There seems to be toilet paper floating at the top of my septic tank

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  #1  
Old 04-15-19, 02:50 PM
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There seems to be toilet paper floating at the top of my septic tank

I have a 900 gallon tank that is just gravity fed to the driainfield (no pumps or aerators or anything). I lived at this house for 8 years before I got it pumped this first time and he said it all looked fine then but I will do it more regularly moving forward, especially since there are 4 of us now. Anyways, last summer (a year after it was pumped), I just checked inside and poked a stick around and there was paper floating up on the top. I checked it again recently and the layer is thicker. I even started using a one ply paper for the past 4-5 months. The inlet baffle is in tact so that is not the problem. Any idea what is going on? Do I need to get it pumped again or put some kind of additives? We are very careful about what goes in there. Nothing other than toilet paper (no kleenex, etc.) and we don't use the garbage disposal. We have a screen over the drain to catch all of the big stuff and throw it away rather than grind it up.
 
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Old 04-15-19, 02:53 PM
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Toilet paper can take a little while to break down. It's normal for there to be a 'scum' layer at the top of the tank.
My grandfather always added a packet of yeast to his system every month, I try to do the same but forget 40% of the time.
 
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Old 04-15-19, 04:06 PM
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I wouldn't worry about the scum layer, nor the toilet paper. But the depth of the scum layer matters. If it gets too deep it will be below the outlet baffle and ultimately end up in the field, where you definitely do not want it. You said that there are 4 of you now, I assume because you have a couple of rug rats running around, so first off congratulations, but secondly, relevant to your concern, you are probably running more soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, tooth paste, etc. down the drain, all of which are intended to break down bacteria, and, in my humble opinion, these things can contribute to slowing the decomposition rate of the system, and effectively increase the amount of sludge. While nobody's favorite topic of discussion or first thing to come to mind when raising a growing family, I think you're on the right track by increasing your frequency of pumping because you need to keep the sludge in check in order for your field to work properly. There are a lot of experts here in a lot of fields, but septics in particular are so unique due to soil conditions, piping configurations, etc., etc., etc., so the best thing you can do is exactly what you are doing; remain cognizant and vigilant of how your system is working and adjust accordingly.
 
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Old 04-15-19, 04:17 PM
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If you want to make an upgrade I would install a filter on the septic tank's outlet the next time you have the tank pumped. While your screen now is a good step a proper filter takes it a step further. The filters are less than $100 and are quick and easy to install.

As far as the single ply toilet paper it doesn't hurt but I wouldn't go to that extreme. When you consider how much more paper you use with cheap single ply I think it works out to be not much different than a two ply. The big things to avoid are grease, oils, "flushable" wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, Barbie doll heads and Hot Wheels cars.
 
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Old 04-15-19, 04:34 PM
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Nothing other than toilet paper (no kleenex, etc.) and we don't use the garbage disposal.
Pee, poop, and white paper!

If that is all that goes down the toilet/drains you are good to go!
 
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Old 04-15-19, 06:39 PM
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Thank you for the congrats, but they are a little older than that Actually, the youngest one wasn't potty trained yet when it was pumped and the older one was only potty trained for a couple of years so I guess since the last pumping 2 years ago, we have 4. I didn't think of the soap but yes, a lot of laundry is done and they are girls so with the girls in the house with long hair, that is a lot of shampoo!

So anyways, would you start by putting yeast or something else in there now, or should I have someone come out to see if it needs to be pumped? The tank is partly under a concrete patio: basically the patio consists of several separate 5' x 5' squares separated by 2x4's and the panel over the tank lid and access port to the inlet baffle is missing so I have access to the lid. I don't know where the outlet baffle is. Should that have an access lid above it as well? If so, I never looked for it and the last person out to pump it didn't either. How thick of a layer should concern me? If I add something now, will that start breaking it down faster? Maybe the one ply is an extreme, but I had the drain back up last year and the clog was in between the last drain in the house and the tank. I have cast iron piping inside that goes out to about a 10 foot run of concrete pipe between the house and the tank. That concrete pipe was all separated from the joints and paper or hair must have gotten hooked on those rough edges over the years. Anyways, that was replaced and they they ran a camera through the cast iron pipes and that looked good. The plumber recommended the one ply because he said he has seen lots of problems with the paper from Costco. However, we had been using that for the past 10 years so I don't know. Anyways, what do you think my next step should be?
 
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Old 04-16-19, 04:42 AM
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Septic tank aides... I've never heard of them doing harm and nobody has ever documented that they actually do any good. I've tried them in half my rental properties with septic and noticed no difference versus those without.

Yes, there should be an access hatch over the outlet of the tank. Normally both are removed when pumping the tank so they can have access to remove the sludge on the bottom of the tank.

Your clogged drain line doesn't really have anything to do with your septic tank. Single ply, because it breaks apart so easily when wet, it probably better at preventing clogs but I've found that a clog usually needs a cause. Even premium toilet paper doesn't form a clog unless there is something to stop it in the pipe. As for the Costco toilet paper I've used it at home and at my office building for over 10 years without any problems.
 
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Old 04-16-19, 08:31 AM
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Anyways, what do you think my next step should be?
Nothing related to the septic that you have described seems out of place. Scum happens, clogs happen.

A health biom from waste is natural so unless you are putting something in there to kill it off additional materials are not needed but if you sleep better then it's doing it's job.
 
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Old 04-16-19, 12:41 PM
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Ok thanks. I guess in a normal situation, I would not have even known about this because I would not have taken the lid off if I hadn't replaced that pipe last year. Do most people even look at their tanks even occasionally? Would they only know of a problem if it started backing up into the house? The first place it would back up into is the basement shower which is rarely used so I have a flood alarm in it. I guess if all sounds normal, I will just leave it alone and start using normal toilet paper again. That will make the girls in the family happy! I don't know how far down the outlet baffles go, but this layer on top seemed to be about 3-4 inches of paper. Maybe I will get it pumped out next year (that will be 3 years) just to be safe. Thank you again for the advice.
 
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Old 04-16-19, 01:09 PM
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While I inspect my tank every yr or so I suspect most folks never bother. Pumping every 3-5 yrs is the norm although if you know how the tank is doing you could possibly go longer with no issues.
 
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Old 04-16-19, 07:47 PM
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In order to install an outlet filter in the septic tank you need to have a hatch at that end of the tank in addition to / instead of a hatch in the middle. If there is a hatch at the outlet end and no hatch in the middle then there should be a second hatch at the other end (the inlet end).

It is best to have the septic tank pumped out summarily when you buy the house, unless you know for a fact it was pumped out just before you bought. At the next pumping which is suggested 2 to 3 years later the technician should be able to tell you whether pumping was overdue or too soon or timed right. (You may have to jog his memory by asking.) then you can use your judgment when is the best time for the third, fourth, etc. pumping. Or you can learn how to judge when next to pump the septic tank more precisely by using a dip stick.
 
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Old 04-17-19, 09:23 AM
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Thanks for the info. It was pumped right when we bought the house. Is it possible there is no outlet hatch? This is a 60 year old house. What I have exposed is the main big lid and a small hatch over the inlet baffle which is only a few feet away from the big lid. There is a 4 x 5' slab adjacent to that lid and then it is dirt again so I suppose if the tank goes over that far, maybe it is buried somewhere. Other than that, it could just be under the slab with no hatch.

As far as checking it, I am not concerned about the level on the bottom because I shoved a long stick down there and that is fine, so I guess the concern would be more on the top layer, but either way if it lasted 8 years the first time, I would imagine going another year should be fine. That paper on the top will eventually break down, won't it? It sounds like it might just be taking time to do it.
 
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Old 04-17-19, 09:48 AM
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The paper should break down. Bleach and detergents slow things down because they hamper the bio process. Grease is about the only thing commonly sent to the tank that it will have trouble with.
 
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Old 05-22-19, 08:00 AM
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What color was the scum on top when you looked ? It costs me about $1 a month to add an bacterial/enzyme product via the toilet. BioClean and EcoSave are the two we use, alternating monthly.
 
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Old 05-22-19, 08:30 AM
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If you really want to keep an eye on the level in the tank you might consider getting a "Sludge Judge". You can find more information doing a search for: Sludge Judge for Sampling & Settled Solids. It would help you determine how often you need to pump your tank by tracking the sludge.
 
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