Jump to content

Septic Systems


Terence McCann
 Share

Recommended Posts

There are a lot of septic systems in my neighborhood but I have not had an opportunity to inspect one. I would most likely exclude it anyway due to the lack of general knowledge on how to properly inspect.

Question is when I go for a walk around here you can pass some houses and all is well but there are a few you pass and the smell is bad enough to stop a charging rhino![:-scared]

With this type of odor is it a sign that the system is in failure mode?

Thanks in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Double yep. There is no way, and I mean no way, that it is possible to accurately assess all the components of a septic system. You can pump & view the tank interior, baffles, outflow tees, or whatever else they do in your locale.

The drain field is another matter; it's impossible to know what is going on without excavating the entire field, which is 2/3 the work of installing a new "Infiltrator" system.

Speaking of which, has anyone else installed an "Infiltrator" w/ the plastic "drums"? I installed one 2 years ago, & it beats heck out of dinkin' around w/ stone, finger tiles, hay/straw, & the usual other installation techniques.

http://infiltratorsystems.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Chad Fabry

. . . I don't get permits because I feel if I want to dig a hole on my land and partially fill it with pipe and other apparatus, it's my right. . .

You know, it's a funny thing, that's almost exactly what my neighbor said when they caught him. It seems his bootleg septic system contaminated the local aquifer affecting the wells of no less than 7 neighbors.

That's dangerous stuff around here, since most disputes are settled with firearms. (Except for the itinerant population who settle things with machetes.)

- Jim Katen, Oregon (Rural)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my own defense, my nearest neighbor has always been at least a 1/2 mile from me for my entire adult life. I choose the rural settings and surround myself with land just so I don't have to worry about neighbors w/ machetes. The most threatening of my neighbors is an old guy w/ a table saw in his living room and has two cows living in a tarp covered portable building. His septic system is a 55 gallon drum w/ the bottom cut out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Jim Morrison

Terence,

You are smart to disclaim these systems as there is much more to inspecting them than you would think.

Jimmy

You got that right!!

I don't do 'em anymore either. I especially didn't like the taste test part. [:-knockout]

OT - OF!!!

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 years later...

I once knew a carpenter's helper who worked on a crew that framed a few houses for me. He did a stint in Alaska as an oilfield worker and claimed that "nobody" got permits up there. He swore that when the engine in his old van died, he got a buddy to dig a nice deep hole with a backhoe. In went the van, stripped of all interior bits and the engine, transmission and wheels. Sheet metal was screwed over the side window openings, and field lines extended out from there to create his new septic system.

Whether that's true or not, I don't know. But I could see someone trying it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SonOfSwamp wrote:

"I can tell you this: Once the digging starts, you've pretty much committed to rebuilding the whole system. Good luck."

Huh? No. Digging up a septic tank or cess pool cover and distribution box is not going to do any system any harm at all. It's part of the normal inspection procedure, -very similar to removing the cover from an electrical panel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Jimmy,

You know I love you, Cuz, and I wish you nothing but the best, but I think you could be biting off more than you can chew by dinking around with septic systems. They're a lot more complicated than they seem to be. Consider the information at the following link. I've got another link I've misplaced that has a powerpoint presentation; when I find that I'll post that as well.

I do think that we need to know as much as we can about how they are supposed to work and about the various modern types and options, and we need to have a ready list of competent septic contractors to refer folks to, but I tell folks from the get-go that I'm not going to uncover the tank but that they're bank is going to require the tank to be pumped and they should have an inspection done by the septic pro at that time. A few times folks have had the septic guy show up at the same time I showed up and those guys have opened up those tanks and pumped them out. Phewwwwweeey! - talk about stink, stank, stunk!

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dwq/pdf/insp ... idance.pdf

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to be clear:

Removing a septic tank cover is not a part of a normal home inspection procedure, but it sure is part of a normal septic inspection procedure. And yes, removing a tank cover is about as likely to cause harm as removing an electrical panel cover which is to say: next to impossible. That's coming from someone who has removed plenty of both. You speak pretty authoritative about it, so I'll assume you have as well. For those of you who might not have had the pleasure, it's (as Walter correctly points out, disgusting, but once it's dug up) remarkably easy. If you don't want to do it, then don't, but it's nothing to be afraid of.

Would someone please explain to me why a backhoe would ever kiss a drain field in the course of an inspection? Maybe that's a regional thing. Where I come from, anyone with more than a functional spinal cord who wanted to know the condition of the leaching field would snake it out with a camera, not dig it up.

I agree, it's not part of a home inspection, but to suggest to a client that inspecting the system involves digging it up and ruining it, sounds like a misguided and folkloric attempt at CYA to me. Saying something like that would do an HI and his client more harm than good.

"If you were concerned about it's condition, why didn't you hire someone to inspect your septic system before you bought the property, Mr. Morrison?"

"Well, counselor, I figured it would ruin the system for sure. In fact, my super-smart home inspector told me:

'I'm surely not going to open any hatches or dig any holes or trenches. I wouldn't even if I could. I don't know what's down there, but I do know that it involves an enormous amount of marinated feces. I am not the man for the job. I can tell you this: Once the digging starts, you've pretty much committed to rebuilding the whole system. Good luck.'

Maybe I have a lot to learn, but I don't do septic inspections either, so my standard disclaimer goes something like this:

"I don't inspect septic systems. If you're concerned about this one, you should hire an expert to inspect it for you."

Simple, I know, but effective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Jim Morrison

SonOfSwamp wrote:

"I can tell you this: Once the digging starts, you've pretty much committed to rebuilding the whole system. Good luck."

Huh? No. Digging up a septic tank or cess pool cover and distribution box is not going to do any system any harm at all. It's part of the normal inspection procedure, -very similar to removing the cover from an electrical panel.

Can I see a picture of the shovel you use to take a cover off an electric panel?[^]

That said, I had the misfortune of having to open my tank last summer. After an hour of digging I discovered that I had the wrong cover. Another hour of digging got me to the second cover and a nasty filter to clean off. It stunk, but not as bad you would imagine, almost sweet smelling. Marinating is good.

Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

Well, I found those other links - they were from the EPA and they were in my favorites cache. I really need to get all of that cache into the links on this site - it's gotten enormous since I first got on the internet in 1997. The first link is a PP presentation for educators and homeowners. I think it would be an excellent link to send to a homeowner who is planning to purchase a septic system and has the misbegotten impression that inspecting these is somehow part of a normal home inspection. Once they realize the potential complexity of these systems, they'll understand why home inspectors don't normally inspect them.

http://www.purdue.edu/dp/envirosoft/sep ... c/main.htm

http://cfpub.epa.gov/owm/septic/septic.cfm?page_id=271

http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/pubs/625r00008 ... 8chap4.htm

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jim,

I thought down in may-hee-ko they just run the building drain outside to the cliff's edge and let it fall.

I actually knew one house that did that into an old cotton-days erosion gully.

Then there was a frugal home-builder in the rural parts around here who borrowed a ditch-witch, ran about 200 feet of ditch with perforated roll installed, fed by a 55 gallon drum he sank in the ground.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

[brOnce the digging starts, you've pretty much committed to rebuilding the whole system. Good luck."

Just another oversimplification. Seen many leach fields opened by a septic inspector on a backhoe because it's down so deep. Guess they didn't have the camera.

Around here, a lot of septic system inspections are done by professional engineers. As a matter of fact, a lot of home inspections are done by professional engineers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Rightly or wrongly, I settled on the notion that a man with a 3-digit IQ ought not to be working in or around shizzle.

WJ

Well that's fine for you to say, Walter, but what about us 2-digiters? We don't think it's kewl either.[:-dopey]

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Originally posted by hausdok

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Rightly or wrongly, I settled on the notion that a man with a 3-digit IQ ought not to be working in or around shizzle.

WJ

Well that's fine for you to say, Walter, but what about us 2-digiters? We don't think it's kewl either.[:-dopey]

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Pardon my thickheadedness, but I've never given any thought to the two-digit group (snip) many of whom dropped out of school at 16 so they could get a job killing rats in the basement of the cotton mill.

WJ

Well, where do you think I learned to fear rats more than I fear death? [:-scared]

OK, 'nuff said, I'll let you all get back to talking about septic systems. I'm off to apply for a job as one of the President's new economic advisors.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A camera will not tell you a whole lot about the condition of the septic field only the condition of the drain tile.

There are four counties within a hour of me that require mandated septic inspections when the house sells. The inspections must be done by a contractor or inspector approved by the county and must be done to their standards.

In all cases, along with pumping pout the tank, several test holes must be dug in the field. They are looking for a thick, black, smelly, jelly-like substance called a biomat under the drain tile. If this biomat is present than the field is toast.

IMO there is no way to know what is going on with a septic system without a lot of digging.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark,

And when the biomat is forming, what do you find toward the end of the leaching lines? Water. Easily visible with a camera.

In MA, septic inspections are mandatory in conjunction with home sales.

They dig up the tank covers and distribution box cover.

They pump the tank and inspect the interior.

They also remove the D box cover and look inside.

And if they're doing the job right, they snake the leaching lines with a camera.

They also get all drawings, pumping info, and water usage info from the homeowners.

That, combined with a site inspection and the age of the system, gives you a pretty reliable idea of the condition of the system.

FYI: They get around $500 for all that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Jim Morrison

Mark,

And when the biomat is forming, what do you find toward the end of the leaching lines? Water. Easily visible with a camera.

In MA, septic inspections are mandatory in conjunction with home sales.

They dig up the tank covers and distribution box cover.

They pump the tank and inspect the interior.

They also remove the D box cover and look inside.

And if they're doing the job right, they snake the leaching lines with a camera.

They also get all drawings, pumping info, and water usage info from the homeowners.

That, combined with a site inspection and the age of the system, gives you a pretty reliable idea of the condition of the system.

FYI: They get around $500 for all that.

How long are they there doing that for 500.00?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...