Septic is backing up


  #1  
Old 12-26-20, 01:56 PM
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Unhappy Septic is backing up

Situation...overflow, where washing machine drain connects into the trap, ( about 30 inches higher than the main ) in the basement fails to empty into the main drain line, will actually overflow into basement. We have about a 1000 gallon septic tank, pump it out about every 3 years, Installed in 1993. 93-2000 4 occupants, 2000-2017 ....occupants were 2, 2017-2020 ....3 occupants. Never put garbage down the drain, actually have a fine screen to strain kitchen waste, never dump grease, takes it easy on the bleach too, the pump guy always pumped from one manhole cover, this year , because this issue happened last year, while he was pumping, he told me there is actually another manhole cover on the tank I was unaware of. Would this be a problem if he only pumped it out from the primary side? what might I be looking at? I have easy access cleanout in the cellar, a straight shot out to the tank but I feel I should maybe wait till tomorrow till this seattles down. Id hate to open it and have it come gushing out into the basement. She did two loads of wash and had to stop it because of the backflow. I thought 30" of standing water on that main is alot of water. Maybe check in the AM?? The washing machine has a plug in the trap so I could concieveably remove that to see if I have a large amout of standing water in the main if it empties more than about two cups full....? Your thoughts? Im wondering if the field is plugged.
 

Last edited by hvac01453; 12-26-20 at 02:02 PM. Reason: spelling
  #2  
Old 12-26-20, 02:12 PM
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The washing machine can use a lot of water depending on the age.
If you only have one tank I'm not sure it makes a difference which side it's pumped from.
 
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Old 12-26-20, 02:28 PM
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Cleaning out only part of the tank is exactly as it sounds. If they've only pumped one side they've only been pumping out half the tank. If you are having trouble now I would find the other access hatch and pump the other part of the tank and get a look at what's going on. What is seen in the chambers can give an experienced pumper a good idea of what might be going on with your system.

 
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Old 12-27-20, 06:54 AM
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You need to dig up and open both hatches to the septic tank to figure out what is going on.

The normal level of liquid in both chambers is about 9 inches below the underside of the lid of the tank. If the level remains close to absolutely full then you probably have a problem with the leach field.

You could wait and let the pumping technician do that work but then it would take longer and cost more especially if the tech has to come back the next day after making his report.
 
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Old 12-27-20, 07:33 AM
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It all depends on what type of tank you have. My septic tank was installed in the mid 90s and I assumed it was a 2 compartment tank but found it when I had it pumped that it was a single compartment. If yours is a single compartment the odds are it was ok to just pump from one side but if there are 2 compartments it needs to have both sides pumped.
 
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Old 12-27-20, 07:58 AM
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In reference to the builder, Iím sure he chose the lesser cost tank (reputation) which I would assume is the single tank. I think I heard of fracking the leach field, or shocking the field from the D box. If I find the field is plugged, Is it illegal to try that to open it up.

 
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Old 12-27-20, 08:04 AM
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My septic tank was installed in the mid 90s
My brain must not have been fully engaged when I typed that I bought my place in 1991, the system had been installed a yr or two earlier. Some locales mandate a 2 part tank, our county has for about 25 yrs.
 
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Old 12-27-20, 08:15 AM
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A septic system that backs up could be due to several issues and not just because the tank could have two chambers, but ultimately the fluids are not reaching the field.

A plug somewhere in the tank,
A saturated field.
A broken or collapse line.

You need to get someone out there to do more than just pump the tank.
 
  #9  
Old 12-27-20, 08:20 AM
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But having the tank pumped out is always a good start. The guy who pumps the tank can normally assess the condition of the drain field at that time.
 
  #10  
Old 12-27-20, 09:06 AM
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the pump guy always pumped from one manhole cover, this year , because this issue happened last year, while he was pumping, he told me there is actually another manhole cover on the tank I was unaware of.

Are you sure he did not pump both sides this time? If he knew the problem also happened last year you would think he would have pumped both sides this year if he in fact already knew there were actually 2 sides and you were having problems. I would look for another pumper if he didnít pump both sides.

I agree with the others who say you should have that second compartment inspected. You can actually inspect these yourself if you donít mind doing some digging and you are careful. I have 2 tanks and I inspect them myself Ė to a certain degree. But actually a pro will do a better job. (I thought my tanks were at a certain level one time but the pumper told me they were fuller than I thought).

But your own inspection for surface scum and sludge levels could tell you whether or not something is obviously wrong and the tank fullness is definitely causing a problem. (You can use stick tests to check certain levels; there is information online on how to do that). Just a thought, in case you wanted to arm yourself with some more information before you bring in a pro!

Also, if the line between you house and the tank gets clogged, that can cause a backup, and running a snake down that line from your basement cleanout to the tank is actually a DIY job. Iíve done it twice. (You can rent an Easy-Rooter at HD and those are very easy to use. You would run the snake all the way out to your tank.)
 
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Old 12-27-20, 02:12 PM
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The guy who pumps the tank can normally assess the condition of the drain field at that time.
Usually not, they just pump the krap!

I had a crushed outlet pipe once, the septic company had a guy on call, they came out with camera, it was 3' past the tank, took 5 min to find and a couple hours to fix!
 
  #12  
Old 12-28-20, 02:39 AM
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Maybe the pumpers are different in the south. Everyone I've dealt with over the years would note on the bill if they suspected any type of problem with the system.
 
  #13  
Old 12-28-20, 12:29 PM
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Like you said, I did snake from the house out to the tank and it was clear,. Scum level was normal, my system leach field is about 12 feet deep where the vent is. Itís not up near the surface.
 
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Old 12-28-20, 01:33 PM
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hvac -

The water in the first compartment should be down I think about a foot from the top of the tank. I think it should be lower than the inlet to the tank. The same with the second tank.

I check the tank sludge level with a 10 foot (or 12 foot I can’t remember) PVC pipe. I wrap old white sweat socks up the pipe several feet and tie them on (I think towels or something are also OK to use). I put the pole down in the tank and wait a few minutes and then read the sludge level. It gets you in the ballpark as to the sludge level anyway.

If your tanks aren’t overflowing then it seems to me the backup might be (or maybe I mean must be) in the house (since the line from the house to the tank is clear)
(Hope so, that would be a lot better I think)

Hope the more knowledgeable guys jump in here.
 
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Old 12-28-20, 02:00 PM
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I did snake from the house out to the tank and it was clear
Yep, now how about post tank, as I mentioned, I had a collapsed pipe just past the tank, exact same symptoms as you are describing. The guy that the company had on call had the camera and found the blockage in less than 5 minutes.

Cheap solution to what I thought was a real problem!
 
  #16  
Old 12-30-20, 09:44 AM
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UIn order to do that I believe I would have to dig up the tank covers on both ends. I’ve never seen the other tank cover... I’m pretty sure it’s a tank w/o a divider/ baffles. But in order to see if the outlet was collapsed, the secondary cap would have to be opened I would think. I may be holding off on this till spring. Funny thing is, if I take a long shower, it still doesn't overflow or back up. Only when the washing machine operates in the basement. Could this possibly be a vent issue?
 
  #17  
Old 12-30-20, 09:58 AM
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hvac Ė

I think what happens is that the washing machine empties a lot of gallons very fast, much faster than anything else in your house. So thatís when you detect that the system is draining slowly. When I had a problem I could take a shower and do other things on the first floor and never realize that the system was draining slow and backing up.

But the backup was coming out and overflowing from out of the toilet in the basement. And it would overflow if I did a load of wash in the basement.
 
  #18  
Old 12-30-20, 05:26 PM
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With the usage you describe you should be able to go TEN years between pumping the tank if it is being properly and completely pumped and all the drain lines are working properly.
 
  #19  
Old 12-31-20, 12:14 PM
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Everything Iíve read says every two years for moderate usage, 3 years on light usage... and seeing this is but a thousand gallon tank, a bit too small for todayís standards, the more frequent pumping reduces the risk of plugging the leeching area. And mine is rather deep ( 12-15 feet down).... actually on the uphill side of the property.
 
  #20  
Old 12-31-20, 12:40 PM
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It depends a LOT on how you use your septic system. Some will get 10+ yrs between pumping with no issues while others need pumping every 2-3 years.
 
  #21  
Old 12-31-20, 04:29 PM
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The usage you described in your original post clearly is minimal use of your system. It certainly is your call on how often you want to have it pumped. The pump operators will take your money whenever you call them and even if you watch them work you will not be able to tell how much sludge you had in the tank as they pump from the bottom. Of course, you could ask them to "stick" the sludge before pumping to see how much has accumulated.

A good read on this topic is bulletin 1657 from Oklahoma State University distributed by County Extension Offices and available on the internet. Quoting the bulletin "Septic tanks do need to be cleaned whenever sludge accumulation in the bottom of the tank exceeds 24 inches in depth or the bottom of the scum mat is within 3" of the bottom of the outlet tee or outlet baffle."

From my personal experience using a 1000 gallon tank with a household size varying from 2 to 3 adults, over the past thirty one years, is that I have had my tank pumped at 15 year intervals and each time the sludge was only one foot deep and there was no scum mat. I do have the luxury of having a dry well to discharge my washing machine effluent to. At the rate of accumulation I have experienced, my tank would have gone for 30 years before accumulating 2 feet of sludge.
 
  #22  
Old 01-01-21, 07:01 AM
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Did the problem start with a new or different washing machine?

The washing machine drain pipe needs to be at least 2 inches to handle the most modern machines and to meet code in many cities.

You might want to get someone with a camera snake to find any partial obstructions in the drain lines before reaching the septic tank.
 
  #23  
Old 01-02-21, 09:52 AM
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Believe it or not, itís the same washer and dryer since 1993 and drain system. In 1994 while stil. New to this new house, I had a septic odor to which the pump guy sold me a cap like thing that had a charcoal filter up on he roof vent. This resolved the odor problem. No bad odors from yard pipe ever, we figured the winds swirled around the house in a circle as evidenced by snow drifts from winter. The vent filter resolved that. I use to be able to smell septic odors in the front yard. Funny thing is I never smelt that odor in the pipe directly but the problem of odor did go away.
 
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Old 01-02-21, 10:10 AM
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And the plot thickens...

Some additional data... a few years ago, my wife started using these wipes that were approved for septic systems. After about year of using them, I was a bit apprehensive 😬 using them. Thinking that if they floated in the tank, they might float right out into the D box and plug up there, or worse yet, the leech field. We stopped using them a few months before the pump guy came, I asked him to see if he saw any evidence of these wipes while pumping. He said he hadnít. When asking him about these, he said, ďnothing but TPĒ repeatedly, he was adamant.
 
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Old 01-02-21, 03:28 PM
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The septic tank has (or should have) baffles at the inlet and outlet pipes so the chances are very small that one of those wipes would hit the outlet pipe opening and then leave the septic tank.
 
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Old 01-03-21, 11:29 AM
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Thatís a relief to know. Even on an economy tank from 93? Builders always seem to use minimums unfortunately. The ultimate tank Iíve seen is a three tank piece I think they call a French tank. One tank dumps ito the other as levels rise, thereby giving the last tank some still time to break down solids the best before going to the leech field. My system Havenít seen in any text books, being buried so deep, but my land is on a slight hillside and seems to be almost all sand. I never get standing water on my land no matter how hard it rains. Also it was designed by an engineer with his stamp.


 
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Old 01-03-21, 01:12 PM
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Most of the grease and sludge (material that won't decompose into liquid form) will stay in the first tank or section. The multi-section tank system is intended to further reduce the amount of sludge that finds its way to the leach field and impairs the perc'ing and absorption. In some systems the second (or third) section is aerated with a pump so a second group of bacteria (which does not thrive in the stagnant un-aerated first section) can further decompose organic matter and reduce the biohazard nature of the final effluent.

Single septic tanks are not aerated because that churns up the sludge and increases the amount that leaves the tank and goes directly to the leach field.

I have never seen or read about a three tank (three section/chamber) septic system.
 
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Old 01-03-21, 01:58 PM
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They sell the 3 compartment tanks around here but the local health dept only mandates 2 compartments so not many pay the extra. The 3rd section just further refines the cleaning of the effluent.
 
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Old 01-04-21, 06:28 AM
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Triple tank



 
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Old 01-07-21, 07:27 AM
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Long shot.......contact Yankee Onsite Wastewater Association at 781-939-5710. They are a trade association in MA. www.maowp.org and pump them for information.
 
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Old 02-13-21, 02:25 PM
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Thanks for all the great replyís. I saw online on YouTube, many systems have a filter on the discharge pipe. If I have one of these it would make sense it would be at least partially plugged...
 
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Old 02-14-21, 12:44 PM
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Yes, many modern septic systems have a filter on the outlet of the tank to insure no solids make it out into the leach field. If nothing naughty has been put down the drain I have never seen one clog. If you dump grease or oils down the drain then they can clog pretty quickly.
 
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Old 05-04-21, 06:57 PM
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Update...

Its now two weeks after the tank has been


The tank outlet has some sediment floating on top going out the the field that has just been jetted...???
 

Last edited by hvac01453; 05-04-21 at 07:23 PM. Reason: Incomplete
  #34  
Old 05-04-21, 07:35 PM
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Updated message

This picture shows sludge begining to enter the outlet pipe of the septic tank out to the D box. The tank was pumped out 13 days ago and began draining on day 13. The D box was 10 feet down and full as well as the leeching field. They jetted that out as well and added 18# of granulated white crystals, a shock treament of sorts, to try clear the field , to drain once again. When I saw this floating sediment entering the pipe I became concerned. Will this not just replugg the leach pipe holes all over again? I skimmed off the surface a few days ago of anything floating, now this appears...Im thinking there has to be a filter of sorts that can be removed and cleaned periodicaly to protect the field... as you can see it looks like a precast concrete barrier. Does anyone make an adapter to accomodate this, so that a filter could be installed?
 
  #35  
Old 05-05-21, 03:51 AM
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The filter goes in or over the outlet pipe.

I am guessing that the precast concrete barrier a few inches from the exit pipe is the baffle which should extend down a few inches below the level of the outlet pipe. Liquid leaving the septic tank should then come up from below as opposed to horizontally across.

You can retrofit the septic tank outlet with a filter where none was before but then checking the filter is an additional task you need to do. Like pumping the septic tank, you use past history to determine how often to check the filter.

Poke a large stick or a tree branch down next to the outlet pipe and swish it around to loosen up any sludge stuck to the septic tank wall just below the outlet pipe and allow that sludge to sink to the bottom. The chances of sludge up that high are greatly increased when the septic tank has gone too many years before being pumped.

Observe the outlet over the next week. If the septic tank overflows through the open hatch you have pictured here then you would have reason to believe the leach field needs more attention*.

"Jetting" and/or chemically treating the leach field are jobs that come in a variety of comprehensivenesses and qualities and even the best is still hit or miss. Clogging occurs just outside the perforations in the leech lines where the surrounding soil or sand has become impregnated with grease and/or sludge. If you are lucky the solution resulting from the white crystals plus additional water softened or dissolved the mess outside the leech lines because the mess was not bad enough.

* Rain water pouring in here, or accumulating on top of the leach field due to less than ideal land grading, will confuse the issue.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 05-05-21 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 05-05-21, 10:03 AM
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A bit more data

The sewer company said my baffle seemed to be intact, if I chose to install a filter it would require breaking off the concrete baffle and installing a sanitary tee.

The sewer company said if i wanted to install a filtering device it would require breaking off the concrete baffle and installing a sanitary tee. They said the baffle app3ared to be intact. Its 26Ē deep,
 
 

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