This septic emergency was because of lack of maintenance.
This client was under the impression that you never need to pump the septic system, unless it’s giving you trouble. He adds septic tank additives every months. It’s never giving him a problem before.
Unfortunately, over 8 years, it completely packed with solids. All a septic tank does is separate liquids from solids and allow liquids to enter the drainfield. If the septic tank get’s too full, it will allow solids to enter the drainfield, and cause it to fail. This homeowner thought he was taking very good care of his system. No garbage disposal. Doesn’t flush any garbage at any time. Just toilet paper. Added septic additives. He was shocked to see that the system is now failed. It filled up with water, and the drainfield could not accept any water, and backed up within minutes of pumping the septic tank. Now the entire system will need to be replaced with a system that’s up to code.
This septic system failure could have been easily avoided by cleaning the septic tank every 4-6 years.
Estimated cost of system replacement $8,000-$13,000 if county allows replacement. The county may require city sewer hook up because it’s close. Estimated cost to hook up to city sewer $18,000 to $25,000. Estimated cost of pumping a septic tank every 4-6 years $380.00.
Here is an example of what a video of a septic inspection for a real estate transaction where a video is required. This buyer called us to inspect this system and didn’t know where the components were, and this house was Bank Owned.
This inspection cost this buyer $135.00, “Cowlitz County” rate. No additional charges to find the tank, nor dig it out. Although, this lid was super duper heavy, and I required the homeowner’s assistance to get that lid off.
The video attached is a video of a Nu Water Aerobic Treatment Plant by Enviro-flo.
The reason we need to have this level of treatment was for the stream and high ground water in this area. We need to protect our surface and ground water from contamination. The neighbors well is pretty close as well, so in order to have a home this close this homeowner agreed to have annual maintenance to this system.
Now annual maintenance does not mean it needs pumped out every year. It just needs monitoring to ensure that we are not contaminating surface and ground water.
We take DO (Dissolved Oxygen) measurements. This tells us how much Oxygen is dissolved into the water for the Aerobic Bacteria. A low DO reading would indicate that something was wrong, and I would need to diagnose what.
We also take a Turbidity measurement as well. Turbidity is a measurement of how much particulates are in the water being released into the drainfield. It is measured in NTU or Nephelometric Turbidity Units. Basically our meter passes light through the sample as is able to tell how much light makes it to the receiver. If the sample is foggy, it will be a high reading. In this case, it’s near drinking water. .77 NTU or less than 1 NTU.
This system here is Level B treatment. There is no Disinfection unit to clean or take care of, because this site didn’t require Level A Treatment.
Also, this system is functioning perfectly. And will continue to do so as long as it is maintained. It is normal to pump out the first two compartments every 2-3 years or so. As to not have excessive solids build up in the plant.
Also note: this is a wastewater treatment plant. Not too unlike a commercial plant like your city wastewater treatement plant. The commercercial plant has operators there 24 hours a day 7 days a week monitoring it’s levels and ensuring the community and the environment that it is releasing pure water into the rivers and streams.
This client’s plant is a “Residential” version of the “Commercial” plant. It is agreed that once per year should be okay for maintenance. But make no mistake about it. This system was very expensive and will not “Self Clean” or “Take Care” of itself.
The repairs to a plant that is neglected can reach 10’s of thousands of dollars. And 100% of the time, the client won’t know damage is being done, until it’s too late and toilets no longer flush, or sewage is backing up in the yard.
Annual inspections only run $110 dollars in Clark County, Wa. All of our rates are clearly posted on our website at http://www.firstcallseptic.com/septic-rates/
If anyone has any other questions or needs advice, please feel free to send me an email, or leave a comment here.
Here is a friendly tip if you’re backed up in an emergency. This home has a 2 compartment septic tank and an outlet filter that screens the effluent going to the drainfield. This filter should be cleaned annually. There is diaper wipes in this tank, so we pumped it out the same day.
In the video I pulled the filter out and put it back in right away, didn’t want to send too much unscreened effluent to the drainfield. I forgot to video the portion where we wash it off with a garden hose. It’s simple, just hose it off and put it back.
This is a Septic Tank Baffle Inspection: Does not include the rest of the sludge and scum measurements or anything like that. I was working alone today, and saw that this was a great opportunity to video this part.
These are the baffles that are located within a septic tank. These happen to be made of concrete and the outlet is rotting badly. The outlet baffle is the component that separates liquids from solids. The drainfield can handle water, nothing more, and that is the function of the outlet baffle. This tank needed pumping and you can see how soft the outlet baffle is. It is going to crumble during pumping. It was replaced today with new ABS Plastic baffle, with has no reaction between Hydrogen Sulfide gas and itself. It’s inert. So the repair is a permanent repair. Sorry, I was working alone today, and could not film the repair. But here’s the video.
Below is a video of a clogged inlet baffle. This homeowner called us out for a pumping and thought his septic tank needed cleaned. It did need cleaned, but for other reasons. The tank was backed up due to a clogged inlet baffle. And this advice could save you money in a case of a backup.
Just a reminder, this video is not an inspection. A true inspection will involve sludge and scum measurements, second compartment (if applicable) inspection, and outlet baffle inspection.
Once unclogged, contact your local approved septic inspection contractor for an inspection.
This link is the best video, by far, I have seen for homeowner self inspection. Just in case you are one of those that want to share in the joy in septic work. If you have 25 minutes, please watch this video. If you don’t wish to participate in your self inspection, at least you will see what we are looking at when inspecting your system.
Now this is filmed for those needing explanations at nearly every step. But this includes Gravity, Pressure Distrubution, Sand Filters, and Sand Mounds. This video does not include Aerobic units or Proprietary Septic devices.
One thing to note, it did miss a necessary and mandatory test which is called a “Draw Down” test of all pump chambers. This tells us two things, 1. how the pump is performing, and 2. how the next component is accepting the effluent.
Slow draw downs are not good. It can mean the pump is not performing at a rate good enough to scour the lines, and keep the pipes clean, and/or the next component could be plugged and need cleaned.
All to often we see a septic tank in the back yard. And the homeowner would like to add a deck. A large deck that extends over the septic tank.
That does create a huge problem for the septic contractor. We need access. Not just a few boards removed. If we can only remove a few boards, we are limited in our cleaning ability. We need room to remove all the waste from the tank. Liquid and solids.
Septic Tank under Deck Hatch Cover
Septic Tank under Deck Hatch Cover
Here we can see a deck access hatch cover installed by a general contractor. It is not a good idea to use a septic contractor to do these types of projects as we are “Specialty Contractors” and are not licensed nor insured for this type of work. This is why we always refer Bob Putnam for this type of work in our area. In case the link doesn’t work on your browser his website is http://www.rputnamconstruction.com/. His email is email@example.com and his phone number is 360-901-0821
He has years of experience doing this and other types of work around the house. He comes with First Call Septic’s highest of recommendations. He is honest, fair, and does each job with the highest of precision. Work with him and you’ll see, that there is a difference in General Contractors.
This is a working model of a basic septic systems pump and alarm for a pressure drainfield, sand filter, or sand mound. Geogrpahically, these two yellow float switches are located in the tanks with the wastewater. The light signifies the pump. When I raise the lower float switch, you must imagine my hand as wastewater. This is what will trigger the pump to turn on. The light comes on. When the lower float is lowered, the light goes off.
Now if something goes wrong with the pump the water levels will reach higher than normal. When the upper yellow float is raised, it sounds the alarm. When the water level goes down, the alarm will silence itself.
Now if the alarm is randomly going off, and appearing to reset itself, is an indicator that a pump is starting to go bad or a component is starting to plug up. I have seen people think that the alarm is malfunctioning and unplug it. And later cause themselves a very expensive bill.
I hope this demonstration helps those looking at the problem. And as always, if you have any questions, please email or call me.