connect to said sewer system. Yet, I know of one home which is within the 250 corridor which is forbidden to hook up to the sewer system but is required (by the local EPA) to install an experimental system which the EPA has the option of making them remove at some point in time. We are not allowed to use our on-site sewage systems but the EPA still allows the county to spray Malathion and herbicides along the banks of a nationally protected stream (BTW, federal regulations PROHIBIT using Mosquiomist ULV within 500 feet of a waterway). Oh, and don't you get caught using herbicides of Malathion along the same stream, you will be fined! I think I have good reason to go EPA bashing.
     
  18. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Yeah, those old straight pipes to the tile line or drainage ditch rarely had a freeze-up problem....or any other kind of problem for the homeowner :)
     
  19. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Danaus29, I see you were talking about your own state and local “EPAs” there in Ohio. I mistakenly thought you were talking about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The USEPA has very little, if any, regulations regarding residential on-site sewage treatment systems. I don’t understand exactly what you are referring to when you say 6” deep leach lines. In Minnesota, the shallowest allowed leach line is covered by 6” of topsoil and 2” of drainfield rock…then there is the 4” distribution line and below that there is a minimum of 6” of drainfield rock. This setup requires that an 18” trench be dug. All systems are required to have “those plastic vents all over the yard” (as you put it). Actually, they are not vents at all….they are inspection pipes and they should be capped. Typically, there are 2 or 3 inspection pipes for the septic tank, one for the distribution box or pump station and one for each trench. My yard has eight inspection pipes in it.

    I am interested to hear (or read) what you consider to be “soil contamination” from a septic system. Improperly functioning septic systems that has sewage spilling out all over the yard is a health threat due to the possibility of bacteria and viruses and such, as well as the possibility of nutrients running off to surface waters, but I am not aware of any “soil contamination” from functioning septic systems.

    So, if I read you correctly, the State of Ohio requires that every lot sold for a home (that will have a septic) is a minimum of 5 acres? That’s interesting. The State of Minnesota has no minimum lot size requirement; however, many counties and townships do require minimum lot sizes ranging from 2.5 to 15 acres (in my area). Research has shown that if housing density is less than 1 house per 2.5 acres, groundwater can be polluted from nitrates from septic systems (even properly installed and functioning septic systems).

    The State of Minnesota has no requirement to hook up to a community sewage system. This is a local governmental decision. In regards to “experimental” septic systems, Minnesota will allow a “monitored” experimental system IF a standard system cannot be built on a site for some reason. An experimental system is NEVER required; they are actually frowned upon and allowed as a last resort.

    I’m not going to get into the insecticide debate with you…it’s apples and oranges when compared to septic systems. All I can say is the State of Ohio sounds like a mess. I cannot believe that the Ohio allows discharge to stream based on the value of the neighborhood.
     
  20. pasotami

    pasotami Hangin out at the barn!

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    When we had our house built I reminded everyone involved that this is a "active farm" and that the field bed had to be deep enough that my tractor, fertilizer spreaders (big trucks from CoOp) and that my 16" bottom plow would not tear it up. So far the added moisture to the plants above has been nothing but a plus and I have not found the field bed with the plow! But I did find it with a post hole digger - opps!