Posts Tagged ‘drainfield’

Tree Roots in Septic Tank Removal

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Hello there septic system owners.  This blog post is about trees and what they do to your septic system.  But in this case it’s just the septic tank that stopped working.  They can do all sorts of damage.

This client has been warned for many years.  10 years ago roots had started infiltrating the seams of the septic tank.  At that time the client was told it would be a good idea to cut the trees down by the septic tank.  But client saw “Root Kill” for septic systems.

So here’s a little education on septic systems and root kill additives.  Root kill additives are meant to be put directly into the drainfield.  Flushing them down the toilet, into the septic tank doesn’t do any good.  None of the additive will reach the drainfield.  It’s even on the package to add it directly to the drainfield.  And it does work when applied to the inlet line going to the drainfield, from the septic tank.


So for over the next 10 years this client added Root Kill into her septic system by flushing them down the toilet.  The roots continued to grow without the client knowing.  Until one day the system stopped working. Below we tried to break up the roots a little bit with tool called the crustbuster.  Of course it didn’t work, but I was willing to try anything to not have to go inside this septic tank.  But it did mix up the sludge on the floor so the vacuum truck to suck it out, and I wasn’t wading up to my knees in sewage.


Now the client wasn’t backing up just yet.  But was selling their house.  During a real estate inspection for the buyer, we removed the lids and saw the root damage.  The buyer could see that these roots couldn’t possible be good for the septic system, and could see that the roots have stopped the whole tank from working as it should.  Buyer decided that he wasn’t going to purchase the home until the problem was fixed.  Now here’s a little lesson on Real Estate Transactions.  Once a problem has been discovered about anything, the seller and the Realtor must disclose this condition to any trying to buy the home.  So needless to say, most people would not buy a home with a septic system in this condition.


So now comes time for the repair.  We had to take a shovel and chop a hole through the roots to get a hose to the bottom of the tank.  The pumper sucked out the best it could and then it’s time for “Confined Space Entry”.

We have the canopy set up as it’s raining pretty bad.  We have a tripod set up.  This is what lowers me into the septic tank and pulls me out.  I wear a harness that connects to that tripod.  I have blowers pushing fresh air down to me, and I wear an air monitor that monitors the air I am breathing.  Anything goes wrong the guy manning the tripod would crank me out of the hole.

Once lowered in you can see the damage it created.

I was down there for two hours.  Cutting roots with shovels and pretty much wrecking my sawsall.  But they needed to come out.

About half way during this procedure I did need a break.  This job is the worst root job I have had to this date.  I spent over 2 hours down there, and it was exhausting.  I can feel it in my body now about 18 hours since this job happened.  I am sure to be sore.

So when your septic technician let’s you know that you should remove plants/trees/shrubs, he/she is trying to save you money.  Because even though this is a “Job”, or maybe even “Job Protection”, it’s one that none of us want to do.  We are also trying to save you money.  This expense.  This tree root removal job cost the client about $1,600.00 and could have been avoided by simply removing the trees.  And make no mistake about it, if they don’t remove these two trees, we’ll be back.  Because the trees know that there’s free water right there and fertilizer.


Most important is that this is a job none of us want to do.  It’s really gross to be wading around sewage with creepy crawly worms and stuff, spiders, and everything else you can image.  I for one came out a different man then when I went in.  I may need therapy to help me forget this job.  It was a nightmare.

Lack of Septic Pumping leads to Septic System Failure

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

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.

how septic systems work

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Watch this video for a basic understanding how simple septic systems work.

This applies to all Gravity Septic systems.

The more you know



Thanks for watching,



Nu-Water Aerobic Treatment Plant

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

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

If anyone has any other questions or needs advice, please feel free to send me an email, or leave a comment here.

Thanks for reading,


septic system homeowner inspection video

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

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.

There is a lot of good stuff here.

Thanks for reading,



World Famous Nick’s Tavern Amboy, Wa

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

My favorite tavern, in the world, Nicks was backing up yesterday. I was called at 6:30 am. I arrived about 10:00 am. I had another emergency I was working on at the time. The tanks were backed up.
I had just pumped it out three months prior. What gives? I used my inspection mirror and verified that the outlet baffle had rotted off. Oy. I had to pump the tank, put a ladder in, and enter. There’s no other way with this type of repair.
I opened up the drainfield and cleaned it out while I was there. Repairs have been made. It’s done. Thank Goodness. Drove like crazy and got all my work done. Just about 30 minutes late to picking up my boys.
Thank goodness I have an understanding ex wife. She remembers that some things cannot be planned. I don’t just get to get off work at 5:00 o’clock. I have to stay until the work is done.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. Amanda, who’s awesome BTW, bought me lunch. I was so hungry. Nothing makes one hungry like entering a septic tank. Have a great day. 🙂

RV Dump on septic system incorrectly installed

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This homeowner decided that he wanted to install an RV dump.  Now you have to be careful with RV wastewater.  There are two things wrong with RV wastewater.

RV dump added to septic system

RV dump added to septic system

1. The septic system was designed to take wastewater at small doses.  Not 250 gallons at a time.  It really stirs up the tank and causes the sludge layer to become stirred up and carried out to the drainfield.

2. The little packets that you have to put in the toilet to control the odors are not septic approved.  Now they may say “all natural” and “biodegradable” and that usually gives one a warm squishy feeling that it must be septic safe.  But all of those packets are really low on the PH scale.  Meaning acidic.  You have to kill bacteria to control odor.  So in effect, you are dumping 250 gallons of sanitized wastewater into your septic tank, effectively killing the bacteria.  Let alone what’s happening in #1.

But in this case, the pictures show that the RV dump was placed incorrectly.  He completely plugged up his drainfield.   Drainfields can handle water only.  No solids at all.  So as it is set up at his house.  Household wastewater flows from the house, to the septic tank, and exits to the drainfield.  A correctly installed RV dump would be placed in-between the house and the septic tank.  That way the RV waste would have some septic tank treatment, and solids separation before heading out the drainfield.  You can see in the pictures attached that the RV Dump was placed between the septic tank and the drainfield.

Modifications to your septic system should be done by someone qualified.  Or at least call us for a consult over the phone before an expensive mistake happens.

RV Dump added to Septic System 2

RV Dump added to Septic System 2

Repair pictures to follow.


Thanks for reading,



Sewage backing up out of the drainfield

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Sewage backing up on drainfield

Sewage backing up on drainfield

Here is a couple of pictures of sewage backing up out of the drainfield.  It is full of bacteria and pathogens. That is what is making that black tar color.  This has been going on for some time.  It kinda dries up in the summer but it’s still smelly and gross.  And is contaminating surface to ground water.   This drainfield needs dug up and find out what’s going on.  Chances are this drainfield has reached the end of it’s life.

Close up Sewage backing up on the drainfield

Close up Sewage backing up on the drainfield

Competitor wrote this system up as a septic system failure

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

We were called out for a second opinion on this property just last saturday.  You will never believe what had happened.  There was smelly water and soggy ground in the backyard.  Our competitor charges $85.00 for a service call.  We charge $125.00

Again, one would think that all septic companies are the same, and the only difference is the price.  Nothing is further from the truth.   Here is what these homeowners got for their $85.00.  I copied and pasted this from their report they submitted to the Health Department.


We were called because drains werent working properly. On arrival we walked around house and found sewage surfacing badly ( standing 2-3′ deep ) by a large tree. Probeing the area we determined this to be the drainfield area. We then called the owners son and informed him that we felt any work we would do would be a waste of their money and advised them to contact Ek or evergreen (These two referenced here are septic design engineers) to replace the system. We were assured that this would take place soon. We have found that no response was taken to replace the drainfield. This system originaly served a home that has been removed or fallen down and the transport pipe is now routed from a mobile home. Renters do have small children that could have access to surfacing. Due to the need to address the drainfield issues we did not do a tank inspection

Now the competitor even stated that they didn’t dig up the tank.  They assumed that the soggy spot was the drainfield.  They simply failed the septic system, and reported it to the health department.

Clogged drainfield competitor failed the system and called the local health department

Clogged drainfield competitor failed the system and called the local health department

This is where we came in.  We were called by the homeowner to give a second opinion.  I told them that the area that was soggy and wet, was not the drainfield, but in fact the septic tank.  I exposed the tank and found that it had not been pumped in over 20 years.  It was so full that “solids” went out to the drainfield, and plugged up the pipes.  It cost him $325.00 to jet out the drainfield, and problem was solved.  The tank did need pumped out too for about $440.00.  The  Septic system is working as designed.  Now this case is not too rare.  Our competitor has done this twice this week.  In another case it was roots had clogged the transport line between the septic tank and the drainfield.  Giving the illusion of the septic system was failed.  In both cases proper diagnotics were not completed.  The competitor’s technician simply showed up and without digging, told homeowner that the system will need replaced and they need to write a check for anywhere from $6,500.00 to $18,000.00.  In both cases First Call Septic Service was able to complete repairs.  And save the homeowner a lot of money, heartache, and grief.  Oh, and the cost of the roots in the transport line repair was under $600.00.

So be careful when hiring a contractor that’s the cheapest.  Their might be a reason for it.  For $85 dollars, this homeowner got no work performed by the contractor at all.  For $85 they got a letter of failure givin to the health department, trying to scare the homeowner into hiring them to install a new septic system for up to $18,000.00.


Thanks for reading,