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#2144854 - 01/20/11 02:26 PM Need septic tank/drain field help
Jimmy9190 Offline

Registered: 02/17/07
Posts: 3369
Loc: Clermont, Florida
I just had Roto-Rooter pump out the septic tank here at my house. The tank had not been drained in at least the last 5 years and it was full to the top. The tank has a riser on it so the guy couldn't get a good look at the pipe leading from the tank to the drain field pipe, but he used a mirror and looked at it from inside the tank and said it was partially plugged with gunk. He said the entire drain field would need to be replaced/re-done and there is no way to clean out the pipes. Is that really true or are they trying to make more money off of me? Seems to me I could dig out the other end of the tank and remove the pipe and flush it out myself with a plumbing snake and/or a water hose. I asked the Roto-Rooter guy about that but he wouldn't answer me. He just said "call the phone number on the invoice, they will go over it with you".

The septic tank was slap full to the brim, and the Roto-Rooter guy said having it pumped will only buy a few weeks' time before we have plumbing trouble again. Is there any kind of chemical I could put in the system to clean the drain field pipes? The septic never backed up into the house but we had some bubbling toilets and slow drains. The washing machine drained back into the bathtub on the opposite side of the laundry room wall the other day. We have had a few plugged toilets or toilets that just wouldn't drain and flush like they should, after they sat overnight they flushed OK the next morning. When my gf or I would take a shower, both toilets in the house would bubble and gurgle and the water level would go down very low. After you flush the toilet, the water level would be normal again.

A few months ago I cut a hole in the wall and used about 20 feet of PVC pipe and re-routed my washing machine drain out into the back yard. That has helped and will continue to help but if I can, I want to fix this drain field problem myself. I have a feeling Roto-Rooter charges a lot for drain field repairs. I appreciate any help you guys can offer here. Thanks.
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#2144859 - 01/20/11 02:29 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
Quest Offline

Registered: 12/19/04
Posts: 7358
Loc: beaver land EH?
Not familiar with septic tank but perhaps you can call another septic guy for a second opinion?

"Internet discussion boards act as echo chambers for conspiracy dittoheads" A.Allen

#2144864 - 01/20/11 02:32 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
tom slick Offline

Registered: 05/26/03
Posts: 9123
Loc: Central Coast, Calif.
You tank is never supposed to become full of liquid. It's there to catch solids and allow the liquids to pass through on it way to the leach field. If the tank did fill up it means there is something wrong with the leach system whether it's just a clog or a failure it needs to be looked at.

I see leach field repairs fairly regularly around here.

Just FYI, discharging gray water above ground is often against local building and health codes. I don't see anything wrong with it but if you need a new leach field the inspector will notice your gray water system.
You get what you pay for...
So keep in mind how much you paid for this advice.

#2144867 - 01/20/11 02:34 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
crw Offline

Registered: 05/31/05
Posts: 1713
Loc: Pocatello, ID
A few variables here... How big is your tank? How many people use the system in your house?

It's hard to believe that it would be "full to the top" in five years, but if it's a small tank that might be the case.
2005 Nissan Maxima, 6-speed manual; many others...

#2144887 - 01/20/11 02:46 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
Al Offline

Registered: 06/08/02
Posts: 17083
Loc: Elizabethtown, Pa
What tom slick said


Get it pumped and get someone competent to check it out.

In most cases you can't just rip out the old drain field and put a new one in. You have to install a sand mound.

#2144955 - 01/20/11 03:44 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Al]
SuperDave456 Offline

Registered: 10/29/08
Posts: 2459
Loc: Dallas, Texas
One would think that a pint of Blackstrap Molasses flushed down a toilet would make the bacteria go crazy.

I use a tablespoon per quart of water to fertilize plants and the bacteria in the soil that feed the plants are supposed to love it.

#2144979 - 01/20/11 04:00 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
JTK Offline

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 9506
Loc: Buffalo, NY
Jimmy, if your tank is filling to the top, either the sludge layer has built up to the point it blocked off the outlet pipe that feeds your leach/absorption field, or the field itself is no longer accepting liquid. The leach field could be too saturated with ground water or contaminated with sludge. If your system is modern enough (last ~30yrs?) You'd have to dig up the distribution box to determine this. That's basically the 'manifold' that feeds the leach field pipes. Most of these systems will also have a filter between the tank and distribution box that could also be plugged up. Those you just hose-off to clean.

Septic system additives typically act as a laxative which isn't a good thing. You don't want loose particles getting into the leach field.

Like said, you don't want anything that won't naturally digest going down the drain and trying to reduce inundating the system with water is important too.

My system is from 1955 and *knock on wood* is still working!! It's a carbon steel 500gal tank that's about ready to rust through, but my leach field is huge and my laundry water goes out on the front lawn. I dig up the cover and have it pumped every 3yrs. It's about $200-250 to have it done in my area.

Start by digging towards the outlet of your tank to see if you can find the distribution box before you go further.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5, CVT. 2016 Nissan Quest SV (Babe magnet IV)

#2145031 - 01/20/11 04:44 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
JHZR2 Offline

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 39789
Loc: New Jersey
Yeah, do you know if your land will perk to allow for liquid runout?

Id imagine that if you didnt pump it often enough, the solids level could get too high and then it would spillover into the field, clogging the pipes. As there is noplace for the solids to go, roto rooting it wouldnt help... Youd essentially need to suction out the individual pipes in the field.

I believe new systems are set up that way, with the ends of each field pipe capped above ground to allow for cleanout.

#2145047 - 01/20/11 04:56 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
Jimmy9190 Offline

Registered: 02/17/07
Posts: 3369
Loc: Clermont, Florida
Thanks everyone for the help. The house is about 25 years old now. I talked to my neighbor about it for a while this afternoon.

I am going to dig from the output side of the septic tank and dig out the pipe going to the distribution box. I am going to either cut out and replace the pipe from the tank to the d-box altogether, or if possible I will clean it out with a water hose, plumber's snake, whatever it might take to clean out that pipe. My line of thinking is it will be easier to just cut that pipe out and put in a brand new section of pipe. I also have a hard time believing the entire drain field is bad. I am no plumber but after everything I have read, if the drain field was bad or "saturated" as the Roto-Rooter man put it, the yard would be flooded and wet. My yard is dry sand. Bone dry right now, we don't get much rain this time of year.

It could be as you say JTK, the system was so backed up that it blocked off the outlet from the tank to the d-box. I think it will be best to just replace that pipe and see how it does after that. It's just me and my gf here in the house and she was here by herself for 3 years before I moved in. It's not like we put such a huge strain on the septic system.

Thanks everyone for the help here. If I am wrong in what I think on this, please let me know.
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#2145125 - 01/20/11 06:12 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
andyd Offline

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 5580
Loc: Marshfield , MA
The leaching fields I built as a kid were 4" perforated pipe in trenches full of 3/4" crushed stone. Washer lint and grease , which is what soap breaks down into, does a number on them
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#2145150 - 01/20/11 06:32 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
eljefino Online   content

Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 30826
Loc: ME
sounds like you do need a new leach field. Around here you need a permit with engineer's plans. You may be able to redneck it though with a bunch of buddies, beers, and rental bobcat skid steer if you can hide from the "what you doing" neighbors?

The washing machine greywater output is a semi good idea; you used to be able to just have it go into a pile of crushed stone, called a "grey well".

#2145188 - 01/20/11 07:10 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
MNgopher Offline

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 3795
Loc: Lakeville, MN
Time to get an experienced septic system person to take a look. Sounds like the tank wasn't cleaned out enough and all the junk ended up in the drainfield itself. Not good.

In our neck of the woods, a tank cleanout is recommended every three years at a minimum. The slow draining toilets and sink backup were serious clues that things were amiss downstream.

Good luck!

#2145248 - 01/20/11 07:53 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
JTK Offline

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 9506
Loc: Buffalo, NY
Originally Posted By: Jimmy9190

It could be as you say JTK, the system was so backed up that it blocked off the outlet from the tank to the d-box.

There should be a baffle in place to prevent this, but like said, if solids build-up enough, they will work their way in there. If your house/system is only 25yrs old, you should have an effluent filter somewhere between the tank and the leach field. Any competent septic pumper should know this, dig it up pull it out and hose it off for you. Generally you know your leach field isn't working as you pump the tank out. You would see and hear water rushing back into the tank from the outlet pipe.

Also be sure to use just ordinary toilet paper and not the fluffy stuff. The less the better. Gross topic, but wet-wipes and trash cans are a septic system's friend and hopefully no household ladies are flushing tampons.

Like you say, locate that D-box and see if she's full-o water. There's all kinds of technology today to 'jet-clean' leach field plumbing. My next door neighbor had it done 5yrs ago and he's still functioning 100%.

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#2145439 - 01/20/11 10:21 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
Jimmy9190 Offline

Registered: 02/17/07
Posts: 3369
Loc: Clermont, Florida
Thanks again. I watched the guy pump the tank out, no water came back into the tank, not from the house and not from the output side of the tank either. The Roto Rooter guy wrote on the invoice "No baffle, No filter". I guess that means there is no filter inside the tank on the pipe going out to the d-box and drain field. He didn't dig anywhere else. I am going to dig some myself though. When I find that effluent filter I'll clean it off myself and replace the pipe between the d-box and the tank and then see what happens.

My gf doesn't put tampons or anything else in the toilet. That stuff all goes in the trash can. We hardly ever use the dishwasher and we don't use the garbage disposer very much either. The toilet paper we buy says "Safe for Septic Systems" on the package. We do use anti-bacterial hand soap in the kitchen and bathrooms, but our shower soap is non-antibacterial. Once I figure out what really is wrong with the septic we will probably add some Rid-X to the tank to help keep the bacterial balance where it should be.

Thanks for the help here. I don't know anything much about septic systems but I am learning. I think most of this problem is probably due to the tank not being pumped out on schedule like it should.
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Fram PH7317

#2145447 - 01/20/11 10:34 PM Re: Need septic tank/drain field help [Re: Jimmy9190]
Blaze Offline

Registered: 12/31/10
Posts: 1294
Loc: Washington State (East)
I recently replaced my leech field. I used the infiltrator system or half-domes. There is no drainfield pipe to plug up with the infiltrator method. Its fairly easy and straight forward to do yourself.

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