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After 1 1/2 years of living in our current house we will be putting a mobile home on our new lot. The lot has a septic tank currently. It had not been used in over 20 years and the lot has sat empty since we moved in 1987. Is that septic tank going to be usable, or am I going to have to have a new one installed, any thoughts and opinions are appreciated.
 

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We went through a septic nightmare. The good news is that I learned a lot from it but I am not sure it was $4000 worth of knowledge.

Your field lines need to be tested. To do this, clear all the dirt from the top of your tank. If you have two tanks, it needs to be done on the second tank. Move the lid off to one side to determine where the inlet and outlets are. Put a water hose a couple of feet into the outlet line and turn on the water.

The field lines need to absorb the water load and not fill up and start draining back into the tank. The lines should be able to absorb the flow from what would be a normal shower or washing machine draining from a rinse cycle. Toilet flushes are not as high of a load with the water efficient ones being so common now.

If not, then they are either filled with dirt/sediment or roots. Either way, a replacement is in order. Repairs are typically not done because you would no longer be "grandfathered" in to the old codes.

Is there is adequate drainage in your field area (sand, gravel)? Are the tank(s) sized appropriately? You would need to asses the entire system but the field lines are the key indicator to what kind of shape the system is in.
 

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Depending on your skill level and depth of your pockets it MAY be worthwhile to have a pro come out and inspect it. They have cameras that can look down into the tank and pipes to determine if the system is still functioning. You'll probably spend $200-500 for this service.
Typically, correctly installed septic systems last for decades unless something has damaged a part of the system. If the leach field was driven over, maybe a pipe cracked or roots have grown in and around the pipes like Chuck has mentioned. If it were me I'd want to know for sure. The last thing you want is -----t* water in your yard.
If the money is a problem, Chuck's instructions will work.
 

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Trumbull County in Ohio has to be the worst. Economy went down hill and then septic tank laws were imposed. What used to cost 2 to 4 thousand is now 20000 to 30000. And yet we take medical, and other hazardous waste from other states to be dumped in open land fills. Not sure why, we have trees that folks could have and may have been peeing on for a 100 or more years and yet,........
 

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One thing I am happy about is we don't have to deal with a septic system. We have an old cesspool grandfathered into our property that we bought 20 years ago. The cesspool had sat unused for many years. For anyone that doesn't know, a cesspool is just a big cylindrical hole in the ground lined with rocks where household water/sewage get dumped from the outgoing house sewer line. Can't beat the old system. It probably has been on the property for over a hundred years. We have never had to have it cleaned. I stick a long pole down into once every year or so, and there is hardly any sludge on the bottom at all. And, we didn't have to pay thousands for it; it does the same thing as a costly septic system; it will probably outlive us with little or no maintenace. In our section of PA, if you do need to put in a new septic system, they build one of those gawd-awful turkey mounds...usually right in your front yard!
 

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One thing I am happy about is we don't have to deal with a septic system. We have an old cesspool grandfathered into our property that we bought 20 years ago. The cesspool had sat unused for many years. For anyone that doesn't know, a cesspool is just a big cylindrical hole in the ground lined with rocks where household water/sewage get dumped from the outgoing house sewer line. Can't beat the old system. It probably has been on the property for over a hundred years.
Cesspools are simply a (pardon the pun :D) crappy form of a septic system. Basically, the tank without the drainage field lines.

They worked 'ok' back when the house had one toilet, a kitchen sink, and a bathtub that got used on Saturday nights only. Remodel the house, add a dishwasher, washing machine, another bath (or two) along with the regular use of it, and you'll find out just how inadequate they are. It's not just the sludge that's the issue.....All that extra water HAS to go someplace.......


To the OP question:

Assuming you are allowed a 'conventional' system on the lot:

Pop the lid on the tank and have it pumped. Then you know you start with a clean tank, as well as now knowing the size. Then add a new drainage field bed or lines, and you'll know they are now up to snuff.

That's exactly what I did on a lot I bought that had an existing system. It had a 1,000 gallon tank, but I was sure how much in the way of drainage field....but now I am.
 

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Cesspools are simply a (pardon the pun :D) crappy form of a septic system. Basically, the tank without the drainage field lines.

They worked 'ok' back when the house had one toilet, a kitchen sink, and a bathtub that got used on Saturday nights only. Remodel the house, add a dishwasher, washing machine, another bath (or two) along with the regular use of it, and you'll find out just how inadequate they are. It's not just the sludge that's the issue.....All that extra water HAS to go someplace........
Hmmmmm....we've been using it on a daily basis for 20 years, and we do have a dishwasher, washing machine, etc. attached to it, and even though we live in the sticks, we shower every day, only the dog gets a bath on Saturdays. Sludge has not a problem, wall impaction has not been a problem, even in times of prolonged heavy rains, the water level does not reach more than 3/4's, and we have never had to add any enzymes. I figure it will outlive us without a pumping. I think that's proof a cesspool is not that crappy. (pun intended) :)
 

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Great....glad it works.

So WHERE is all the water going ?

Either the pool fills up, or it's leaking out somewhere. Question is where ?

The whole purpose of a leach field, attached to the tank, is to give the effluent (gray water) enough square footage to float out to, be absorbed into the soil, and evaporated by the sun. Where does yours go ?
 

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Great....glad it works.

So WHERE is all the water going ?

Either the pool fills up, or it's leaking out somewhere. Question is where ?

The whole purpose of a leach field, attached to the tank, is to give the effluent (gray water) enough square footage to float out to, be absorbed into the soil, and evaporated by the sun. Where does yours go ?
Into the surrounding soil....remember it is not a concrete vessel, but rather a pit lined with rocks that were collected from the property. The water percolates out of the cesspool between the rocks that line it. The solid waste sinks to the bottom where it is consumed by bacteria. As long as you don't introduce anything into the cesspool that will kill the bacteria or clog the spaces between the rocks, it works flawlessly. We never let any chemicals down a drain, and we clean the grease out of all cooking materials before we wash them. The worst thing we use that gets into the cesspool is bleach once in a while, but if you introduce a couple of cups of bleach into 200-600 gallons or so of water, it is so diluted it won't threaten the total bacteria and will break down in a short period of time.

All a modern septic system does is increase the leach field, so there is less chance of things getting backed up and over-flowing. Treat a cesspool the correct way, and that gray water never builds up to a critical level. In other words, encourage the bacteria by not doing things to kill it off and don't introduce anything that can impact the spaces between the rocks, and a cesspool will work just fine.
 

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Try one in heavy clay soil, and you'll have water running out the top, and you'd have a swamp surrounding it. Only way they would work is a VERY sandy/gravel type surrounding. All that water simply HAS to go somewhere.

I remain convinced they are a dated technology that was meant for low water use days.
 

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Try one in heavy clay soil, and you'll have water running out the top, and you'd have a swamp surrounding it. Only way they would work is a VERY sandy/gravel type surrounding. All that water simply HAS to go somewhere.

I remain convinced they are a dated technology that was meant for low water use days.
Of course a cesspool will fail in heavy, clay soil. Try putting a septic system in heavy, clay soil, and it will fail also. In those days, a cesspool was never put in an area of heavy clay soil, and if a settler was foolish enough to do so, it failed.

Fact is, large enough, a cesspool WILL perform as well as a modern septic system without contaminating the surrounding soil or the property well water, and it will not give off noxious fumes.

Strange how this cesspool has been here for at least 100 years and is still working just fine. I wonder if you will be able to say the same about your septic system in 2114?
 

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Looks like most people answered your question. Short version: get it tested and inspected ... then the thread went off the rails.

My point of view is I'd rather have a septic system that hasn't been used for a while than one that has been used improperly. As long as the tank isn't cracked, the baffle is in good shape and the drain field isn't completely clogged you should be just fine.
 
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