need quick help on septic pump problem

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Old 11-06-11, 06:39 PM
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need quick help on septic pump problem

I have a mound septic system on my 2 bedroom 2 bath house. A mound, for those not familiar with them, is (to the best of my limited understanding) basically a conventional system that is set above ground level in perkable soil that has been trucked in to make (you guessed it) a mound. They are used where the native soil doesn't meet perk requirements.

I dont know much-there is a tank, which I believe is 1500 gallon. There is a pump set just below ground under an access cover. The pump pumps the fluids out/up into the mound field, the pumping I think is controlled by a pressure switch. Thats all I know, and may be a bit more than I know. I havent even seen the pump yet, but I will when the septic guy comes back in the morning when we are going to inspect it and clean it up.

Had the septic guy over real quick today because the pump wasn't working and liquids were overflowing into the yard. We pulled the electric box open and there was a mouse nest with some chewed wires, but it didn't appear that any had shorted. The pump plug showed clear signs of overheating, and one prong was nearly black and so was a label that was in the box. He disconnected
the pressure switch (I think thats what it was) the pump was plugged into and plugged the pump directly into a regular outlet. Pump came on and fluid levels went down, but the plug started heating up in just a few minutes, indicating there is still some problem.

He says the pump probably needs to be replaced, and he may be right. But this is several hundred dollars I dont have right now so I'd just like to make sure I can't get around it somehow. He doesn't think the chewed wires are the problem, but we will be able to fully inspect them tomorrow and make sure. He said we could try replacing the switch but that rarely cures this kind of problem, and since the plug still got hot when the switch wasn't in the line, I tend to agree. Just wondering if you have any ideas on how I might avoid replacing the whole pump, or how I can get a good one without spending $200-$300. The guy is a neighbor and I dont think he'd BS me. In fact he said just for the cost of pumping the tank tomorrow he'd show me how to replace the pump myself if I want to save money. I'd still have to buy the pump though.

I guess since the pump still pumps, I have a glimmer of hope that we can save it. It is 13 years old but I live alone so it isn't under a lot of stress.

Thats all I know now, tomorrow maybe I will know more about why the pump is overheating and what kind of pump it is.
 
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Old 11-07-11, 07:47 AM
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Well its pretty clear from calling around that this is a very common symptom of a pump going bad so I guess there is no way to avoid replacing it.
 
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Old 11-07-11, 11:20 AM
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If there is a place near you that rebuilds motors that would be a big savings. possible that it only needs the brushes and bearings replaced.
The only problem is how long it takes to get it rebuilt. Depends on if the parts are on hand at the shop and how busy they are! Call them with the motor specs. off the name plate and see what they think.
 
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Old 11-07-11, 04:00 PM
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If you got 13yrs out of that pump you can't ask for much more. Without knowing the brand I can't say for sure but these pumps usually are not worth rebuilding. If you can do it yourself you might save a few bucks over a new one but being that old parts may or may not be available. Alot of pumps in that class are not even rebuildable, with no major parts being available. Bite the bullet and replace the pump and switch and you will be good for a long time again.
 
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Old 11-07-11, 04:23 PM
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I pulled out the cord for the float switch (not pressure switch as I mistakenly called it)
and found that it is in much worse shape than the pump cord. It has melted in a couple places.
I think THAT is why the plug of the pump cord got hot. The rest of the pump cord looks good.

Why would the float wire overheat? The pump doesn't draw through that, so this has renewed my hope that the pump is OK.

I had the tanks pumped dry so now it wont even flow over into the pump chamber for a couple weeks. For now I'm just going to plug the pump in manually when needed to keep the fluid from overflowing and to keep sludge from getting into the drain field. If I could be sure replacing the switch and float would cure the problem I'd do that, but I really don't want to down go in there more than once. I dont really want to go in once...
 
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Old 11-07-11, 04:36 PM
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I'd do that, but I really don't want to down go in there more than once. I dont really want to go in once...
If your going down in the pit, you should not be going in there at all!!!! Unless you have the proper gear to do so.

You can be killed!!! It can take mere minutes to be overcome by fumes.
No oxygen = death!!!

Do a search. Its pretty common.

Three die at Queens sewage plant from toxic fumes - New York Daily News

Mike NJ
 
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Old 11-07-11, 05:26 PM
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I think the only way I would go in there once is if I was overcome by methane and fell in...But good sound advice! I'm really not that tempted. I keep hand sanitizer in my car. I didn't even like working above ground on a dairy farm, and I only lasted 5 weeks at that.
 
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Old 11-08-11, 01:06 PM
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Sounds like you only need a float. Which runs about 25 bucks

Your pump should have two floats on it. The bottom one is the on/off float and yes it does run power throu it. There are two kinds of floats, the old style was called a mercury float and it had a glass vial inside of it with leads on both ends and a drop of mercury in the vial that would roll from one end of the vial to the other and works as a switch. The government stopped the use of these in fresh water and drainage run off lift stations due to the fact that the vial might break and the float rupture and the mercury get into the water supply, the septic industry followed that lead also. The second is a mechanical float, it's got wires fixed to the inside of the float where the cord enters the float and it has a metal type ball, when the float actually floats up and the cord is tethered to the pump stick/pvc the ball rolls down to the wires and completes the circuit. I have had some problems with floats cracking or leaks around the seal where the cord enters the float. Water leaks in and shorts the float making it run all the time.
This sounds like your problem.
The float connects to the pump and turns it on. There is two types of float control. One is a piggy back plug, where your plug in your float and then the pump plugs right into the back of the float plug. If you have this type, keep your hands on that old float you might not be able to find a new float with a plug easily and will need to use a portion of the old cord by splicing your new float into it. Make sure you use silicon wire nuts if you do this, or regular ones then squirt silicon into the nuts till it squirts out.
The other type of connection is what I call a hard wired connection. Either in the control panel or the pump chamber you will have wires that follow this path. Hot from control panel has the black float wire hooked to it(this can be the white since floats are reversible) the white wire from float is then tied to the black pump wire, then the white pump wire is tied to the neutral on your control box. It basicly makes the float a switch controlling when the pump comes on.
At no time should you need to actually get into this tank. There should be a union or quick disconnect that allows you to unscrew the pump and lift it completely out of the pump tank. If there is not buy the right size one and cut your pvc pipe about 4 inches before it exits the pump tank and glue that union on so you will be able to remove future pumps.
Best of luck
 
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Old 11-17-11, 10:37 AM
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You're right, there is no need to go in there. My bad. You can pull everything up to do the work above ground. My septic guy says I can replace the float but every time he has done that for someone it turns out to be the pump that was drawing too much, so they have to replace the pump anyway.

But I cant afford that till I'm working again, so I'm just going to limp along turning the pump on manually when the fluid level rises. Its been 10 days since he pumped out both parts of the tank and it hasn't even started flowing over the partition into the pump chamber yet. Once it does, I figure I can run the pump a few minutes once a week to pump that chamber out, and that oughta be all I need. Hopefully the pump can handle that. However, as I type this the horrifying thought occurred to me that something might freeze if its only pumping once a week. Dont know if that's a valid concern or not though. Freezing usually occurs when there isn't enough snow on the ground, from what I understand. Never actually heard of it happening just because the pump isn't running every day.



Originally Posted by chris_davis View Post
Sounds like you only need a float. Which runs about 25 bucks

Your pump should have two floats on it. The bottom one is the on/off float and yes it does run power throu it. There are two kinds of floats, the old style was called a mercury float and it had a glass vial inside of it with leads on both ends and a drop of mercury in the vial that would roll from one end of the vial to the other and works as a switch. The government stopped the use of these in fresh water and drainage run off lift stations due to the fact that the vial might break and the float rupture and the mercury get into the water supply, the septic industry followed that lead also. The second is a mechanical float, it's got wires fixed to the inside of the float where the cord enters the float and it has a metal type ball, when the float actually floats up and the cord is tethered to the pump stick/pvc the ball rolls down to the wires and completes the circuit. I have had some problems with floats cracking or leaks around the seal where the cord enters the float. Water leaks in and shorts the float making it run all the time.
This sounds like your problem.
The float connects to the pump and turns it on. There is two types of float control. One is a piggy back plug, where your plug in your float and then the pump plugs right into the back of the float plug. If you have this type, keep your hands on that old float you might not be able to find a new float with a plug easily and will need to use a portion of the old cord by splicing your new float into it. Make sure you use silicon wire nuts if you do this, or regular ones then squirt silicon into the nuts till it squirts out.
The other type of connection is what I call a hard wired connection. Either in the control panel or the pump chamber you will have wires that follow this path. Hot from control panel has the black float wire hooked to it(this can be the white since floats are reversible) the white wire from float is then tied to the black pump wire, then the white pump wire is tied to the neutral on your control box. It basicly makes the float a switch controlling when the pump comes on.
At no time should you need to actually get into this tank. There should be a union or quick disconnect that allows you to unscrew the pump and lift it completely out of the pump tank. If there is not buy the right size one and cut your pvc pipe about 4 inches before it exits the pump tank and glue that union on so you will be able to remove future pumps.
Best of luck
 
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Old 07-13-12, 10:32 PM
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IHas anyone ever replaced their pump before? How do I glue a new union on as the previous post described? The pipe is still a couple feet down into the tank where it exits the tank. My arms aren't that long.

My pump is still working 9 months later, but I want to replace it now that I've sealed my leaks. In April I discovered groundwater pouring in at the exit pipe and where the riser is
attached, and thanks to high ground water until this week I couldnt even get at it. That pump has really worked overtime and STILL works, but at almost 14 years I think it should be retired now.
 
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Old 07-14-12, 06:42 AM
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It's not bad to replace the pump. As for gluing the PVC you clean the fitting with PVC primer, apply glue to both parts and stick them together. I install a PVC union so the pump can be installed & removed without having to cut or glue pipe.

 
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Old 07-14-12, 07:00 AM
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You need breathing apparatus.

I have seen people try to breath through a garden hose, and or I heard and read about a sleep apnea machine....LOL but your looking for trouble.

You can be overcome by fumes and loose consciousness very quickly. For your safety do the right thing.
 
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Old 07-14-12, 08:06 AM
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Mike (Lawrosa) has a good point. I do not even consider going down into a tank. If you must stick your head down into the tank to glue fittings proceed with extreme caution. Do not work alone and have someone there physically able to help. The helper needs to be strong enough to quickly pull you up and out to fresh air. Someone like a small framed woman that can only call 911 is not good enough. You will be dead before the ambulance arrives.

Not only are sewer gasses toxic but just as bad is the lack of oxygen. As waste breaks down the gasses produced displace the air (containing oxygen) out of the tank and replace it with CO2 and hydrogen sulfide. These gasses are heavier than air so even with the lid to the tank removed the bad gasses will just sit there. Leaving the lid open thinking you are safe letting the tank "air out" does not work.
 
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Old 07-15-12, 01:03 PM
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I have no intention of going in the tank, and I'm not going to hang by my knees or ankles to glue the union in while hoping I don't fall unconscious with a splash. Not worth it.

But I'm still cheap and poor. There must be a way to do this without getting in. I can probably cut the pipe like Chris suggested to get the old pump out, but that only gets me halfway.
 
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Old 07-15-12, 08:55 PM
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This might not be so bad after all. I measured from the rim to where the pipe turns toward the field, and its only about 25-26 inches. I might be able to do everything just leaning over the lip of the riser at the waist and holding my breath-with someone there keeping an eye on me of course. I have it dug out around there so I will be well secured. And I have a friend who is an ER doctor...
 
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Old 07-15-12, 09:46 PM
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I always put a ladder in my septic after I have it emptied and I don't cover it right away. If I fell in or anyone else god forbid there is something to grab onto.
 
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Old 07-17-12, 08:42 PM
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Can I borrow your ladder?
 
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Old 08-19-12, 09:11 AM
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The other day I left my pump on and forgot it. I came back 10 hours later and it was still running. The plug was barely even warm. This leads me to believe it is only the float that needs replacing. I don't see how that mild heat could have melted the piggyback plug on the float.

I was able to photograph the pump and found out it is a 1/2 horse Hydromatic SKV-50. Those run $350, and mine works fine. I might be able to buy a 1/3 horse for less, but why? I think I'm just going to replace the float, and install a coupling so if I do need to replace the pump someday
it will be a breeze.
 
 

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