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Old 02-26-2020, 08:28 AM   #1
wlgorman
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Default Conventional Septic issues, advice? (long read)

Got a crappy situation happening.

We moved into this home in midlothian in late 2016 and havent had an issue. Its a conventional septic system. I have been pretty lax on adding the chemical into the tank lately, which I realized when the issue started saturday morning. Its been pumped the spring after we moved in, then saturday. To my knowledge, we should only have to have it pumped every 3-5 yrs. 2 adults and 2 kids living in the house.

Saturday morning, I took a shower. Noticed it wasnt draining very well. Went to take care of business on the other side of the bathroom, flushed, and thats when all hell broke loose. Water coming up from the base of every toilet. Sewage backing up into the toilets and all baths/showers.

I run outside and look into the tanks, theyre pretty full, about 1.5 ft under surface of the ground. My wife calls for septic to be pumped.

I go to the sewer cleanout and notice that the water level in there is much higher than the septic. So I run the snake down and it drops, toilets start to flush and baths/showers drain.

Septic guy comes out, pumps 1500g out. Says it prob didnt need to be pumped, as there wasnt an overwhelming amount of solid waste. We did notice, that as soon as he stopped pumping, water would return into the 2nd septic tank from the drain field. I know its rained alot and Im hoping the yard/drain field is just saturated.

He brings to my attention that, the septic covers are about 1 foot lower than the rest of the ground, and the caps are typical sprinkler caps w holes in them. Meaning that when it rains, the tanks fill w water.



Fast forward to last night. The shower starts gurgling when flushing the toilet, as everyone is going to bed. I talk to the wife. She did 3 loads of laundry yesterday, then all 4 of us took showers consecutively.

Im on shift today and had to leave at 5am, so I instructed her how to run the snake, and to snake the drain field pipe coming out of the septic, if she can get to it. I looked in the cleanout before I left this morning and its down to normal level. She says the toilets are flushing fine and no gurgling from the shower.

Ive been reading up on possible issues/fixes. I understand the drain field may be bad. But we havent had a single issue in almost 4 years. Im hoping its a combination of: 1) Me not treating the septic routinely (although Ive read that you dont need to). 2) rainwater saturation in the drain field not letting the tank drain as usual.

Septic guy mention getting this stuff called "Septic Shock" to help break down solids in the drainfield and get the bacteria or whatever working right again. Anyone used this stuff?
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:46 AM   #2
westtexducks
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Is it the big panels for a drain field or just the 4" pipe with holes in it for a drain?
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:29 AM   #3
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I can't speak to your specific situation without looking at it first hand, but from the description if looks like a case of ground saturation.

I would not recommend it(illegal), but I have heard of people pumping their tanks out onto the ground until the field lines have time to recover(dryer weather).

You can also add additional field lines.

Around here, when a leach field fails and you have effluent coming up from the ground in the drain field, the health department requires you to abandon that drain field and put in new lines.

In wet weather failures the cause is usually too much water in and not enough water out.

You can also look at how your surface water is controlled. It is best if the only water that gets on top of your drain field is rain water that falls on it.
Do not let storm water stand on the drain field. Use swales and berms as needed to direct any surface flow away from the drain field.

You can go by your local environmental health department and get a copy of your septic paperwork. It should have a drawing showing you where everything is supposed to be. It should also include the soil test that will show you where the good soils are if you need to put in new drain lines.

I like chamber systems. In questionable situations I like them to go in at no reduction in length.
In GA you only need 65% of a conventional field line length if you use chambers.

Around here they require engineers/landscape architects/surveyors to site plan septic systems. I still design them myself and then tell the engineer where to put it on the site plan.

edit: I added pics because every thread needs some pics.
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Last edited by GA Bowhunter; 02-26-2020 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by westtexducks View Post
Is it the big panels for a drain field or just the 4" pipe with holes in it for a drain?
Im not sure, honestly. Im assuming its pipe, being that there is about a 3-4' wide strip of green grass running to the corner of my yard from the tanks
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:48 AM   #5
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Sounds to me like a drain field problem. Could be saturated/under sized/ roots-stoppage or if it's older the pipe could have collasped. I would quit guessing and get a company out there and run a camera. You don't need addatives for a healthy system, but it will help.
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:55 AM   #6
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Thanks for the input GAbowhunter
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:56 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by ramrod View Post
Sounds to me like a drain field problem. Could be saturated/under sized/ roots-stoppage or if it's older the pipe could have collasped. I would quit guessing and get a company out there and run a camera. You don't need addatives for a healthy system, but it will help.
Yeah. Been thinking that myself. Would you call a septic company or a plumber? Im skeptical on calling a septic company, b/c I feel like they would just tell me I needed a new field or system regardless of whether I did or not.
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Old 02-26-2020, 01:02 PM   #8
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A plumber isn't supposed to touch a septic system without a license.

How old is your system? The field may be past it's usable life span.

No doubt the field has failed. Water isn't supposed to run back from the field into the tanks. It could be rain water intrusion. It could also be ground water intrusion.

You can extend the risers on the tanks, but that could also be wasted money if you have to replace the system due to it failing and age.

As you have discovered, showers and laundry need to be spaced out. It sounds like the system may be a little undersized so it's going to be easy to overload.
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:10 PM   #9
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Are you in a rural area where you can get away with working outside of the rules a bit?

My system on the house I bought is complete garbage. Soil quality is way too poor for a conventional system and it def was not a pro install. Front yard was always flooded from coming out the clean out. I used to work in septic install and maintenance and said i can fix this problem. I ordered a $100 pump like goes in an aerobic system and dropped it in the last tank with a float switch. Dug lines for 2 sprinkler heads. Done. It works like a champ now. So basically I ghetto converted my conventional system to an aerobic. I'm not an expert on the matter but about the only difference in my ghetto system and a real aerobic is a compressor pump that supplies air into the tank to help grow bacteria to break down solid matter.

A healthy system pretty much never needs to be pumped. What kills a system is when your laundry and dish water go into the system. If you use a bunch of anti bacteria soaps, its killing the good bacteria in the tanks that is needed to break the poop down....i think.

You mentioned the water in the clean out being higher than the water in the tanks. That sounds like a clogged line before it dumps into the tank to me. Then you snaked it out. If it keeps happening, I'd assume you have a root or other obstruction that paper is hanging on and forming a dam.
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:17 PM   #10
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Sent you pm
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:28 PM   #11
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When the ground is saturated the water has nowhere to go. Best rural solution is to find the end of the field line and add a valve that can be opened when ground is saturated. Best non rural solution is to upgrade to either clear water or low pressure system.
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:37 PM   #12
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I would find a way to bypass your washer at minimum. There is definitely no fault in that.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:27 PM   #13
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I think the blockage was cause by water backing up from your field through your tanks and floating solids collecting in the pipe. water usage goes down, level in tanks go back to normal and the blockage is there. I agree the problem is in your lateral lines. Probably saturated soil.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:37 PM   #14
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:47 PM   #15
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We had a traditional septic in Livingston. Had problems after we bought the place. Called septic company and issue was old drain field with roots, etc. TRA had new regulations so we could not fix the problem within the law. I was told that I could only fix a line if I knew the exact issue, (i.e. if I ran over it with a car and broke it), but could not just dig up and redo my field lines. $8k later we have an aerobic system that costs to maintain (per law) and costs to repair after warranty and things start breaking...long story but my advice is to find a way to fix the traditional system. If it is roots in the lines, they may offer a jet system cleanout but I was not convinced it would work and maybe even cause more damage to old pipes. But I agree that the saturation problem seems to be your issue. My old system had some sort of jumper between the tanks and the field lines that prevented backup once the tanks emptied downstream. Is it maybe possible to install a jumper (up over a foot and back down) in your line to stop "backflow" from field lines to tanks? Oh, and I am no septic expert by any means.
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Old 02-26-2020, 04:06 PM   #16
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Pump installed in second tank forces water out when at a certain level, through a check valve . No more problems.
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Old 02-26-2020, 04:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeanMachine View Post
Are you in a rural area where you can get away with working outside of the rules a bit?

My system on the house I bought is complete garbage. Soil quality is way too poor for a conventional system and it def was not a pro install. Front yard was always flooded from coming out the clean out. I used to work in septic install and maintenance and said i can fix this problem. I ordered a $100 pump like goes in an aerobic system and dropped it in the last tank with a float switch. Dug lines for 2 sprinkler heads. Done. It works like a champ now. So basically I ghetto converted my conventional system to an aerobic. I'm not an expert on the matter but about the only difference in my ghetto system and a real aerobic is a compressor pump that supplies air into the tank to help grow bacteria to break down solid matter.

A healthy system pretty much never needs to be pumped. What kills a system is when your laundry and dish water go into the system. If you use a bunch of anti bacteria soaps, its killing the good bacteria in the tanks that is needed to break the poop down....i think.

You mentioned the water in the clean out being higher than the water in the tanks. That sounds like a clogged line before it dumps into the tank to me. Then you snaked it out. If it keeps happening, I'd assume you have a root or other obstruction that paper is hanging on and forming a dam.
Without a compressor you are basically discharging raw sewage and creating a health hazard so I would advise against that method, not to mention it could lead to citations from the health department.

Last edited by Kmiles84; 02-26-2020 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:41 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kmiles84 View Post
Without a compressor you are basically discharging raw sewage and creating a health hazard so I would advise against that method, not to mention it could lead to citations from the health department.
There he is. Theres the guy. Im not encouraging anyone to do anything. Im just letting folks know what will work....exactly like an aerobic. The "treated" waste coming out of an aerobic is a joke.

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Old 02-26-2020, 07:11 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeanMachine View Post
There he is. Theres the guy. Im not encouraging anyone to do anything. Im just letting folks know what will work....exactly like an aerobic. The "treated" waste coming out of an aerobic is a joke.

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What your talking about is no where close to an aerobic system
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:39 PM   #20
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You need to do several things, as mentioned earlier: divert as much gray water off your system as you can, especially washing machine; install risers on the tanks and build up dirt to divert rain water away from them; build berm to divert rain water off your lateral line. Would be a good idea to dug up your leach line about 100 feet from tanks and inspect it
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:43 PM   #21
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Just Thad the same problem at the ranch. Had to put in aerobic
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:47 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeanMachine View Post
Are you in a rural area where you can get away with working outside of the rules a bit?

My system on the house I bought is complete garbage. Soil quality is way too poor for a conventional system and it def was not a pro install. Front yard was always flooded from coming out the clean out. I used to work in septic install and maintenance and said i can fix this problem. I ordered a $100 pump like goes in an aerobic system and dropped it in the last tank with a float switch. Dug lines for 2 sprinkler heads. Done. It works like a champ now. So basically I ghetto converted my conventional system to an aerobic. I'm not an expert on the matter but about the only difference in my ghetto system and a real aerobic is a compressor pump that supplies air into the tank to help grow bacteria to break down solid matter.

A healthy system pretty much never needs to be pumped. What kills a system is when your laundry and dish water go into the system. If you use a bunch of anti bacteria soaps, its killing the good bacteria in the tanks that is needed to break the poop down....i think.

You mentioned the water in the clean out being higher than the water in the tanks. That sounds like a clogged line before it dumps into the tank to me. Then you snaked it out. If it keeps happening, I'd assume you have a root or other obstruction that paper is hanging on and forming a dam.
I had considered doing this on a system I had once, but I was going to put a simple chlorinator on my pump tank.

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Old 02-26-2020, 08:46 PM   #23
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Quote:
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I had considered doing this on a system I had once, but I was going to put a simple chlorinator on my pump tank.

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Adding a chlorinator isnt a bad idea. A chlorinator is just a fancy way of saying a tube with chlorine tablets inside of it. As water exits the 2nd tank, it runs over the chlorine tabs as it enters the final tank. That's it. Im not sure a lot of magic is happening in that 1 second that each cup or so of water is in contact with the chlorine tabs. When i serviced systems i found that most homeowners didnt bother using the tabs. Why? Because there is no change in the quality of discharge. Its gonna smell like a septic tank when the sprinklers are on either way.

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Old 02-26-2020, 08:53 PM   #24
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Quote:
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Adding a chlorinator isnt a bad idea. A chlorinator is just a fancy way of saying a tube with chlorine tablets inside of it. As water exits the 2nd tank, it runs over the chlorine tabs as it enters the final tank. That's it. Im not sure a lot of magic is happening in that 1 second that each cup or so of water is in contact with the chlorine tabs. When i serviced systems i found that most homeowners didnt bother using the tabs. Why? Because there is no change in the quality of discharge. Its gonna smell like a septic tank when the sprinklers are on either way.

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Chlorinators are only used as a disinfectant that accounts for 3% of the treatment process after wastewater leaves the ATU, something a conventional system does not have. All information can be found in Chapter 285 of the Texas Administrative Code.
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Old 02-26-2020, 09:01 PM   #25
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What your talking about is no where close to an aerobic system
What im talking about is almost identical minus a compressor and chlorinator. A compressor does not make dischage any "safer". It expedites the break down of any solid material that may enter the 2nd chamber/tank. The chlorinator exposes water to chlorine tabs for a split second as it exits the 2nd chamber and enters the 3rd. If by aerobic system you mean a system in which oxygenated bacteria is used to expedite the breakdown of solid waste, then yea what i described is not that. If by aerobic you mean the lay persons definition of what would be in a lateral line being, instead, dispersed by sprinkler heads....id argue that what im talking about is indeed similar.

There a people that are forced to live within set guidelines. I get that 100%.

There are also people who are not. There are also people who are like well i have a problem here. My front yard is a swamp with turds in it. I believe i can come up with a solution. Proposed solution is deployed and does indeed solve the problem with zero new problems created as a product. Then that person who has been relieved of siad problem may desire to share the potential solution with others regardless of what the internet police might think.

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Old 02-26-2020, 09:30 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeanMachine View Post
What im talking about is almost identical minus a compressor and chlorinator. A compressor does not make dischage any "safer". It expedites the break down of any solid material that may enter the 2nd chamber/tank. The chlorinator exposes water to chlorine tabs for a split second as it exits the 2nd chamber and enters the 3rd. If by aerobic system you mean a system in which oxygenated bacteria is used to expedite the breakdown of solid waste, then yea what i described is not that. If by aerobic you mean the lay persons definition of what would be in a lateral line being, instead, dispersed by sprinkler heads....id argue that what im talking about is indeed similar.

There a people that are forced to live within set guidelines. I get that 100%.

There are also people who are not. There are also people who are like well i have a problem here. My front yard is a swamp with turds in it. I believe i can come up with a solution. Proposed solution is deployed and does indeed solve the problem with zero new problems created as a product. Then that person who has been relieved of siad problem may desire to share the potential solution with others regardless of what the internet police might think.

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The compressor does make it safer as it creates the aerobic bacteria that treats and breaks down the wastewater at a must faster rate than the anaerobic bacteria in a conventional septic tank.
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Old 02-26-2020, 09:53 PM   #27
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Had same issues last spring on my lakehouse. It was really wet and I thought it was drain field. Turns out I had belly in line right outside house. Camera was only thing that found it. Fixed and no problems since. I would scope it
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:00 PM   #28
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The compressor does make it safer as it creates the aerobic bacteria that treats and breaks down the wastewater at a must faster rate than the anaerobic bacteria in a conventional septic tank.
So......air pumped into system makes **** water in my pasture safer yet my horses can dump in the creek or right next to it headed straight to a lake......sounds reasonable
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:03 PM   #29
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Add air pump to solids tank, pump with float switch from harbor freight to second tank pump wherever you want problem solved
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:19 PM   #30
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Add air pump to solids tank, pump with float switch from harbor freight to second tank pump wherever you want problem solved


Bingo. Done deal as stated earlier in the thread. By all means add a chlorine at some point if it makes you feel better. Itís not rocket science.
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:48 PM   #31
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A conventional septic system is designed to break down the waste with anaerobic bacteria. The solids are supposed to settle in the tank and be pumped out periodically. The water flows into the leach field. Solids in the leach field ruin the system.

Adding air to agitate the tank will prevent the solids from settling and the pump will move the solids into the leach field and clog it up faster.
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Old 02-27-2020, 03:29 AM   #32
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So......air pumped into system makes **** water in my pasture safer yet my horses can dump in the creek or right next to it headed straight to a lake......sounds reasonable
I was referring to the compressor on an aerobic system, not adding a compressor to a conventional. Aerobic systems have a aerobic treatment tank with clarifier and chlorination to make it safer when it sprays into your yard or pasture. Adding pumps or compressors to the OP in question will not help his situation and thatís what I was getting at. All it takes is one neighbor to call in a complaint and he would have more problems on his hands than a failing system.
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Old 02-27-2020, 05:32 AM   #33
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If you can get muratic acid down the field lines, it will eat up any roots that may be clogging them up.
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Old 02-27-2020, 07:04 AM   #34
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Lots of good but illegal advice here. If the drain field is not taking the effluent, the only right answer is to replace the system with one that works.

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Old 03-05-2020, 09:49 PM   #35
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Things were good for a couple days until this last rain.

One thing i didnt think about until today....

We built a shop and had electric trenched underground around the yard and over the drain field. The electric line was installed about 2 weeks ago.

I know the electrician personally, advised him about the drain field, and watched him dig by hand over and well before and past the drainfield.

Weve been here for almost 4 yrs now and the problem just arose last week, which is what is throwing me for a loop.

I have dug down to top of the tank, replaced the risers, and poured concrete around them. The risers that I took out were sprinkpler valve boxes/covers. Which clearly allowed ground water to come in to the opening in the top of the tank.

Im thinking that at this point it is a drainage issue, since its the only thing that has changed. I ran a snake out of the 2nd tank into the drain field and found no obstructions.

Im working tomorrow and were going out of town until wed of next week. Im gonna set up an appointment for next wk to have someone look at the system.

Granted, im not an expert w this stuff, but I keep wondering if a new system (i.e. aerobic) would solve the issue, or if I would experience the same problems...



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Old 03-06-2020, 08:10 AM   #36
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An aerobic will solve problems related to the field 100%. The ground does not always have the capacity to take more water. The surface always does. However they are typically higher maintenance in comparison to a conventional. When electronic components are involved, they will fail eventually.

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Old 03-06-2020, 06:46 PM   #37
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You may just have a high water table/ seasonal ground water. If your system was permitted you can get a copy of the inspection and permit from county and look at the site evaluation for soil and ground water findings. You can also get an idea from the NRCS soil survey on water tables and drainage for your area. If it was bootlegged in then there is a chance it wasn’t sized correctly and water table wasn’t factored in. Also check for any water leaks in the house and if on public water look at your previous water bills and usage for the day/month.
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Old 03-06-2020, 07:35 PM   #38
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