Septic questions

Old 06-17-14, 05:16 AM
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Septic questions

Two years ago we purchased our home in Northern Baltimore County. Built in the mid 80's, 3 bathrooms, but I don't know

exact size of tanks.

Long story short, 3 months ago tank was full. Called up septic company, they came out, and pumped it. He gave me a little

walk around and inspection of the system. overall, he said superb shape. I told him I thought it was odd it had to be

pumped, because I was "told" it was done prior to moving in. He doesn't seem to think that could have been the case.

My design is:

- Pipe from house
- At entrance of main tank, pipe coems up with lid, and you can see water draining into main tank
- Main tank
- On this tank, cement lid
- This tank goes to another tank that he said was "Massive". He said probably 25 feet wide and really deep.
- This secondary tank has a lid as well, you can peek in, and see in it

I am told the liquids from primary tank go into this "basin" and it effectively drains into the ground

When I asked why it was full, he said solids more than likely, etc.

So ..a few questions:

After 3 months, I decided to take a peek at things. Pulled cement lid on primary tank and liquid with very little solids towards the top, maybe 10 inches from lip of lid (keep in mind, first cover leads to a shaft, that is about 2 feet, to another huge lid). So, it's pretty far underground.

I turned water on in house and lifted lid on what I call the "observation" pipe. I could see water going into tank. It looked to be probably 10 inches or so from this pipe. So logic tells me, it's not "full" and water is flowing fine.

Next, I went to secondary tank, lifted lid. No water running but I would hear water going into tank. Leads me to believe first tank is leaking water into second tank, as it should ,be design. Tank did not seem that full. A good 20 feet, at least, below me.

Ok ok .. so .. I want to know:

1. How much should be in this first tank? Is it normal that it appears to be full up to about 10 inches from the top?

2. On that first pipe I mention (I called observation pipe) how far below should liquid be? Feet? Or simply a few inches?

I guess I want to determine how I could visually inspect and notice an issue, prior to have it backup, etc. Just trying to learn.
Old 06-17-14, 06:20 AM
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Search the DIY forum for "seepage pit". Member Lawrosa has a lot of well documented experience at remediating and maintaining a seepage pit system. Heres a big one to get you started:
Old 06-17-14, 06:21 AM
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Basically the 1st tank fills to a certain point before anything is transferred to the 2nd tank. Around here we only use 1 tank but it has 2 compartments, operates the same way. Normally when a tank is pumped if there is mostly liquid [very little solids] it means the drain field isn't working correctly. He would have known if it was mostly liquid and notified you of potential problems. It sounds like the tank wasn't pumped prior to your purchase.
Old 06-18-14, 11:39 AM
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The water level should always be 3 - 4 inches below the inlet pipe.
You should have your tank pumped every 2 years.
Pumping removes the solids that accumulate in the 1st tank.
The proper way to determine if your tank needs to be pumped is to sludge judge it.
You can buy them online.
It you want a drawing of your system you can call the Balt. Co. dept. of Environmental Health @ 410-887-2762
What company pumped your tank?
If you ever plan on putting an addition on your home you will need to upgrade your system with BAT septic tank.
If you do apply for a grant before telling them you are going to put an addition on.
If you tell you are going to do addition 1st then they will not give you a grant.
BAT tanks start @ $10,800.00 installed.
Also septic systems are sized by the number of bedrooms not bathrooms.
Old 06-20-14, 08:35 PM
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The "resting level" for the water in the first tank is at the level of the outlet pipe and is typically about 9 inches below the underside of the lid. As soon as any water comes in from the house, water will exit to the second tank (or to the leach field if there is no second tank).

There are tests (I don't know exactly what the tests consist of) to judge the condition of the second tank if that is porous, or to judt\ge the condition of a leach field. Generally if a porous second tank or a leach field fills up, there is a problem there. A fill up there will in turn cause the septic tank to fill completely.

Rain water, gutter water, or ground water must not be allowed to enter the septic tank. Such a large amount of water won't seep quickly into the ground from a leach field or porous second tank and the septic system will fail to accommodate the waste water coming out of the house.
Old 06-27-14, 01:02 PM
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Septic issues

We are currently selling our home that was built in the 70's. We lived there the past 19 years and have never had any issues with our septic system. Now that we are selling, found out the existing tank is not big enough for the house size so we were going to put in a larger tank. Well, land will not perc and they have found no suitable sites on the property. They have advised us to contact a soil scientist/PE. If our home and others built in that area (some are newer) with the same soil conditions, how did they get permitted to have septic? Looking for some advice here on what we need to do and what is the most economical way. Located in Union County, NC. Also, in the years prior to us living there, the original home owners had 6 people in the house with no issues either.

Last edited by kathykat; 06-27-14 at 01:03 PM. Reason: additional info
Old 06-27-14, 01:41 PM
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Welcome to the forums Kathy!

Not sure why you'd replace the tank if the old one is working fine Even though the smaller tank might not meet current codes, I'm sure it did when it was installed and would be grandfathered in.
Old 06-27-14, 04:04 PM
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Is this a case of someone representing a Buyer going to the local Zoning Administrator and asking for a Certificate of Occupancy, or poking around looking for a Building Permit for some addition that included bedrooms beyond those in the original structure ?

I'm a Real Estate Broker here in Vermont and we often find that in Zoned Communities, it's at the time we're trying to sell something that these discoveries are made. Required Septic capacity is typically calculated using the number of bedrooms . . . . not the number of baths or the number of occupants.

And properties that won't percolate, even though they've been developed for decades, often then require expensive "mound" systems to be installed before a sale can be consummated. I hope that's not your situation.
Old 06-28-14, 09:53 AM
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I don't know MD's sale requirements but in NY, we have to have the health department review and test septic systems before the the sale is complete. The seller has to have an escarole account set up to take care of any health issues whether septic or potable water. The health department should have a plan from the original builder on how the septic system was installed.

Most placed in WNY have leach fields instead of cesspools. The after leaving the outlet of the septic tank flows through an elbow with a short piece of pipe pointing down to keep any "floaters" from going into the cesspool. The tank should also have a baffle to keep heaver solids on the inlet side of the tank.

If the fluid level is low enough in the cesspool tank so that you hear fluid running into the tank than it should be working properly. This means that the fluid level had dropped and the fluid is leaving the tank.

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