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Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: May 16, 2020 03:20PM
A distasteful subject, with potentially stinky consequences.

Is there a "best practices" timeline to have someone come out with a slurper? Or is *never* actually necessary?

known "facts"

- old house, easily 70 yrs., a rehab done in the 80s with modern electricity, new walls/rooms/roof design

- all greywater: showers/tubs, sinks, dishwashing machine, washing machine drain out to the yard (into a ditch by the road) via a common pipe in the basement that exits the basement wall at the bottom near the floor. From there gravity continues out towards the street ditch below.

- we do have city water service, just not city sewer service

- two toilets purge to a septic tank, location/age/design/condition unknown. In other words it could be "new" relative to the house being built, which likely had only one toity in an unknown (different) location within the house. All plumbing is "new" (PVC or whatever, some decades old).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/16/2020 03:22PM by deckeda.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: pdq
Date: May 16, 2020 03:39PM
Yikes.

We’re in an odd area where nearly everyone is on their own septic. We have to get ours pumped every other year, per city ordinance.

Poop doesn’t just disappear.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: space-time
Date: May 16, 2020 04:03PM
I just bought a house with septic tank. House is 32 year old. We had the septic tank inspected, found some issues, so sellers had to install a new septic tank and repair some issues with the distribution box, or I think they also put a new distribution box. The new septic tank is up to code now.

The PDF I got from the company that replaced it said we should pump it every 3 years. Everyone I talk to says every 2 years. I think I will do every 2.5 years. This is a 1500 gallon tank.

I cannot imagine NOT pumping. Yes, Poop doesn’t just disappear. even back in my old country, when visiting grandparents in the country side, they used to pump it once in a while. Some poor neighbors just build a new one when the old one was full.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: btfc
Date: May 16, 2020 04:03PM
Pumped out and inspected.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Ombligo
Date: May 16, 2020 04:35PM
We have been in our home for nearly 30 years, in that time we have had the septic pumped out once. That was done simply because it had never been done before. We were told that the pumping really wasn't needed and the tank was in great shape. He said that was not unusual for our area which is high and sandy, giving it excellent natural drainage and not much in root issues.



“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
-- François de La Rochefoucauld

"WE CALL BS!" -- Emma Gonzalez
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: GGD
Date: May 16, 2020 04:38PM
Quote
space-time
The PDF I got from the company that replaced it said we should pump it every 3 years. Everyone I talk to says every 2 years. I think I will do every 2.5 years. This is a 1500 gallon tank.

I cannot imagine NOT pumping. Yes, Poop doesn’t just disappear. even back in my old country, when visiting grandparents in the country side, they used to pump it once in a while. Some poor neighbors just build a new one when the old one was full.

There a lots of charts showing pumping schedules based on tank capacity and the number of people/poopers. For the most part, poop actually does just go away, that's how septic tanks work, they are amazing sewage processing systems with no moving parts, all of those microbes working round the clock digesting the poop and most of it eventually exits with the outgoing water into the drain fields.

What isn't digestible remains as sludge and sinks to the bottom, this is what gets pumped out. There is also a top layer called scum which is the lighter than water stuff like oil and grease.

For a new homeowner with a septic system you'll probably find that you're pumping it too soon, but ask the pumper how thick the sludge and scum levels are when they start, and you can adjust your future schedules based on that. If the number of household members change, you can also adjust your schedule up or down.

Another thing to be familiar with is the drain field, often a house will have two fields and a diverter valve to switch between them. Typically one uses a field for a year and then rotates to the other one for the next year.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Lizabeth
Date: May 16, 2020 05:08PM
And plan to do something with the gray water please...
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: May 16, 2020 07:17PM
Our gray water is no worse than all the livestock that do whatever to the water table around here. As for the septic, I still don't understand. It either self-dissolves the contents or it doesn't ... sludge notwithstanding.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Thrift Store Scott
Date: May 16, 2020 08:05PM
Quote
deckeda
Our gray water is no worse than all the livestock that do whatever to the water table around here. As for the septic, I still don't understand. It either self-dissolves the contents or it doesn't ... sludge notwithstanding.

I suspect that might have something to do with the health of the biome in the septic tank and how it is affected by:

1. The water that goes in (lightly chlorinated or not),

2. The cleaning products you use (anti-bacterial is probably anti-biome as well),

3. Basic factors such as size and condition of the tank itself, size and condition of the leach field, soil conditions, etc., etc.

Not unreasonably assuming that the septic tank was replaced in 1980 and especially if it wasn't and is the original, it would probably be considered "undersized" by modern standards but has presented no problems because it isn't tasked with handling grey water in addition to black water as most are*. If you get it pumped out and problems are found, you might be required to replace it with a larger, more modern version and have your grey water diverted into the new one as well because your current setup is either "grandfathered in" (as long as it works it's fine, but if it breaks everything has to be brought up to the letter of the current code) or whatever inspection agency that busies themselves with such things is simply unaware of what your current setup is and hasn't had a reason to come by and audit it in decades.

If I was in your situation, I'd locate the tank, dig out the access cover**, hold my breath and have a look for myself before calling in a professional. A long wooden dowel or even a 2x4 ought to give you some idea how deep the sludge is on the bottom of the tank. If it did seem to need pumping out, under no circumstances would I mention that your grey water is diverted elsewhere to the septic tank guy.

* My "WASG" is that 2/3rds or more of the water handled by septic systems is grey and a third or less actually comes from toilets, based on how many times a day one flushes the toilet at 5 gallons or less per versus loads of laundry, showers, dishwashing, etc. If anyone has firmer numbers than that, I'd love to see them.

** You might, might, get a break on the price of the service call if needed if the septic tank guy doesn't have to waste a bunch of time looking for the tank and digging it out.



Lie to me if you must, but don't lie to me and insult my intelligence in the same sentence.

Resist the Thought Police: George Orwell's book 1984 was meant as a warning, not an instruction manual.

"Political correctness is just intellectual colonialism and psychological fascism for the creation of thought crime" - Steve Hughes

"I don't see color, I just see ugly" - Joe Jitsukawa



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/16/2020 09:28PM by Thrift Store Scott.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: testcase
Date: May 16, 2020 08:14PM
I didn't think ANY communities allowed dispersal of "grey water" onto anything close to a public road. The house I owned for 30+ years only needed to be "pumped out" once in the time I was there. Said house had been built in the late 1800's. Periodically, I would add Rid-X crystals down toilets. This was supposed to add "good microbes" which help in breaking down the nasty stuff. I was always careful about NOT letting grease (and other bad stuff) down the drains. While I was in said house, there was never more than three people in residence and often, only one or two.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Diana
Date: May 16, 2020 10:57PM
My house was built in 1968, back when this area was county and not city. All the homes in my neighborhood are on septic. Since city sewerage is not available (politics, whodathunk?) any new homes will also be on septic. The ground here is silty clay which holds water and does not drain, and is flatter than a pancake. A normal leach field here would be larger than most people's yard, and so most have gone to aerobic systems.

We moved here in 2005, and about 2015 we had someone come out and check the system. He checked things over and gave some recommendations. While he was here he wanted to check the primary septic tank to see if it needed pumped or not and was amazed that there was very little solids in it.

I don't put grease down the sink; I rarely cook with oils or shortenings since we cleaned up our dietary acts. I don't put anything down the drains or toilets that could be considered harmful, aside from the minimal amount of bleach and soaps. I don't even have a garbage disposal. Toilet tissue is "septic safe" and most would consider it cheap but it does the job. I haven't added any bacteria to the tanks either. If you don't abuse the tanks, then they should last you a good while. BTW, there are only two people in a house that would hold at least four or more.

If for some reason you think that the tank is struggling to keep up, then by all means have it checked. It can't hurt; as someone said above, add some RidX to provide more bacteria as well. It can take some time for the bacteria to reproduce in numbers that will become effective, so be "kind to your tank." wiggle smiley

Diana
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: May 17, 2020 09:12AM
Overall I’m expecting to actually do zero maintenance to the house, as I was very recently informed we’re now paying rent to my inlaws who own it. I did mow the lawn yesterday. Prior to this new arrangement, which has me now planning to save for a house, I would have been more than happy to spend whatever it takes to upkeep the house properly. But as a tenant? Um, nope.

They tend to buy things and then don’t upkeep them, or cut corners. I figured the septic might be something to be aware of but for me that’s as far as it goes.

I appreciate the great discussion above. Since this is in a small rural area, I doubt anyone cared if grey water empties to the street. Most of the time the road ditch catches it and it flows to the creek the road is named for. It’s the type of area where houses are sold either at auction or sometimes with a realtor, but the culture doesn’t include hiring an inspector. Very different scenario from what I’m used to. That said, I’ve watched maybe a half dozen new houses being built here, so presumably they’re passing code to do so. smiling smiley

Yeah we don’t put anything nasty down drains, don’t toss grease down the sink. There’s no disposer, which at first freaked me out but I soon learned you don’t really need one, and tossing food waste into the trash of course saves the plumbing (and in my case, the creek.)
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Thrift Store Scott
Date: May 17, 2020 04:42PM
Quote
deckeda
Overall I’m expecting to actually do zero maintenance to the house, as I was very recently informed we’re now paying rent to my inlaws who own it. I did mow the lawn yesterday. Prior to this new arrangement, which has me now planning to save for a house, I would have been more than happy to spend whatever it takes to upkeep the house properly. But as a tenant? Um, nope.

Don't you just love it when little surprises like that get sprung on you?

Quote
deckeda
They tend to buy things and then don’t upkeep them, or cut corners. I figured the septic might be something to be aware of but for me that’s as far as it goes.

If your in-laws did the remodeling on the house back in the 80s, that would explain the grey water going to the creek via the ditch instead into the septic tank because that sort of thing has been a no-no since the Carter Administration. My great-grandmother's house had the ultimate example of that where the outhouse sat on two big ol' pine logs about six feet above a creek.

Quote
deckeda
I appreciate the great discussion above. Since this is in a small rural area, I doubt anyone cared if grey water empties to the street. Most of the time the road ditch catches it and it flows to the creek the road is named for. It’s the type of area where houses are sold either at auction or sometimes with a realtor, but the culture doesn’t include hiring an inspector. Very different scenario from what I’m used to. That said, I’ve watched maybe a half dozen new houses being built here, so presumably they’re passing code to do so. smiling smiley

I'd imagine there is a county inspector for such things, but why would he or she go around snooping and metaphorically waking sleeping dogs only to make extra work for him- or herself in what I imagine to be a fairly cushy Civil Service job?

The people in the new houses are the ones I'd watch out for, because if they notice the grey water being discharged into the ditch they'll be sure to call the county inspector raising all kinds of heck about it, but since you're now only a tenant, it isn't your problem any more... except that you'd still have to hear about it and relay the messages.



Lie to me if you must, but don't lie to me and insult my intelligence in the same sentence.

Resist the Thought Police: George Orwell's book 1984 was meant as a warning, not an instruction manual.

"Political correctness is just intellectual colonialism and psychological fascism for the creation of thought crime" - Steve Hughes

"I don't see color, I just see ugly" - Joe Jitsukawa
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: May 17, 2020 07:19PM
It has been interesting. A nearby tree has a branch or two over the electrical line. Can't reach it with a ladder. And if the utility is called, they'll take down the entire tree.

Water erosion has exposed the electrical cable leading from the house to the barn ... yeah that was only "buried" a few inches originally. Where it enters the barn, a portion got exposed a few years ago and the insulation wore through and shocked one of the horses. I'm like, really??

And then there's the gravel driveway. Can't pave it because then property taxes go up if they find out there's Luxury Living happening here.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: GGD
Date: May 17, 2020 07:24PM
Quote
deckeda
Overall I’m expecting to actually do zero maintenance to the house, as I was very recently informed we’re now paying rent to my inlaws who own it. I did mow the lawn yesterday. Prior to this new arrangement, which has me now planning to save for a house, I would have been more than happy to spend whatever it takes to upkeep the house properly. But as a tenant? Um, nope.

You might have second thoughts on that when the fateful day arrives that you can't use the toilet anymore. You'll be thinking fondly of the days when toilet paper shortages were your biggest bathroom worry.
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Re: Step right up! It's your chance to speculate! Q: Should the septic tank be drained?
Posted by: Thrift Store Scott
Date: May 19, 2020 04:22AM
Quote
deckeda
And then there's the gravel driveway. Can't pave it because then property taxes go up if they find out there's Luxury Living happening here.

Hmmm... that might explain something I've seen occasionally where the first ten feet or so (probably not coincidentally the "right of way" for the road) of a driveway is gravel and the rest is paved. I've often wondered what that was about.



Lie to me if you must, but don't lie to me and insult my intelligence in the same sentence.

Resist the Thought Police: George Orwell's book 1984 was meant as a warning, not an instruction manual.

"Political correctness is just intellectual colonialism and psychological fascism for the creation of thought crime" - Steve Hughes

"I don't see color, I just see ugly" - Joe Jitsukawa
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