Canít figure out sewer connection, got sewage backup?


  #1  
Old 05-10-11, 04:45 PM
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Canít figure out sewer connection, got sewage backup?

Hi folks -

Didnít know if this is right forum since problem might be the septic system. Getting some sewage backup in my basement. Donít really understand my plumbing setup and I thought maybe folks here could give me some help. (Some pics below). (This is pretty long but I tried hard to make it fast reading.)

Here is some background information:

(1) House built in 1967 and Iíve been residing in it for last 9 years.

(2) 2 bedroom rancher with unfinished basement.

(3) One person living in house. (but was 2 people for about 3 years.)

(4) Inspection report from 2002 says :

ďPrimary treatment consists of a 1000 and 500 gallon concrete septic tank, connected in series...Secondary treatment consists of a gravel seepage pit that probed to be approximately 10 feet wide and in excess of 4 feet of gravel/aggregateÖĒ


There is a diagram below made by the inspector in 2002 Ė I added a few details.

(5) The septic was pumped before I moved in 9 years ago. Never pumped since. I go very easy on the septic: no garbage disposal, no additives, no bleach, no grease, very light close washer load, very light dishwasher load, no real long showers. Paper only goes into septic.

I thought because of my light load and a 1500 gallon setup, that 9 years wasnít too long to go without pumping. (Turns out I was actually going to get it pumped this fall.) Hope I didnít really screw up big time by waiting too long.

There is however definitely some kind of blockage. I now get drain backup at the clothes washer in the basement. There is also a pipe on the basement floor that has started to sometimes seep sewer water out on the floor. I donít understand what the pipe is for? Some kind of cleanout? (Please see pic below.)

There is also a toilet in the basement (please see diagram) never used, and now that toilet bowl in the basement sometimes fills to near overflow when a toilet is flushed on the first floor. That basement toilet then drains down very slowly.

I also donít see or understand where the clean out is for the main sewer pipe leaving the house.

I found the 2 septic tanks and opened up the manhole covers (please see pic below) . I didnít really measure the scum level and the sludge level. But the top of the scum layer is about 1 foot below the bottom of the riser. Using the stick it feels like mostly water in the first tank about 4 feet deep, then it feels solid. Same in the second tank except that after 4 feet of water it feels like about a foot of sludge. Maybe the sludge is more solid in the first tank? Didnít really do a thorough job, but doesnít seem like a lot of sludge to me in either tank!

I did not look for the secondary gravel seepage pit identified by the inspector (4 above). But I cannot find any wet spots outside anywhere and there is no smell of sewage outside anywhere. In short, I donít see any changes outside.

I flushed the upstairs toilet and looked down the riser in the first tank, but I didnít see a ripple or a bubble or anything in the water? Does that indicate the problem is before first tank - or possibly right at input to first tank? I was reading about those concrete baffles, but I canít see anything when I look down the riser except the top of the water (scum) about a foot below the bottom of the riser.

What I was really hoping to do:

(a) is first pray that the septic system is not dead (I will have to sell my furniture, car, etc. to do that kind of job).

(b) try to figure out where the blockage is myself Ė before I get the tanks pumped. I figured if the blockage is really in the pipe from house to the tank, wouldnít pumping just leave me with the same problem? But I really donít know?

(c) if the pipe is blocked between house and septic could I find out myself whether itís because the pipe is broken? Doesnít that happen to old underground pipes sometimes? Guess that would be real bad news Ė time for a big dig? Was hoping maybe I could snake it and either clear it or determine if the pipe is collapsed. Iíve used snakes before (only 1/4 inch) but I certainly wouldnít be afraid of a bigger snake. But as I said above I donít understand my piping and where you would enter the snake in my setup anyway?

If someone could guess how the cleanout might most likely work in my setup that seems like that would be of great help! Or whether or how I could rule the septic definitely in or out.

Any thoughts would be sincerely appreciated!



The above diagram is not to scale. The pictures below show the large pipe in the diagram that goes down into the basement floor and also the floor drain and also the pipe in the diagram that seeps sewage. Only other drain pipes that go into the floor are for the sink and toilet in the basement.



The above picture shows the floor drain for rainwater and the pipe that must be connected to the septic since sewer water seeps out from it.



The above picture shows the large pipe that goes into the basement floor depicted in the diagram above. This is right next to the wall for the room with the toilet and sink. No other drain pipes (except for the sink and toilet) go into the floor. I thought there was supposed to be a cleanout right there at the main pipe as it enters the floor? There is a cleanout on the 2 inch PVC pipe that connects to this main pipe in the picture. The cleanout is on that 2 inch pipe about 7 feet to the right. (At least I think itís a cleanout? Please see pic below).



This above is another view of the main pipe that goes down into the basement floor.



The above picture shows the 2 inch PVC pipe that connects to the main metal pipe that goes down into the basement floor (see pic above).



The above picture shows the manholes for the 2 septic tanks. Cover to cover is 13 feet. The first tank in the foreground is about 40 feet from the basement. (see diagram above).



The above picture shows the first tank cover and 2 pipes to the left. The plug on the leftmost is loose and looking down it looks like you can see some liquid down several feet inside. The plug on the pipe in the middle is really stuck. Was trying to open it but I need a better wrench or something. Figure I canít use a torch or Ė kabooom! I donít know what those two pipes are for? I canít find any such pipe close to the second tank cover? Seems strange. Maybe I have to dig around more?

If you read all of this God Bless You!
 
  #2  
Old 05-10-11, 05:39 PM
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All my knowledge on septic tanks is from books, I never lived with one so take this for what it is worth.

Having the two septic tanks in series seems odd to me but maybe it is standard practice in your area. A leaching pit is also somewhat odd to me instead of a leaching field but maybe it is a land use issue.

The big pipe going through the basement floor is obviously the main house drain. The one next to the floor drain could be a cleanout but I don't know. It could also be a separate pipe going to the second septic tank or to the leaching pit for use of a clothes washer to avoid the wash water from going into the primary septic tank.

From the little I know, going nine years without septic tank service is really asking for trouble. I'm going to go out on a slender limb and state that maybe the sludge build up on the bottom of the tank has reached a height where it is all but completely blocking the incoming pipe. It could be that a thorough pumping and cleaning of the first tank is all that you need.

Lawrosa is a plumber and also lives with a septic so when he comes in he will have much better information. I'd trust whatever he writes.
 
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Old 05-10-11, 06:33 PM
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I am typing as I read so I can input suggestions.

The septic was pumped before I moved in 9 years ago. Never pumped since.
Pump the tank.

There is however definitely some kind of blockage. I now get drain backup at the clothes washer in the basement. There is also a pipe on the basement floor that has started to sometimes seep sewer water out on the floor. I donÔŅĹt understand what the pipe is for? Some kind of cleanout? (Please see pic below.)
Im still reading...... but the clean out probably is for the septic, but that floor drain for rain water?????

Where does that go???

If to the septic its a no no. When it rains does alot of water go down there??? If no water is coming up from there but the c/o cap next to it is, then it must not be tied into the septic.

It may go to that seepage pit, who knows.

I advise you to find out. When you have the septic pumped your best bet is to camera the clean out to be sure it goes to septic. Also the floor drain. Find where it goes. It may go to a dry well who knows. Instead of a camera have all tank lids open and run water.

Still reading.

There is also a toilet in the basement (please see diagram) never used, and now that toilet bowl in the basement sometimes fills to near overflow when a toilet is flushed on the first floor. That basement toilet then drains down very slowly.
Your seepage pit is probably full and water locked. You kill all the biomat. Its not looking good so far. Or if its a cess pool its all plugged. Pump the tanks. Find the pit lid.

I did not look for the secondary gravel seepage pit identified by the inspector (4 above). But I cannot find any wet spots outside anywhere and there is no smell of sewage outside anywhere. In short, I donÔŅĹt see any changes outside.
You will not see that with a pit normally. Or at least I did not when mine was full. But Im 3 ft below grade.

OK Got through it.

You need to pump the the tanks and find the lid to the seepage pit.

Once you do that flushing the toilet will tell you what tank the sewer is dumping in.

Second tank may be a cess pool. and the seepage pit may have been added on at a later date. They normally did stuff like that.

Once you pump you will know what type of tanks they are. If the second tank has holes in the side, the bottom is most likely open. Thats why you feel there is more sludge.

As far as the 3rd tank. if you find that and its full of water you have an issue.

After you pump and identify, we can help you further.

The septic guy will try to sell you something I am sure, so be leary.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 05-11-11, 11:31 AM
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Thanks a lot Furd for taking the time to read through all of that.

Originally Posted by Furd View Post
All my knowledge on septic tanks is from books, I never lived with one so take this for what it is worth..
Well all I can say is that you seem to be always correct on many different topics on these forums.

Seems like Mike agrees with you, get it pumped for a start.

Originally Posted by Furd View Post
Having the two septic tanks in series seems odd to me but maybe it is standard practice in your area. A leaching pit is also somewhat odd to me instead of a leaching field but maybe it is a land use issue.
...
Right on! The inspector used the term ďunconventionalĒ for the stone pit.

Thanks again Furd. I value your opinion.
 
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Old 05-11-11, 11:47 AM
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yeah oce you pump the tanks its important to tell what material they are. The first is probably solid walled. Its desighed to capture solids. The second tank must have a open bottom and holes in the side. The 3rd tank the same.

Let us know that and how they are piped together.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 05-11-11, 11:59 AM
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Mike, thanks a lot for taking the time to go through all that and for the wealth of professional information.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
ÖPump the tank. Ö
I will certainly do that.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post

Ö but that floor drain for rain water?????

Where does that go???

If to the septic its a no no. When it rains does alot of water go down there??? If no water is coming up from there but the c/o cap next to it is, then it must not be tied into the septic.

It may go to that seepage pit, who knows.

I advise you to find out. When you have the septic pumped your best bet is to camera the clean out to be sure it goes to septic. Also the floor drain. Find where it goes. It may go to a dry well who knows. Instead of a camera have all tank lids open and run waterÖ.
About that floor drain. I should have mentioned that before. There is an underground system for the downspouts and there is an open PVC pipe on the same side of the house as the septic. Usually when it rains some water comes out of the PVC pipe.

There are 4 floor drains in the basement (the one in the picture and 3 more ) and if you put water down the one in the picture, or also down a specific one in the adjacent corner, water comes out of the PVC pipe outside. But the other 2 floor drains must be broken somewhere. If you put water down those Ė it just disappears.

So I guess the floor drains in the basement are tied into the underground system for the downspouts?


Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
...

Your seepage pit is probably full and water locked. You kill all the biomat. Its not looking good so far. Or if its a cess pool its all plugged. Pump the tanks. Find the pit lid.



You will not see that with a pit normally. Or at least I did not when mine was full. But Im 3 ft below grade. ...
I will pump the tanks and find the pit lid, hopefully within the next few days (Doctors, vet, oh my!). But I guess time is very important here.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post

You need to pump the the tanks and find the lid to the seepage pit.

Once you do that flushing the toilet will tell you what tank the sewer is dumping in.
...
Good idea. Iíll do the flush test also.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post

...Second tank may be a cess pool. and the seepage pit may have been added on at a later date. They normally did stuff like that.

Once you pump you will know what type of tanks they are. If the second tank has holes in the side, the bottom is most likely open. Thats why you feel there is more sludge.

As far as the 3rd tank. if you find that and its full of water you have an issue....
I see what you are saying. The inspector said in 2002 about the pit ďstanding liquid was detected to be non-existentĒ. Iíll definitely check that pit. Hope I donít see a lot of water.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
Ö After you pump and identify, we can help you further.
The septic guy will try to sell you something I am sure, so be leary.
Mike NJ
Well now I think I am much better prepared now to deal with the problem thanks to you. Iíll get the tanks pumped and inspected. Iíll do the toilet flush test. Iíll also find the story on that mystery pipe. Iíll get it checked with a camera.

So Iíll have the tanks pumped and open access to tanks and also to the pit, and Iíll find out where the mystery pipe goes. So I see what you are saying. Doing those things then should really tell the story

After I get it pumped and get the other information Iíll post back.

Again Ė thanks!
 
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Old 05-11-11, 12:21 PM
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Iíll get it checked with a camera
just pour water down that c/o to see where it goes, save $$ on the camera.

mike nj
 
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Old 05-11-11, 12:39 PM
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While you have an inspector at the house, ask if the sand filter/ gravel pit has a drain and if so, where does it go. My system has two tanks, followed by a sand filter (underground) and the effluent from the filter goes through a chlorinator box before draining to the soil.
 
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Old 05-11-11, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
just pour water down that c/o to see where it goes, save $$ on the camera.

mike nj
Gotcha Mike, thanks.

Originally Posted by goldstar View Post
While you have an inspector at the house, ask if the sand filter/ gravel pit has a drain and if so, where does it go. My system has two tanks, followed by a sand filter (underground) and the effluent from the filter goes through a chlorinator box before draining to the soil.
Good idea goldstar. I sure want to make sure I know every bit of this system(wellÖanyway hopefully assuming it can be saved).

thanks!
 
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Old 05-11-11, 07:17 PM
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wellÖanyway hopefully assuming it can be saved).
Just remember if it comes down to that, you want to leave what ever leach field thats there. ( once you figure it out)

Just put a new one in and switch between the two.

The other will restore itself. Thats my next project when I get the $$$$$

Alternating Valve | Meade Septic Design Inc.

http://www.americanonsite.com/american/catalog/brv.html

Mike NJ
 
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Old 05-12-11, 10:54 AM
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Good idea Mike. I did not know about that. Those links are very helpful. That company makes things nice and clear. If it comes to the worst, I'll definitely keep the old and do the switch thing.

Thanks again! (off to find my pit lid!)
 
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Old 05-13-11, 02:46 PM
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hi again guys Ė

I found the seepage pit 25 feet south of septic tank 2 at the bottom of the slope (please see pics below). What a shock! Not overflowing with water. Looks like it hasnít seen any water for eons. Not what I expected.

In 2002 the inspector said :

ĒÖ seepage pit that probed to be approximately 10 feet wide and in excess of 4 feet of gravel/aggregate. Access to this component was via a 24 inch diameter concrete manhole extension and cover mounted on top of the stone, with the lid being 4 inches below the surface. Two lines were found to be entering the stone pit accessÖ.Ē

In the picture you can see the 2 lines he referred to . I have used very very little water in the last week, and even before that my usual load is extremely light. But that pit looks really dry- and that dirt piled up in front of the pipes? Could it really have dried out so fast? So Iím wondering if the condition of that pit is saying no water has been getting there for a long time? Oh boy Ė just occurred to me, does that dirt in front of the pipes indicate the dirt is coming from the pipes? So definitely a break(s) in the pipes somewhere? That would also explain the dirt all over the surface below the manhole cover.

Iím going to probe down under the surface of the pit to determine the water and gravel situation down there. Then I think Iíll put some water in the pit and see how it percolates down over time. Thatís what the inspector did when he did his testing (shame I didnít watch). I guess itís obvious thatís not where the blockage is, but it seems like it would be important to know if the pit is worth anything. Since septic tank 2 has a lot of water in it, seems like I could add some water to septic tank 2 and I should see it run out one of the pipes in the seepage pit?

Just wanted to do a little more investigation before I get the tanks pumped. I know pumping is a must, but I just wanted to have a little better handle on the system before I bring in help.

Iíll post back with more information.

Thanks!



 
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Old 05-13-11, 06:07 PM
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That pit is NG. Is that dirt to the top? Looks like they filled it, but I could be wrong. I would forget about it. Put the cover on and cover it back up. You may want to use it , but I would just forget it. They normally did not fill them with rock. The tank should of had holes in the sides, open bottom, and gravel put around it.

Search my posts and you will see what I was up against. Mine is a seepage pit. I was supposed to have 3 from my survey. I have one.....

Now your main concern is pit # 2. Once you have it pumped you can look to see if any pipes lead from it. I doubt it.

When they pump tank one, it should be solid. Check the outlet and see what type of baffle it has. I have a filter in mine.

Then pump 2 out, and make sure they suck the sludge good out of the bottom. I mean real good. Its probably a hard biomat crust. You need to brak it all up and suck it out.

Let me know what type of tank 2 is. I reclaimed mine with a product that seemed to work. I used two products, but only one made the water dissapate in a couple of days.

I also bought all low flow showers heads and aerators.


Mike NJ
 
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Old 05-14-11, 11:07 AM
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Gotcha Mike. Thanks.

Turns out there is only a little dirt on the top and then a lot of large stone. I put about a 100 gallons in the pit last night to see what would happen. Put in 30, waited an hour, another 30, waited another hour, and so on. I was surprised that it drained down very fast. No water standing on top.

When I close it up today Iíll probe down just for the heck of it to see how wet it is. But I see what you are saying. The inspectors report never did say that he actually saw water coming into the pit. He said because the system had been pumped and was empty, all he could do was to put water in the seepage pit and see how it drained overnight. And that was OK.

And he said he put a camera in the pipes in the pit and he said the pipe changed from PVC to an older type pipe about half way back to the second tank. Then he also said he couldnít get the camera all the way back to the second tank. But he didnít say why? Wish I had been a little smarter at that time and asked why he couldnít get the camera all the way back from the pit to the tank? Seems like that didnít make sense at that time.

Seems like you are right. I think that inspector might have been off on a tangent. That so-called seepage pit is probably not part of the system. Maybe it was at one time way back.

Got another question Mike. How do they inspect for pipes and baffles after they pump? Do they use a mirror or something. I was thinking even with the tank empty, I donít think I could see the input/output sides of the tank looking down the 36Ē riser. Guess they must obviously use a mirror?

I was wondering how do they replace a broken concrete baffle for example, with a PVC tee type baffle? I guess somebody has to get in the tank to do it? (You see I am an ignoramus!)

Dragging my feet a little but I will get it pumped, and Iíll get them to clean right like you suggest and Iíll get the information you suggest.

I am going to check the posts you refer to.

Thanks again Mike for your time! Iíll post back.
 
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Old 05-14-11, 11:32 AM
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http://www.doityourself.com/forum/we...lp-advice.html


Yes you can use a mirror. I can see mine if I stick my head in the tank some. Plus I have tees for in and out. Plus they extend to ground level so I can look down them.

On the outlet tee is where I have a large bristle brush to keep large stuff out of the pit.

This is what I use.

Gravity Filters

Take some pics when you pump the tanks.

Very important..... Alway have someone with you when tank inspecting. Have a ladder nearby. Its better to be safe. It takes a second to slip and fall in. I dont need to tell you what would happen if you fell in. Even with the tank empty fumes will overcome you.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 05-14-11, 06:24 PM
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Good information and good links Mike. Thanks. I knew you had used the term pump-and-run somewhere before - but I couldnít remember on which thread. Turns out I was in fact following that thread. Those filters look good. Iíll make sure I get those or something close to it.

Excellent advice on having someone there when inspecting. My brother is usually available.

Iíll post pictures when I get the tanks pumped.

Thanks again!
 
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Old 05-18-11, 07:19 PM
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hi again guys Ė

Just thought Iíd update in case someone might be getting something useful from this thread.

Still holding off getting the tanks pumped for a little bit longer - but I ran a snake down that pipe in the basement labeled ďWhat is this?Ē in the pic below. Turns out the pipe was in fact clogged somewhere close to the septic tank. The pipe seems to run straight out from the basement to the first septic tank which is 40 feet from the basement. Guess the pipe somehow connects (guess via a wye ?) to the main pipe from the house and then continues on to the septic tank?

Didnít feel any resistance until I ran the snake out to somewhere around 35-40 feet, then I felt a little resistance, then I just worked the snake back and forth with a little pressure, and then I heard glub glub glub Ė and lo and behold that standing water level (guess really the sewage level) in that "What is this?" pipe dropped down immediately. The water is flowing just fine from the house out to septic tank now.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
That pit is NG. Is that dirt to the top? Looks like they filled it, but I could be wrong. Ö
Mike NJ
Iím sure you are correct Mike. I figured Iíd run the snake up those 2 pipes in the seepage pit (pic in post #12)to see what I could find. Turns out somewhere up near the tank I was hitting something in both pipes Ė so I didnít force the snake. My neighbor saw me running the snake from the seepage pit up towards septic tank 2 and yelled to me that he thought there was a distribution box on the property. (His uncle had the house built and used to live here until 10 years ago, so he may be correct.) Too bad all this stuff is buried.

Maybe Iíll probe around to see if I can find a D-box. Could it be that 2 outputs of a D-box could be the 2 pipes(which seem clogged) that go into the seepage pit, but other pipes from the D-box are not clogged and go somewhere else and thus take the load? Who knows?

Iíll post pics when I get the tanks pumped!

(If I do find a D-box Iíll post pics, might help someone anyway.)

 
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Old 05-18-11, 07:43 PM
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Yeah its all speculation at this point.

What are you waiting for???

If that 2nd tank is the leach pit and nothing else is attach your doing more damage to it leaving it water locked. That 2nd tank in therory should absorb all the water you use for the day and should more or less be empty.

Should be about $300-$400 to pump both tanks.

You never did show pics of the tanks open/full.


Mike NJ


Mike NJ

Just my 2 cents.
 
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Old 05-19-11, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
ÖWhat are you waiting for??? Ö.
I have 2 speeds Mike : slow and stop. Iím a real bad procrastinator (no lie, there was a book entitled ďProcrastinationĒ on the bottom shelf of the library I used to go to. I always told myself next time Iíll get that book and read it. Never did!)

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
ÖIf that 2nd tank is the leach pit and nothing else is attach your doing more damage to it leaving it water locked. Ö
Yes! I figured that out from your previous posts. That is an excellent point and has me motivated.

Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
Ö You never did show pics of the tanks open/fullÖ.
Iíll try to get them when the rain stops.

Thanks Mike!
 
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Old 05-19-11, 11:40 AM
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Your funny..... Hey rain stopped!!!!! LOL. We got drenched here in Jersey. I think PA got the same. Its ok because we are going to have major droughts this yr. I could feel it.

Mike NJ
 
 

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