Author Topic: Septic advice  (Read 248 times)

MillCreek

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Septic advice
« on: January 18, 2023, 12:26:36 PM »
Situation:  slow drains and water back up

Background:  This house was built in 2015.  It has a 1000 gallon septic tank and a large drainfield. Two older people live here. There are two toilets, a bathtub, a shower, three bathroom sinks, one kitchen sink, one utility sink, a dishwasher and a washing machine.  Nothing goes into the toilet that has not passed through our bodies first except for toilet paper.  We now use little toilet paper since we got the bidet seats on both toilets.  We do not put foreign objects, paper towels, or wipes down the toilets.  We do not grind food scraps in the disposal or put food scraps down the kitchen sink.  We do not put coffee grounds, fats or greases down the kitchen sink.  The septic tank was pumped in the summer of 2020, and it was approximately half full and was ‘healthy’ as per the description of the septic service.  The service said that with only two people, we should have the tank pumped every 4 years or so.  It rains a lot of up here and so far this month, 3.7 inches of rain has fallen.

About two weeks ago, the shower drain was not draining, and a small amount of water backed up into the shower.  I poured some enzymatic cleaner down the drain and snaked it to 25 feet. It started draining again with no water backup.

A week ago, the shower drain was not draining and both toilets were not emptying completely.  My first thought was a clog and I plunged and then augured both toilets to six feet and poured some Drano down the shower drain.  This did not fix the problem and a substantial amount of water came back up from the shower drain.

My working theory was a clog and I called the plumber.  They came out the first time, pulled one of the toilets and augured to 100 feet out into the septic tank.  There was some resistance at the end of the augur, but the toilet was flushing and the shower was draining at that point, albeit slowly.  The plumber came back the next day and ran a camera down the drainline and then a jetter.  They spent about seven hours here over two days.  They never actually found a clog and wondered if it could have been pushed out into the tank.

The plumber is now wondering if the tank is full.  The tank alarm showing a high level has not come on. Other people in the neighborhood have had their tank alarms come on during times of heavy rainfall.  This is our first clog/drainage issue since we moved in during the summer of 2015.  I toss one of those Green Gobbler enzyme septic packets down the toilet once a month and have been doing that for several years.  Because it rains so much, the grass around the buried tank is wet and sodden, but then again my whole yard is wet and sodden.  I was down on my hands and knees sniffing around the grass over the tank and I did not pick up any hints of sewage and there is no ponding or pooling of sewage in the yard or up at the drainfield.

Assessment: I am not sure what is going on.  As of this morning, everything is flushing and draining properly.  I ran the dishwasher and then the washing machine with no problems.  The tank alarm is still not on.

Recommendation:  Where do I go from here?  The plumber was $ 2200 dollars.  Was this just a temporary excess water plus a clog that has resolved itself?  Do I call the septic service people and spend more money?  My neighbor next door wondered if the baffles in the tank are plugged.  Is there anything more that I as the end user should be doing?

Any expert advice from the Collective is appreciated.
_____________
Regards,
MillCreek
Snohomish County, WA  USA


Quote from: Angel Eyes on August 09, 2018, 01:56:15 AM
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RoadKingLarry

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2023, 12:34:23 PM »
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charby

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2023, 12:36:08 PM »
Your leach field might be saturated from all the rain backing up the system.
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K Frame

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2023, 12:37:28 PM »
I'm wondering if your drain field is simply waterlogged and draining slowly, meaning that your tank is draining slowly.

You say the alarm hasn't come on.

Has it been tested to make sure that the alarm is actually functional?
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HeroHog

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2023, 12:46:46 PM »
This guy is one I follow and he seems pretty sharp and will likely reply to your query if you contact him. https://www.youtube.com/@JamesButlerWellAndSepticLife
PS: Were I able, I'd work for this guy in a heartbeat!
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zxcvbob

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2023, 01:02:30 PM »
I think your drain field is full of water, and it's draining back into your septic tank.  (water table is temporarily higher than the septic tank)  It should resolve itself shortly after the rain stops.
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Ben

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2023, 01:17:59 PM »
I agree regarding the drain field. Do you have a schematic of where your leach lines run?

I have to say that with a newish tank doing this, I might still spend the extra money for a septic pumpout/inspection just to get some kind of a baseline on this and also rule out any problems.
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MillCreek

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2023, 02:49:48 PM »
I think your drain field is full of water, and it's draining back into your septic tank.  (water table is temporarily higher than the septic tank)  It should resolve itself shortly after the rain stops.

I should probably point out that the drainfield is uphill from the septic tank.  The drainfield distribution box is probably around 75 feet away from the tank.  I am told there is a pump in the bottom of the tank.
_____________
Regards,
MillCreek
Snohomish County, WA  USA


Quote from: Angel Eyes on August 09, 2018, 01:56:15 AM
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RocketMan

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2023, 03:06:26 PM »
The pump could be having intermittent issues, not coming on at times when it should.  I wonder if the pump is triggered by, or somehow related to, the same sensor as the tank full alarm?
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RoadKingLarry

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2023, 03:23:12 PM »
I should probably point out that the drainfield is uphill from the septic tank.  The drainfield distribution box is probably around 75 feet away from the tank.  I am told there is a pump in the bottom of the tank.


Plumbing rule of thumb: *expletive deleted*it flows down hill.
 :rofl:

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Nick1911

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2023, 04:40:20 PM »
I'd be having a look at that pump.  It could be as simple as a failing start capacitor causing intermittent issues.

Caps, contactor, level sensor, and insulation resistance readings are all things I'd be pursuing here.

K Frame

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2023, 04:53:12 PM »
Hold on a second here...

The leach field is UPHILL from the settlement tank.

You've had almost 4 inches of rain in a very short time.

Now that the rain has calmed down, you're saying it's working normally.

I'd bet a substantial amount of money that the field flooded, which flooded the distribution box, which meant that everything was backing up into the settlement tank.

Even if the distribution box pump was working 100%, where would it have been pushing the leechate? There was no place for it to go.

You say neighbors have had very similar problems during periods of heavy rain.

Rain goes away, field drains, pump pushes the back log of leechate and rainwater out to the field, which allows flow into the distribution box from the settlement tank, which is also pushed out to the field.

The only concern I would have would be the tank alarm. That should be checked to make sure it's functional.

If the distribution box pump were being problematic, it would show up at other times, as well, not just when you're getting a metric buttload of rain all at once.

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MillCreek

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2023, 09:09:46 PM »
I talked to the septic guy. He thinks it is a result of heavy rain.  He said if everything is draining normally now, to just watch it and call him if it happens again.
_____________
Regards,
MillCreek
Snohomish County, WA  USA


Quote from: Angel Eyes on August 09, 2018, 01:56:15 AM
You are one lousy risk manager.

K Frame

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2023, 05:41:47 AM »
Hum... I've rethought this.

You're hearing hoofbeats, so you really should be looking for Okapi...

Dig up the field! Replace all of the pumps... twice! Get a couple of Don's Johns for the garage!

 :rofl:

Heavy rain in a short period of time can play havoc with some of these systems, making it seem as if there is a critical failure when it's just water overload.

The old gravity systems not so much, but as more homes are built on land where pumps have to take over for gravity, you get stuff like this.

Clench your butt cheeks and wait for the rain to pass.
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230RN

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Re: Septic advice
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2023, 04:47:37 AM »
.

Clench your butt cheeks and wait for the rain to pass.
That ought to do it.   Enough clenching and you won't have any more septic problems.