Stinky septic mystery

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by pickapeppa, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    Can anyone help with possibilities here?

    We have just had our septic inspected, and he wouldn't even empty it for us. He said we'd just be wasting our money. Checked the baffles, and they were clean. It was emptied last year, and usually only needs emptied every three or so. He even got out his long sticks and measured the depth of the solids at the bottom.

    We have an ejector pump in the basement with a switch to bypass the septic (for the ground water) or to go to the septic (for the toilet in the basement).

    We've had a wicked smell backing up through the pit. One morning last week when I went in to check on it, the pump was running constantly but no water was getting pumped out. It had been running so long the pipes were very warm, even three feet up from the pit. It was set to go to the septic at that time.

    Upon realizing there was nothing getting pumped out, I switched to the groundwater pipes and a big gush of water and gas went out the other pipe. At this point, the ejector pump quit running. It still works.

    It won't pump anything out to the septic, sewer smell is coming back in the house when we have it set for septic pipes.

    We did have a small bit of flooding in there about a month ago and it started acting funny back then. The sewer smell started around that time, but has gradually gotten worse.

    Any ideas? :shrug:
     
  2. luvbritts

    luvbritts Member

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    Let me see if I can give you some hints. I used to design sewer systems as well as repair them. My educated guess is that your sewer line is plugged solid and not allowing effluent to go to the tank. The reason the pump kept running is that there should be 2 floats that operate the pump. One for high level(pump turn-on) and one for low level(pump turn off). The reason the pump turned off is because when you switch over to the other line it pumped down the pit and the low level float activated. There are 2 possible solutions here. First, you can rent a power sewer snake and snake that line yourself or 2nd, call a qualified plumber to do it for you. If you still have the tank open, you should be able to see the water being pumped in. The only explanation I have for the smell is that the sewer is staying in the tank to long? I would start with fixing the sewer line and then see if your smell goes away. Hope this is of some help to you. Goodluck.

    Pat
     

  3. Jillis

    Jillis Well-Known Member

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    Ours did this for about a year.

    A very long year.

    We had it pumped a few times.

    Turns out there were a few issues involoved.

    One was resolved when they brought in a rotor rooter machine and finally got rid of the big clog my dd's friend put into the downstairs toilet line, which I kept saying needed to be done all along and getting ignored.

    The clog resulted in a horrible flood of gross nasty stuff all over the lower level of the house.

    We also needed to have our leach filed replaced, since none of the previous owners had emptied the septic in over 12 years, at least.
     
  4. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Yes, a plugged line to the septic tank would cause the pump to run continuously because the sump pit would never empty. Or perhaps the low-level float is hung up on something and thus the pump never turns off.

    I am surprised that you have an odor downstairs. The entire sewer system inside the house should be sealed and vented to the outside. I would check that there is water in all of the sink and toliet P-traps in the basement as well as in any floor drains. I suspect the odor may be coming up thru a dry floor drain.

    I wouldn't recommend bypassing the septic tank with sewage anymore. Raw sewage going directly to the drainfield will plug the drainfield and you'll have a much bigger problem. I am surprised that the local building code allows groundwater drainage to go to the drainfield.
     
  5. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    my guess is you have had the sump "plugged" for some time and it has built up some sediments and they are "anaerobic" (with out oxygen, it is usaly the "sewer" smell) and stink, wash or run some clean water thought the sump and then put a little clorox in the sump and let set for hr to two and then pump it out,
     
  6. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the input. We just aren't using the toilet in the basement currently. This little mystery brought me to the understanding we should be bypassing our septic at all times except when we flush the toilet in the basement. We never flush it without having it routed to septic. If so, everything ends up in the yard on the other side of our deck. Not nice. Don't ask me how I found this out. :rolleyes:

    For some reason, when the house was built, they never routed the groundwater out to the ditch by the street. I've noticed everyone else's is routed out there. As it stands, there are now a myriad of mature trees to route the lines through to get there. But so far it's at least emptying away from the house.

    Dh is going to check into the float issues. He seems to think it's gulping air in there somehow.
     
  7. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like something he's planning to do next.
     
  8. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    Further to CabinFever's comments:

    1. It sounds like the toilet may be flushing solids into the sump pit, and then getting pumped through the line to the septic tank for settling, and that the line has become clogged. power snaking it is a short term fix.

    2. You should really have two separate pits and two separate pumps - one for the basement toilet, one for normal groundwater ejecting into your side yard.

    3. They make below-grade units for downstairs toilets that will address your problem. They are a plastic "pit" container which is sealed (no odor) and contains a motor with a chopper blade. As you flush and the "pit" fills, a float switch activates and the chopper chops the solids into little bits, so that it will pump uphill to the tank without clogging.
     
  9. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    The problem with that is, there really isn't a place for another pit. In a six by six foot area we have a sink, toilet, ejector pump pit, entry to the crawl space, water softener and gas water heater. Actually, it may even be as small as five by five. We would have to take the shower out of that room to make another pit.

    We may just have to deal with the periodical short-term solutions. As it is, we've been here eight years without any problems of this sort. It helps that we only use this bathroom as a last resort, so maybe only once or twice a day at most.

    Once a certain young woman is out and on her own, it will even be less frequently used.

    As it stands, the bleach washing seems to have done the trick for now. If it happens again any time soon, dh will probably either snake it himself or have someone else do it.

    Paw, one of the septic guys we talked to said the same thing you suggested. He wondered why this place had been designed the way it was. But, that was almost forty years ago. I'm sure the codes were different then than they are now. We do have an ejector pump (I'm thinking this is the one that chops up the solids), he thought we should have a sump pit added.
     
  10. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    If your ejector pump already chops up solids, then I would agree you just need a sump pit added (although in that case you should still get an airtight lid for the septic one). By the way, your shower in that room should technically be pumping into the septic and not into your yard...

    I hear what you are saying about the lack of floor space. Without seeing it, it is hard to suggest solutions, but maybe you could build a wood grating/trapdoor kind of thing with the second pit beneath it. That way you could walk on it, but lift a section out if you have to access the pit? Just an idea....

    Good luck.
     
  11. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    There's a thought.

    On the other subject, the bleach worked on the smell. The pump is still getting hung up until I flip the switch. But it is drawing in air somehow. Sadly, I will have to report this to the master.

    He's been sooo busy lately.

    How much is involved in digging a pit in a finished basement?
     
  12. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

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    Digging a pit in a finished basement is not that challenging, just physically hard work. You'll need to remove any floor covering, break through the concrete slab with a sledgehammer or one of the small electric jackhammers, then dig the pit in the dirt under the basement floor, install the liner and backfill with gravel, then patch up the floor with new cement. The hardest part will probably be carrying all the waste out in buckets.
     
  13. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    I concur. I put one in an unfinished basement and hammered through the foundation wall to connect to a weeping tile, and the whole thing took about a half day. Get the jackhammer though, the sledge is real work....
     
  14. pickapeppa

    pickapeppa Well-Known Member

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    Lol. I don't think it's possible to swing a sledgehammer in that room without tearing up the surrounding area. Jackhammer would be the only option.

    In either case, it looks like he'll be rodding the pipes. He thinks it has only one float, but will be checking for a second.