Septic Tank Newbie Questions

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Old 08-17-09, 11:06 AM
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Septic Tank Newbie Questions

I've been calling some local places about getting my septic tank pumped out. All of them are around the same price range ($220 up to 1000 gal.).

I have two caps in my yard, about 10" or so in diameter. When I remove one and look down into the tank, the pipe goes down a foot, foot and a half and opens into the tank. I was expecting to see water, but instead I saw a thick sludge about another foot past where the pipe ends. I stuck a pole down into it and it broke up pretty easy. It was about an inch thick and was floating on top of the water.

Another point of concern is that when the toilet was flushed while I was looking down, I didn't hear or see water entering the tank. The distance from the tank to where the main line exists the house is not that fan, so I was expecting to at least hear something.

My three main questions are:

1. Should I be concerned about the junk that was on top of the water, or is that normal?

2. Should I have been able to see or hear water enter the tank?

3. Is the pipe I looked down a cleanout or not? Some places told me they could pump it out through that port. Others said I would need to dig out the actual lid of the tank. A couple said they could pump through the port, but that it wouldn't be as through of a cleaning.

If it would help clear things up, I can snap some pictures after I get home from work.
 
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Old 08-17-09, 05:37 PM
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1. A scum layer floating on top is perfectly normal. This page provides a very brief description of how a septic sytem works.

2. The inlet from your house is right at the level of the liquid in the tank. Normally you will not hear a "water fall" sound of liquid pouring in. If you have your tank pumped and flush the toilet you will hear it pour in.

3. They should be able to pump your tank through the two access point you have. Digging down to the lid of the tank could give them better access to clean out every nook and cranny, but it means digging up your yard.
 
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Old 08-18-09, 08:14 AM
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Good news on all fronts. Now I can call to get this this pumped as soon as possible. In addition to it being full, I also recently discovered the plumbing isn't vented at all and I think both things are coming to a head.

Initially, the only symptom was a slow toilet, but yesterday I actually saw a couple drops over water shoot out of the batchroom sink when I flushed and when I was running water in that sink, I was getting air bubbles in the toilet bowl.
 
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Old 08-18-09, 05:47 PM
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Your septic tank will always be "full". The inlet and outlet are both located at the top so nothing leaves the tank until it is full.
 
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Old 08-19-09, 12:13 PM
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You really do not want to pay to have your septic emptied unless it is at the recommended "Full" level.
A septic tank is considered full, when the level of compacted solids is about twelve inches below the bottom of the outlet "T" the bottom of the outlet "T" is hanging some distance below the inlet "T" on the far side of the tank.
That means that the whole volume is about 40% full.
The way to measure is to poke a 10 foot pole down the inspection hole/inlet "T" and feel the top of the solids it will feel soft.
Then measure down the outlet "T" with a short pole with a nail hammered through the end at right angles, the nail will hook over the bottom of the outlet "T" and you can then compare both poles to see how high the solids are.
To avoid unexpected problems you should measure the height of the solids every spring and autumn, then you will note that the solids accumulate during the cold of winter and tend to disappear again during the heat of summer.
The microbes prefer a working temperature of about 95f, colder than that and they work more slowly.
 
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Old 08-22-09, 07:59 AM
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The measuring I did wasn't quite that technical.

One of the 10" cleanouts is less that 10' from where the pipe leaves the house to go to the tank. I measured down from the top of the cleanout to where the water/scum level was, eyeballed the top of that cleanout from inside the basement, then measured down from there. It was right at the level of the pipe.

I had the tank pumped on Thursday and now all of the plumbing is working again. The toilet flushes fine, and with no "backtalk" from any of the other drains.
 
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