well shucks... septic related

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Old 09-06-17, 12:48 PM
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well shucks... septic related

Awoke at about 4:00 this morning to a faint occasional drip, which I could have easily slept through except that it didn't belong, so got up to investigate. The wife got up at the same time, went to the bathroom, and exited a minute or so later to say that the toilet came up, not down, when she flushed. Aha! That little sound was probably a gurgle rather than a drip. Well I have a fabulous wife! We washed up a bit with wash cloths and minimal water, got dressed, and she made breakfast, coffee, and lunches while I got around a tarp, shovels, extension cord, work light and marked the lid locations. By 5:00 we were both digging to expose the lids and by 6:30 I had figured out the problem, had called to get the tanks pumped, and the wife was on her way to work. The first tank was full to the top and the second one was down where it should have been, so I figured a plugged pipe between the tanks, and the septic guy agreed. Once he got the first tank pumped down a few feet I went in the house, flushed both toilets, and walked out the front door in time to hear the water from the flushes splashing down into the tank. Well that was refreshing, because at least I knew the water was flowing that far. So no questions I guess, unless anyone wants directions so they can come over to help, but not really complaining either because there are worse things in life. I intend to get the pipe exposed this evening, and then I figure that I have a couple of weeks before the tank fills up too far, so plenty of time to decide if we're going to replace the pipe or hire it done. The digging is the hardest part though, except maybe getting the tee on the end of the pipe inside the tank, so I'm guessing that it will be a DIY project.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 01:45 PM
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What's the 2nd Tank . . . . . a Seepage Pit (Dry Well) ?

Do you have a Leach Field that serves as the ultimate destination for effluent ?

Congratulations on quick assessment, problem definition, diagnosis,, and corrective measures.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:01 PM
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Great job Pedro & wife! I guess that you still don't know what caused the problem. Could it have been someone named Charmin?
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:09 PM
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The line from the house flows into the first tank, then to the second tank, then to what, to me anyway, is a typical drainfield with a header line and multiple runners.In the first tank, there is a tee on the end of the line between the tanks, and about an 18" line out the bottom of the tee, so that liquid from the first tank can rise up into the tee and reach the second tank, but the scum on top is left in the first tank. It does work because every time that I have had them pumped there is sludge at the top of the first tank but the second tank is all just gray water. The theory is that the sludge is what plugs up the gravel in the drainfield, and the two tank system prevents it from reaching that point.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:11 PM
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How far apart are the tanks?
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:15 PM
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Thanks Donato, but no, I don't think it's Charmin or anything like that. I haven't dug down to it yet, but I know that the line between the tanks is more than 40 years old, and am better than 90% certain that it's cast iron, so I'm guessing it no longer 4" I.D.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:25 PM
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Good question, Mark, and in fact I was just thinking about that myself, and am guessing something like 3-4' between the tanks. The covers are about 9' on center, and I don't know if they are centered in the tanks or not, but do know that I cannot see the end of the pipe in either tank without darn near pressing my ear against the tops of them. Once I got that together in my little noggin I started thinking that this might be a bit easier than I first thought because I might be able to glue the tee onto the pipe on top the ground, slip a rod through the opening on the first tank so I don't drop the pipe, put the pipe through the opening and onto the rod, and work it through to the second tank. Easy to say just sitting here, but will have a better idea later, after I get the ground opened up some more.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:28 PM
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Well you answered my next question - I wondered why they didn't take your hose and shoot water into the pipe and observe it from both sides. You want to get after it sooner rather than later as you don't want to disconnect that pipe after the effluent reaches that level. It doesn't take long, a tank will fill quicker than you think!
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:37 PM
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Oh, and I think that I may have figured out the reason I posted this in the first place, besides just to impose a little self-pity. It's actually a salute to those spouses who jump in regardless of the task at hand! We are somewhat traditional, I guess you could call it, in that she does the "housework", and I "fix things, pay the bills, and mow the yard". But that's only the perception of casual observers. This morning, for example, while I was still shaking my head and thinking #?&!*?!, she calmly asked "what do you want for breakfast", while putting on a pair of her grubby jeans, and then followed up with "I'll be out there with you as soon as I get the table cleared off and the lunches made". So together we got the initial work done and an assessment made before a lot of guys I know could have gotten their wives out of bed (or, to be fair, vice versa).
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:39 PM
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It's good that you are giving her the credit that she deserves.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:44 PM
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Yes, I/we actually did that one time anyway, Mark, ran water through the pipe, sort of flushed it out a bit, but this time it definitely needs more because it's clear that the pipe is not allowing anything to flow, or at least very little. And being cast iron it's obviously not going to get any better, so may as well get it over and done with while it's open. And no, we won't dilly dally because I'm only guessing on the amount of time we have, and you're right, it'll probably come sooner than expected. Worst case scenario I can get it pumped again, bt at $285 I don't want to do that!
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:48 PM
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So that pipe between the tanks is serving a kind of a baffle.

Is there a filter on it to prevent any of the floating scum layer from migrating over to the 2nd tank ?
 
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Old 09-06-17, 02:50 PM
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It should have a drop pipe with a T so it draws effluent from the middle of the tank. The top of the T should be above the scum layer.
 
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Old 09-06-17, 04:36 PM
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No filter, Vermont; as Mark said, there is a tee inside the first tank, which allows water to rise into it from below the sludge. But now I'm back to rethinking what I'm going to do. Our ground is pretty heavy, actually downright heavy in a lot of places, but I have a backhoe on my tractor so got everything exposed in pretty short order. Problem is that the tanks are only about 12" apart, which doesn't make much room to get the old pipe and tee chipped out and a new one cemented back in. So I'm thinking now that I may just clean the pipe out good. While I was looking at it my wife got home and reminded me that I had cleaned it out once before, quite a few years ago. So we talked about that enough to reconstruct all of the facts. Going in from the second tank, which is what needs to be done due to the tee inside the first tank, I laid down flat on the ground and worked an 8' or so long piece of quarter round, or something flexible like that, into the tank, flipped it up horizontal, and worked it in and out of the pipe enough to get the water to gush through. And we both remember it literally gushing through now that she reminded me, so the first tank must have been full at that time. Now I'm thinking that I need to do something like that again, except that I need to go beyond that, and use either water or some sort of brush to do a better job cleaning it. Biggest problem is that I was probably 15 or so years younger then, and getting down on my belly with my head hanging down in a septic riser doesn't sound too appealing nowadays!
 
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Old 09-07-17, 03:35 AM
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I wonder if it's feasible to but a PVC pipe inside of the old cast iron pipe. Thin wall pvc wouldn't constrict it too much providing it will fit.
 
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Old 09-07-17, 05:23 AM
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With that Tee already in the 1st Tank, I wonder how difficult it would be to convert that junction to a effluent filter like this:



I have a Zabel Filter on my tank's outlet, and once a year, I lift the riser and pull the filter cartridge and rinse it off with a garden hose, assess the amount of sludge, and re-insert the re-usable plastic cartridge. (The cartridge would probably last forever as long as I don't step on it or drive over it with a car)

That keeps any buildup inside the tank. In your case, it would prevent your connecting pipe from becoming clogged. and prevents surprises.
 
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Old 09-07-17, 08:05 AM
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Both good ideas, Mark and Vermont, but I have to confess to total stupidity on my part, and neither one of those suggestions is going to work. I didn't get down and look at it closely while he was pumping, but must have been picturing one of the neighbor's tanks in my mind because there are a few around that I have unfortunately had the "pleasure" to work on more than my own. Anyway, the last thing I did before calling it quits last night was to pull the front cover back off, got down next to the ground, looked inside with a flashlight, and it turns out that mine has an elbow with about a 1" diameter hole vent hole in the outer circumference. So there is no tee in mine, although it functions the same as if it had a tee; the water rises up inside the drop pipe, and air can vent out through the hole. So this evening I will see what will fit, but am thinking now that I can put a slight bend in the end of a 1" copper line, hook a water hose to it, and fish it through that hole in order to flush out the line. I think anyway that I am going to need a downward bend in the copper line in order to get it fished into the hole, then turn it 180 degrees once it's in there in order to direct my water into the horizontal pipe between the tanks.
 
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Old 09-09-17, 12:53 PM
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Just reporting back to say... SUCCESS!!! Had more than a few offers of help this week, but knew that my wife was going to want to be part of it anyway, so politely declined, and she and got it. Rigid copper of course doesn't bend the best, so I tossed that notion after a couple of kinks that looked like they may break off at an inopportune point in the process. So I went through the vent hole with a 1/2" wide piece of bar stock I had, bent to ensure that it got into the horizontal pipe, tapped on it a few times with a hammer to get it worked through the clog, then repeated a few more times for good measure. Next step was a snake I had with about a 3/4" spring on the end, and must have run it through and back a couple dozen times, with the wife running the drill motor and me guiding it though the vent hole and through any obstructions. Followed that up with an old 3/8" air hose adapted to the water hose, working it in and out. With all three, the flat stock, snake, and hose, I could hear the "plops" every so often as the blockage came apart. Finally, with the hose through the vent, the wife could see the spray through the opening in the second tank, about 8' or so from where I was inserting the hose, and regardless of which way I turned the hose, so feel good that we got everything cleared out. We've back filled it, had a beer, and just need to finish cleaning up the tools. Next on the list for today is cleaning the gutters, then it'll be time to get ourselves cleaned up, have dinner, and I've promised to take her to the local pie shop for dessert later; figure that's pretty cheap payment for a job well done on her part.
 
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Old 09-09-17, 01:35 PM
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While I don't have any experience with them it would be a good idea to figure out how to install a filter before the pipe going to the next tank. It ought to be a lot easier to pull the filter as needed to clean/replace and maybe that would prevent another clog.
 
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Old 09-09-17, 05:57 PM
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Thank you, Mark, and thank you Vermont, because I was thinking of a filter most of the time I was working on it today. Based on the picture provided, and then googling it, I have a good idea of what typical ones look like. But I think that installing one in my existing tank would be a real chore because a) I have a vented elbow rather than a tee, so no way to drop it into the drop pipe, and b) even if I had a tee, the drop pipe is right along the wall of the tank, roughly 18" off to the side of the opening, and not enough space above the tank to fish the filter into it. But while it's on my mind I am going to talk with my septic guy and/or a local plumber when I have time and see if there is some sort of alternative for a situation like ours. If not, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it because the last time I had to clean this line was about 15 years ago, and even though it's darn near impossible to see in there without a remote camera I know that I did a more though job this time than last. Plus, even if it "only" goes another 15 years, it's relatively doubtful that the wife or I will have to worry about it. Worst case scenario too, now that I have an even better idea how to go about it, and made a diagram for the file this time, I could pretty easily clean it out again the next time I have the tanks pumped, in 5-7 years, in order to stay ahead of it better.
 
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Old 09-10-17, 03:33 AM
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Sounds like a plan! The outlet on my tank was plumbed in a non conventional manner so I can't install a filter on mine either.
 
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Old 09-10-17, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by aka pedro
". . . I am going to talk with my septic guy and/or a local plumber when I have time and see if there is some sort of alternative for a situation like ours . . ."
Of the millions of septic systems in the US, every one is a little different, and there is no "one solution fits all".

I only looked into filters because 15 years ago, I was told that my concrete outlet baffle was crumbling, and that I needed to install a filter to replace it.

One company said that the only to install a filter was to empty the tank and have a man crawl inside to chisel out the remaining portion of the baffle to make room for the filter !

That little alteration would have cost me about $800; almost as much as my whole spetic system did in 1987.

I consulted a few other septic tank pumpers and supply houses, engineers and technicians and found a kind of filter which didn't require a Tee and could be suspended from the remaining portion of my outlet baffle, and it's been working well for over 10 years.

What's good is that the filter is so easy to pull and rinse of that I'm not hesitant in performing my tank maintenance at least once a year, and checking on the buildup of the sludge layer. Eben though my tank is 1000 gallons, they typically only pump out 200 to 300 gallons of sludge so I now feel comfortable waiting until I know they'll have 500 to 600 gallons to pump and really make the trip worthwhile.

As a Real Estate Broker, and as an aside, I've been involved in pumping several septic systems for inspection or just as a routine procedure before a change in ownership, and I know how full of sludge a tank may become and still appear to be function normally. I once opened a 500 gallon tank to find it was caked full and you could almost walk across it . . . . there was only a slight movement of liquid around the perimeter when the occupants flushed the toilet. That tank had to be removed intact with the contents and taken, with a special permit, to a landfill . . . . but it had still been working;for the Sellers; but not as intended.

Not to beat a dead horse, here's a variety of filtration methods used to keep any suspended waste particles larger than 16 microns (the thickness of a human hair) from getting out of the tank and into your pipes, 2nd tank, distribution box or into the leach field: Once you know what the objective is, there are an almost endless variety of ways to reach it; no one solution works for all:

https://www.google.com/search?q=sept...w=1600&bih=770
 
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Old 09-10-17, 10:21 AM
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Thank you for the link, Vermont. You're right, no two septic systems are the same, and I did consequently see a large variety of filters when I googled them the other evening. We'll see, probably still will ask a couple of local experts, but by breakfast time this morning I was already rethinking it, and wondering if I should do anything with it. Not to be blissfully ignorant, but with the drop line being offset from the opening as it is, and an elbow rather than a tee, it wouldn't be an inexpensive addition to the system. Plus I would have to modify the tank or the cover to provide an access point, or otherwise have to dig up and remove the lid every year, and then reseed it. So I made a sketch of what I did this time, cleaning it out through the vent hole, and put that with my sketch of the lid locations in my septic system file, and am thinking that maybe the most practical thing to do is simply run the snake through there whenever I have the tanks open to be pumped, which I do about every 5 years anyway, and that's a much shorter period of time than what I have thus far encountered as far as problems with this line.
 
 

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