Septic Tank question

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by BlessedMom, Oct 10, 2004.

  1. BlessedMom

    BlessedMom Well-Known Member

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    When we moved in this spring the people we bought the house from had the septic serviced two years ago. What ever type of tank it may be it is rated for 4 people to last I think it was 6 years. We have 6 people now and will probably have more foster kids buy the end of the year. How do we know when the septic needs servicing?? Any tips on how to have a healthy septic tank??

    This is something I don't want to deal with in the dead of the NW winter!

    Thanks,
    BlessedMom
     
  2. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    Put very little, or no, toilet paper in the toilets. Also, avoid putting oils down the drain. They can glob up with used laundry detergent.
     

  3. BlessedMom

    BlessedMom Well-Known Member

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    Lord, are we ever in trouble. We go through toity paper like no tomorrow.

    Did I mention 4 kids??? Also, we do all this laundry..every day. Esp. with livestock and a baby..always doing laundry. We are very careful about grease though.

    Oh dear <shakes head> we are sooo in trouble.

    BlessedMom
     
  4. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    :haha:

    We go through alot of "toity" paper also. It took us a while to get used to not putting it in the toilets, but you don't every want to flush the downstairs toilet, to find it won't flush. :no: There are also products you can buy, bacteria, not enzymes. The bacteria make the enzymes, so they are better than things like ridx which are just enzymes (at least that is what I have been told).

    Also, bleach is bad, because it will kill the good bugs in your septic tank.
     
  5. jassytoo

    jassytoo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We do use toilet paper in ours but never the quilted type of paper. It clogs up the system. We use Scott tissue only. Train your kids not to use too much. Don't put harsh cleaners into the system. We don't use additives in ours but we do get it pumped every 3 years. That was recommended by the inspector who came to check the tank. ( Our county checked all the tanks a few years back. Sub standard septics had to be repaired ) Don't know what county in Wa you are in but try to go easy on the water when its been raining for a long time. The drain field can get overloaded with water.
     
  6. BlessedMom

    BlessedMom Well-Known Member

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    Oh I have so much to learn!
    My dh is not a very handy person. It's not that he's dumb or anything. he's a computer person. He gets frustrated easily. So basically, I am the one that has to find everything out and then tell him what needs to get done. It has now come to the point that instead of doing it ourselves he wants me to hire people to do it. Can you tell I am frustrated. It would be fine if I didn't work outside the home, have 4 kids and try to homeschool.
    My fear is that we are going to have a septic tank problem, it will be all my fault and I will have to call someone to come repair it. Currently we have a leak coming from the upstairs bathroom shower stall into the kids bathroom (luckily the bathtub) down below. This has caused mold to start growing and part of the ceiling has fallen in. And instead of trying to fix it..he will let it go as long as possible, tell me not to use the shower upstairs, and hope that by sticking his head in the sand he will not have to do it. What needs to happen is that we need to tear out a wall and ceiling. From there we need to find out EXACTLY what is leaking and fix the danged thing. Then dry wall it up, seal it and waaaalllaaaa....it hopefully will never leak again. GRRRRRR!!!!!
    If I had known that buying our own home and land meant that I would have to hire people or do it myself I would have possibly reconsidered. I'm just trying to figure out how to get it all done.
    Sorry for the vent..completely off topic of the septic tank now isn't it????

    Other than that I Love him to death and he's a great guy.

    After all, his big achievement for the day was clipping our new goats hooves (I was going to and could have done that) and taking a small load of garbage and recylcling to the dump. But...whenever I try to do something he SHOULD be doing..I get told..oh honey I was going to do that..I can do that..as he looks out from his computer game. AAAAAAA!!!!

    Okay...really I'll stop now!!

    BlessedMom
     
  7. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I flush paper into mine and every 3 weeks I flush a mixture of sugar, milk and bread yeast into the tank. When I had it pumped in 2002 after 6 years with three people using it, There was no scum lid layer or thick bottom sludge and the content was churning.
     
  8. BlessedMom

    BlessedMom Well-Known Member

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    Shrek,
    What measurements do you use??

    Thanks!

    BlessedMom
     
  9. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

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    "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down."

    A common bathroom sign everywhere septic tanks are located. Here in Washington, the summer water shortages and the winter rain saturated leach fields makes it valid.

    I like Shrek's recipe. I dump yeast down the drain once in a while. Milk gets dumped down the drain, too. Now I will add sugar to feed it.

    One of the things you may wish to look into is replumbing the washing machine drain out to water the orchard, berry patch or ornamental shrubbery, if it can be done without creating a health hazzard of standing water. The detergent and even diluted bleach will not harm you plants. The phosphates make them grow like crazy.

    Or you can plan on having the septic tank pumped every 4 years on a regular schedule and never have to worry about it malfunctioning

    You need to get the plumbing leak fixed asap. You do not want to let a mold problem get out of control or your whole family will be sick from breathing the spores. Plumbing is easy, like playing with tinker toys. Even I can do plumbing.
    You will have to wash the inside of the wall and ceiling with bleach to kill the mold and let it dry before you can sheetrock it up again.

    Where in Washington are you? Some wetter areas of the state have chronic leach line and septic failures and bad slime mold problems, too.
     
  10. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Septic systems are a lot like your own digestive system. If you treat it like that, you'll be fine.

    Keep the harsh stuff out; keep the junk out. While the additives & yeast mixtures probably don't hurt, they probably don't help unless you are doing something else wrong - like your tummy, taking antacids & other pills really shouldn't be needed unless you have an actual problem, right? Why waste money on that sort of thing for the septic - if it's working right there is no need. If it's not working right, correct the problem, not add more stuff to it.....

    Of more concern is keeping your leach field healthy. Do this by keeping it grassed over, and do not put anything heavy on it. Compacted soil does not absorb water well. Good way to kill a septic system.

    Pump the tank at regular intervals. Why not get it pumped now? Any good experienced pumper can tell you where you are at - if it would have gone a few more years, or you are getting it done just in time - if they system is not working well, or your septic is very healthy & working great.

    No harm in pumping it too early, other than you spent the money a little early. But there can be a lot of harm in pumping it too late.

    The only real way to know for sure is to have it pumped & see how things are working, what is collecting in there, how full it is.

    You can easily estimate how many years between pumps from past history then.....

    --->Paul
     
  11. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    If you don't put toilet paper in the toilet WHERE do you put it?????? So if you don't put it in the toilet is it still called toilet paper or is it ***** wipe then. I can't imagine.


    mikell
     
  12. JulieNC

    JulieNC Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Rambler. I'd just have it pumped and then see where you are. I think a lot of people are reluctant to have it done, primarily because they think it's going to be expensive. Honestly, I can't remember the cost when we had ours done 2 years ago, but it wasn't nearly as expensive as I had feared. I am quite certain it was below $100, but that's all I can remember.

    The biggest problem folks experience with septic systems is they forget they're not on county/city sewer. For example, tampons that boast "flushable" should never be flushed, not the applicator and not the tampon itself. When we lived in the city, I didn't think twice about cleaning my hairbrush and flushing the hair. I wouldn't do that on a dare with septic. In other words, don't use your toilets as a garbage can.

    We also use Scott tissue. In addition to a roll seeming to last forever, our septic people told us that it was the best choice for septic systems (aside from super expensive toilet paper that was specifically made to break down quickly).

    Our septic people also told us that the enzymes and other additives probably weren't of much use except if you were priming a new system or if you somehow managed to kill off all the beneficial bacteria/enzymes (in which case they recommended using a bucket of horse manure to get things going). They said they took an informal poll years ago of homeowners to see who was and was not using the stuff, and they saw absolutely no difference. Of course, that was hardly scientific. :)

    I wouldn't go to the trouble and expense of rerouting my washer and stuff like that unless I determined that I was at serious risk for a problem. The only way of knowing that for sure, though, is to get a septic person in to look and pump. Write down your date of service, how full the tank was and any comments the septic person had. In another few years, you probably won't remember any details. :)
     
  13. JulieNC

    JulieNC Well-Known Member

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    Mikell--

    If you chose not to flush toilet paper, you simply put it in a garbage can (lined with a grocery sack) next to the toilet. When we were in the midst of a water shortage, we put our "yellow toilet paper" in the garbage can, allowing us to not flush for a bit longer. "Brown toilet paper" went down with the brown. I understand that some particularly motivated persons, though, will throw the brown toilet paper in a lined garbage can and empty it daily.
     
  14. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    Blessed-We have ours pumped once a year, in the late fall before things freeze up. It costs about $120. We rationalize it by thinking of it as insurance: if someone came to us and said, "If you give me $120, I'll guarantee that you have an extremely low risk of septic problems this winter," we would do it. Let's face it--having an iffy septic is a load on the mind. You have a better chance of septic problems in the winter because the digestion process slows in the cold weather. So clear it out now and every fall. You should be pumping it at least once a year anyway, since your load (pardon the pun) is higher than the system is rated for, so you've got two strikes against you.

    I also toss the yellow paper in the garbage. The three other family members are male, so I "let" them flush their paper--after all, theirs is always brown, right? :eek:
     
  15. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Blessedmom.

    I mix up 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups hot water and mix it up . I then add 1 pack of fleshmans yeast and let it stand until its working in its container. Then flush it through. If you have more than one toilet you can pour hot water into the toilet and mix it directly into the toilet and let it set until its bubbling up before flushing through.

    Just like any digestive tract, it requires microbes. A person who doesnt have adequate amounts of benificial microbes in their gut will soon be constipated. A septic system without adequate microbes will also stop working and clog.
     
  16. homebirtha

    homebirtha Well-Known Member

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    First, I would definitely have it pumped now. We just had ours done yesterday and it was $150. Most places recommend pumping every 2-3 years. If you have more people than your system is rated for, I would definitely do it AT LEAST every 2 years. That will help.

    When they pump it, have them tell you what kind of shape it was in.

    From everything I've read, the additives don't really work and can be detrimental. Better bet is to watch what you put in. In addition to the suggestions here, use detergent sparingly, if at all. Regular soap is better. (Dr. Bonners is good and can be used for almost everything.) Don't use that antibacterial soap stuff. Also, liquid laundry detergent is MUCH better than powder for septic systems.

    But all that said, having it pumped is the best thing you can do.
     
  17. BlessedMom

    BlessedMom Well-Known Member

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    Believe it or not we get more rain than Seattle where we are at. We have our own little weather system. The news is always wrong. I have a friend that is a retired ranger and she explained to me why we have this type of weather. Something to do with where the mountains are positioned to get the most rain or something. Anyhow, it rains A LOT! I used to live about 35 miles east of here...and we get more rain at the new house than I have ever seen in my life!! Oh my!

    I don't even know where my drainfield is to be truthful. I'm just happy to say I know where the cap is to the septic tank!!

    Also, re-routing the washer is not possible. It would have to be a pipe that comes out a window near the front door of our home and cross the path of where everyone would walk and then spill out onto our driveway. It's just not going to do it.

    I think today I will call and ask how much it would be to pump it. At least then we would know. It seems too crazy to pump it yearly though. I'll see what the company says that I hire. I thought it would be VERY expensive. I'd rather pay and sleep at night. Maybe he can also tell us how long it will last and all of that. We have the receipt from the last time it was pumped. There were 5 people living here then. They had it pumped when they bought the house.

    As for leaving yellow and flushing brown. Ummm..in my master bathroom..fine. But downstairs the dogs often get to it and well the guest bathroom is used often for guests. I don't think it would sit well with hubby. But then again he and the boys don't flush a lot when it's yellow anyhow. But if there is paper..they flush.



    Thanks!

    BlessedMom
     
  18. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    Your hubby sounds just like mine! Sometimes it works for me to start on a project, then when I mess it up, he will come help me. Sometimes I just might as well forget about it, LOL.

    But I spent a fair bit of time under the house with him fixing busted pipe when we lived in Kansas and it wasn't that hard. You can get a little pipe cutter for under four bucks here. A book on basic home repair and a tool box, maybe even a couple of classes at Lowe's or someplace might be worthwhile for you. We are renting right now, so we don't have to deal with that kind of stuff, but I'm thinking of taking a class in car maintenance. The sooner you accept that he just *isn't* going to do that stuff, the happier you will be (which is easy for me to say, hard for me to do, lol).

    I have to say, in his favor, that my man can almost always fix any problems with the computer and he makes a mean pizza.

    Heather
     
  19. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    A simple thing that will reduce the saturation of the drain field is to always do a full load of wash and never a partial one. A conventional top loading washing machine uses 42 gallons of water per wash. If your water closets are of the older design each flush is approximately 5 gallons. Either add a few bricks to the reservoir or switch to a newer throne to reduce the water going to the drain field.
     
  20. peanutgreen

    peanutgreen Well-Known Member

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    When we had to have our tank pumped, it was about $250. They charge by the gallon here. Our tank had died; I wasn't treating it with anything, but I was sending bleach, toilet cleaner, etc. down the drains. We were afraid we were going to have to replace the entire thing. I found a treatment at the local hardware store that fixed it with one jar. I think it was called System Restore or something. It was about $40 for the one jar, but a lot cheaper that $5000 or more for a new septic system. I quit putting the bad stuff down the drains, and I haven't had any problems since. I guess it's still working, and I haven't added anything else to it.