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septic tank question

Posted by madtripper 5/6 Guelph (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 12, 06 at 20:31

How do you know the contents of the septic tank are 'cooking' properly?

I have seen products to activate the septic tank, but we live full time in the house, so I expect it should stay active. But I don't know any easy way to tell that things are working OK.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: septic tank question

If your septic tank isn't backing up into your house via the bathtub, toilet, sink, etc., you should be ok. I use RID-X in my septic tank. It is a 1000 gallon tank and was put in in 1982 with no problems to date. Before the lid was put on at installation the plumber and I threw a dead rabbit in the tank to start the process (I live in the boonies).

The plumber tells me that the most important thing to do for a septic is to use toilet paper made for septic tanks. The next thing is not to put too much bleach or other harsh chemicals in the system.


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The only way to truly know is to have your tank inspected by a professional.


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We have a septic system that has worked perfectly for 26 years. We have cleaned it out 4 times and every 6 months put in a half a pound of chopped raw liver down the toilet.


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Everything a septic tank needs to process POO is contained in the POO. Things that can stop the process, and it takes A LOT of it are:

>Grease from cooking or washing tractor parts in the toilet.
>Excess soap/bleach/softener from laundry.
>Household drain cleaner like Drain-O used to excess.
>Disposing of large amounts of paint, thinner, oils, etc.
>Salt brine from water softener (I have not found this to bother my 1000gal system but it did contribute to the rusting out of the previous owner's two metal tanks)
>Flushing baby wipes or any similar products. When they say "flushable" they mean just that for the "city folk". Municipal sewer systems can pick that stuff out. Your septic can't tolerate it.

With the above it takes a $hitload of it to kill all the bacteria that make the tank work but even a "slow" tank is not good for a busy system. Every time you flush you are adding more bacteria. Depending on the number of family members have the tank pumped regularly, smaller the tank the more often it should be pumped. Your real enemy (not enema) is the floating material and the sinking material.

The floating material if too thick can get below the baffle* in the outflow pipe and those solids can clog field pipe and gravel. Make SURE your outflow baffle is present!!! Sometimes they will rust/rot off and fall into the tank. This is very bad for the system. The sinking solids if they build up to the outflow will also go out into the fields with the same result.

You can take off the top of your tank and inspect it pretty well if you know what to look for. Take a pole/stick and slowly push it through the floating material on top. You should be able to feel how thick it is by swooshing it around and seeing where the grey water begins. Judge it's thickness by how far down the outflow baffle goes. Thick enough to break off and flow out the pipe is WAY too thick.

Then probe the tank gently down through to the settled material solids. You need to keep this stuff from going out the outflow as well. I wouldn't leave less than two feet of water over these solids before pumping.

Once you pump the tank do the tests again in a year and you will have a per year fill rate and know how often you need to pump.

*The "baffle" is nothing more than an elbow attached to the outflow pipe and a short straight piece of pipe extending vertically into the tank a foot or so. This allows only gray water to go out to the field and keeps the floating material out of the pipe. Your tank probably has an inflow baffle as well but it isn't as important for the tank wellbeing as the outflow baffle. The inflow baffle prevents the water flowing into the tank from stirring up the surface material and letting it go into suspension which will take it out to the field. The entire object of the tank is to allow only bacterially treated water minus solids going to the dispersion fields.


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RE: septic tank question

I totally second what HydroHarold had to say. Those products you see on tv and in stores are designed for one thing. To make the manufacturer rich. They are not needed and neither is raw liver in any quantity. Both are a waste of your hard-earned cash.

Any meat you get from the store is alraady in the early stages of rot. People freeze or refrigerate meat to slow down the rotting of it. Once you eat it, the rotting process continues in your gut and continues when you expel it into the toilet and septic tank. It's bacteria that causes the rotting of all fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. Those bacteria are part and parcel with all food exiting your large intestine. Part of the rotting process is methane gas and we all know what that translates into.


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RE: septic tank question

Two separate septic tank services have told us to put a packet of plain old yeast in the toilet about once a month to provide bacteria for the enzymes to work. They say it's essentially the same thing as Rid-X, but a whole lot cheaper! Seems to work for our system.


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RE: septic tank question

The man who built our house lived in it for ten years, then i bought it. Hec said the septic tank was big enough for a motel, not to worry about it.
So, we didn't, for a long time. finally, on his advice, we got it pumped out. The fellow who came to do that was amazed by how large it was!! WE never had any trouble with it, and back about 8-10 years ago, the county brought the municipal sewer system to our back yard, so that ended the septic tank thing! It was a blessing in disguise, because i was going to have the fields dug up and relaid! WOOF!! Saved a ton of gold! Which we promptly spent to get connected to "city sewers!"


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RE: septic tank question

You need new septic services if they're giving out bad information.

Yeast isn't a bacteria and doesn't promote the growth of enzymes. It's a fungus that ferments sugar into carbon dioxide and ethanol.

Rid-x is anerobic bacteria that converts "solids" into "liquids".

They are completely different and neither is needed in a septic tank.


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RE: septic tank question

Rid-X every month-can't get any better-don't go for the high priced spread!


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RE: septic tank question

I tend to agree that there are lots of bacteria going down the drain and so there should be no problem. Doing the stick stirring thing is a bit of work since the whole tank is covered, but I might do it next time it needs to be pumped.

Agree with machiem about the yeast.

Thanks for all the advice.


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RE: septic tank question

I finally figures out the answer to this question.

All you have ot do is watch the grass over the tank in winter. If it melts before the rest of the yard, you know it is cooking.

There is some heat added when new water/waste is added since the house is warmer than outside, but I would be surprised inf it is enough heat to melt the snow. Most would be lost into deep soil.


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Your local septic installer will love you if you follow that rule.

Pay to have it properly inspected and/or pumped. You can spend a few hundred now or a few thousand later.


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I tried using Rid-X for three years after having my tank pumped. After the three years went by, I had the same people pump it again. There was very little floating solids. I told the person cleaning the tank that I had used Rid-X for the last three years (once a year). He said what probably happened is that the Rid-X turned the floading solids into sludge that ended up at the bottom of the tank. He then got out his long shovel to prove it, but the bottom was also clean. He then said he thought the Rix-X would convert the floating solids into something that would be fine and in suspension, and would get by the output baffle, clogging the fields. For that reason (right or wrong), I stopped using Rid-X. I can only say it appeared Rid-X did a good job, but I don't know what to believe after what he said. Certainly, the septic tank people would like to see you call them more often for cleaning. That is their income. As more and more sewers are installed, their customer base gets smaller. We have our 1,250 gallon tank pumped every three years. It is just my wife and I using it. Charles Ranheim


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RE: septic tank question

Redbird mentioned "toilet paper made for septic tanks". Exactly what type of toilet paper is this? I am confused and totally serious and thinking maybe we're using the wrong toilet paper. Could someone please elaborate? Paul F B


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RE: septic tank question

I read that we can plant banana trees directly over the septic drain field. Does anyone know if this is true?

Also, what about palm trees near a drain field?

Thanks for any advice!


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RE: septic tank question

My advice is that you plant nothing but grass over a septic field. All plants have roots that seek out moisture. Since moisture in the area comes from the pipes then roots are prone to infiltrate those pipes and cause problems.

Secondly, no tile field lasts forever. If it has to be redone, then say goodbye to the trees, along with an upcharge for clearing and disposing of them.

Thirdly, grass over a tile field expells moisture to the surrounding air. Sunlight hitting the grass increases the moisture loss. Trees put shade on the area thus reducing this effect and if the shade is heavy, the grass dies from lack of sunlight.


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Thanks.

The information I read says DO put banana trees on the drain field. The article was about St. Thomas, which is similar climate to here, and contained other advice to preserve the drain field. I think the reasoning was that the banana palms expired the water and the roots are shallow (although it didn't mention depth in specific).

We were thinking of the location for landscaping reasons (sight blocks).


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After reading your last comment, I went Googling on the issue. Apparently, banana trees are considered to be shallow rooted and there are references to them being used in the manner you inquired about.

I note that you live in a tropical environment which is vastly different to mine. I even found a short discussion about this on the Banana Forum here at GW and it was felt that no harm to the septic field would come from banana tree roots.

As such, I am modifying my previous advice but I would stick with the bananna palm as it is the only one mentioned.

Live and learn...... LOL


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RE: septic tank question

I have a septic problem right now, too.

When we bought our house (1998), the inspector said the tank needed to be pumped. Nothing else was done. It passed inspection (supposedly) at that time (after pumping).

We had backing up into the house and had the tank pumped in 2000. Since then, it has backed up/needed pumping every 12 to 18 months. But...usually, it is only when we do laundry that we have issues. It will back up (tub & shower stall). After that, we can flush, run water, etc. without problems/back-ups. It only backs up when we run our washer.

Do we need a new drain field (ours has plants on it, but no trees)? Would putting root kill in the distribution box "improve" our situation?

This is complicated by the fact that we were annexed from county to city a few years ago, so we anticipate sewer lines in the next couple years.

The septic companies we have used seem to say, "New drain field! New drain field!" However, one of the guys that did a pump-out said, "No way. You'll pay enough for a new drain field. To pay the conversion cost to sewer will virtually double that cost. Just pump it once a year".

I do "treatment" every six months or so. I just did a treatment 2 days ago for "slow/sluggish" systems. But of course, wife did laundry this morning & it gurgled back up into tub and shower. When it drained, it gurgled & took water from toilet bowls (as usual).

It's me, wife and daughter. Daughter DOES tend to be heavy on paper disposal, and sink and tub drains do seem to collect her hair! Wife has a laundry addiction, mainly due to the kid (17 years old), but other than that, we don't put oils, fats or corrosives down our sinks & toilets.

Is there even a "right" answer, here? Or should we get (yet) another opinion?


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RE: septic tank question

Essentially, you have no real history about your septic system. It may well be just as old as the house and you did not mention when it was built. All septic tile fields have a lifespan. If they are looked after well, the lifespan can be long. If abused, the lifespan is short.

A septic system is designed in accordance with the square footage of a house and the number of water-using appliances that show on the original plan.

My guess is that your tile field is on its way out. The purpose of a tile field is to dispose of the water that is forced out of the septic tank by new water coming into the tank. Your field is choked with who knows what, to the point of not being able to handle the high volumes of water used during a washing machine cycle. Minor flows from a toilet, kitchen sink or shower are ok at this point because individually, they don't overload whatever capacity the tile field still has.

Over time, the existing capacity will continue to diminish until it reaches the point where you cannot even flush a toilet without a back-up happening instantly. Putting those silly chemicals into the tank is a waste of money. Pumping your tank is also a waste of money too because all it does is buy your septic field some time to dissipate the water that is in it. If you have a 1000 gallon septic tank, then pumping it dry simply creates a space for another 1000 gallons of waste water from your home.

As soon as your sinks, toilets and washing machine puts another 1000 gallons of water into the tank, then anything more than that must flow to the septic field. In essence, your septic tank has become a holding tank, just like boats and RV's use.

There are things that you can do to help yourself out.

1. Consider purchasing a front-loading washer. They use far less water than a top loader does.

2. Consider the possibilities of re-directing the discharge water from your washing machine so that it dumps out on your property somewhere or out to a ditch.

3. If you know where the lines in the septic field are, then next summer you can dig down to the end of one of the runs and dig a pit a couple of feet deeper than the bottom of the pipe. Try using your garden hose turned on full to flush that pipe run out. Push the hose up the pipe and see what comes out. At the very least, it should give you some idea as to how blocked the pipe are. You could also uncover your distribution box, pump it dry and then use a snake to try and clean out the lines. It's a s h i t t y job but perhaps it's the only CHEAP answer to your dilemma.

All of the above are about buying you time until the sewers arrive. The less water you put into the tank, the less of a problem you are going to have. This is NOT about the solids and light-than-water items that enter the tank. This is about the volume of water that you put into the tank during a 24 hour period and the inability of the septic field to dispose of it in a timely manner.

If you had a pipe blockage in the house, then pumping the tank would not solve the back-up problem. Based on what you posted, your problem is beyond the tank itself.


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RE: septic tank question

My field is about done but 3 yrs ago it really messed up so the old fellow that has a backhoe dug up both ends and we took a garden hose with one of the cheapo plastic ends that converted it to high pressure and ran it thru the lines lots of black gunk came out and it worked good for the past three years but I am going to do new sand this year I think. Up here you are not supposed to touch the field unless an engineer does a study on it.
regards
rod s


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RE: septic tank question

I have had my septic tank for 32 years and take good care of it BUT I did a really stupid thing. I am using non-flushable baby wipes for an irritation problem and today accidently flushed one. Its the only time I have done this and I panicked. Flushed in down the ground level toilet. What is going to happen and what can I do?

Tx

Terri


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RE: septic tank question

if it did not clog the drain, nothing will likely happen. it will still be in the tank next time you pump it. the baffles in the tank will keep it from getting to the field. and even if it did 1 wipe ain't gonna hurt that bad.


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Looking to see if anybody can answer the question about
Septic Toilet paper?
I think I once saw a brand in a health food store. "Green Paper"
Do Supermarkets sell them?
thanks


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bertman, ALL TP is green. it is designed to break down in water and will break down in a very short amount of time. anyone who tells you different is either an idiot or trying to make you waste your money with them, or more likely both.


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I pretty much agree with DnK.

The only thing I can think of that might make the manufacturer/marketer not be a con is if they the making of the TP was more enviromentally friendly. Something like reduced chemicals, bleach used in processing.


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RE: septic tank question

This is a useful forum, thank you for the information. My question also relates to washing machines. We have a septic system at our cabin, with a 750 gallon tank and a field that is 10x20 size. The ground is basically all sand not just in the field but everywhere. We have (in 3yrs) never had a problem, and the system is probably at least 15-20 years old. We would like to add a washing machine to the cabin - assuming we follow the guidance on using as little water as possible, and the right soap, lint limiting, etc.... are there any minimums on tanks or field size that we should be aware of?

thanks.


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Cabin - country - septic? - grey water >>>

Here is a link that might be useful: Grey water


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RE: septic tank question

I have only recently found out just how importaint it is to look after my septic tank, soak away, and grey water drainage field. My check book has a few checks missing and there are some pretty hefty numbers involved...
1. My septic tank has worked well for years. No problems. Pumped it out once last year when it backed up and ONLY because my wife dropped baby wipes down the loo on a daily basis. Naievely we didnt realise it would be a problem. Well it was. A few years worth of baby wipes was a significant build up. Even the guy that pumped it out couldnt believe the hard "crust" maybe 10-12 inches thick that was basically babywipes, broken down TP (like a paper machee block) n poo. The baby wipes stopped the TP from breaking down and the whole lot was a big thick brick in the top of the tank. Since we took out that yuk stuff, we have not had a problem.
I only run the toilets into the Septic tank at the advice of my engineer. the septic tank has its own drainage field. My grey water runs off to another drainage field at the other side of the house... Thats where my money pit was.....
I was NOT advised to fit any kind of trap to catch solids running to my soakaway (this is where I fked up), I ran all my grey water pipes (including rain water from the roof) straight to the field with only a couple of inspection gulleys for good measure. Who could have thought there would be solids from the kitchen and laundry...?
Recently, I found problems with drainage during heavy weather. Sinks backing etc... Long story short, the drainage field blocked up with a nasty grey/white matter... Grease, washing powder from the laundry, human hair and kitchen sink waste from what we could determine... a nasty smelly concoction I never want to deal with again... ever.
My pristine manicured lawn had to be ripped up and new trenches laid. If I were to quantify the grey matter, I recon it was maybe 500lbs of stuff we got out of the original perforated pipes that were laid in the drain field.

TIP: If you can... for laundry, use washing liquid instead of washing powder if you are not on a sewer system.

I installed a new system with a grease trap (basically a holding tank with an output baffle like a septic tank system...) this tank will catch any stuff that goes down the drains. Effectively I now have 2 septic tanks, one for poo, one for grey water & waste.
I also have plenty of ways to clear out the pipes in the drain field and easy access to the grease trap for clearing without taking a machine to the sod again... My lawn is now horrible and ripped up but it will be fine again.


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RE: septic tank question

That's the advantage of the "country" ... just run it out to daylight, someplace out of the way. No tanks, minimal expense. It's basically harmless.


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RE: septic tank question

Toilet paper that's ok for septic tanks usually say so on their packaging--two that I know of for sure are:
Angel Soft
BJ's Wholesale club's brand.
Our tank is small--I heard around 500 gallons.
It was pumped a year ago before we bought our house as part of the deal. They had to get rid of some tree roots in the line.
We don't know where our leech field is--there's a patch of thick green grass near where the septic tank is--is that it?
Also we can hear running water in the back yard where there's some stones (just outside of that patch of grass) & we can see some rusty pipes--our neighbors said that those belong to an old french drain & to ignore it, but I'm not sure.
We have a washing machine (top load)& a dishwasher--so far no backups--knock on wood! I would love a front load, but they are expensive!
In regards to an earlier comment where the guy's tank was backing up due to his washing machine--if you pipe out the washing machine water to some other drain or your yard & the local authorities or inspectors find out--you'll be in BIG trouble! Before we bought our house the prev. owner had the sink drain directly to the sump pump--which drained into the yard (at the time) the bldg/house inspector came & said that it was illegal & it needed to be hooked up to our septic drain. So they did that.


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RE: septic tank question

After 20 year our septic system failed. A baffle on the outflow of the tank had broken off and allowed solids to enter the drain field. By the time it was discovered, the field was shot. Updated state regs prohibit the installation of a conventional drain field in our area--oh sure, I could have surreptitiously dug a new field and no one would have been the wiser. However, if we ever sold the house, the septic system would not have been code and the installation of a new system could be made part of the sale agreement.

So, I bit the bullet and had an aeration system installed. I had the old tank pumped, a new baffle installed and then that tank runs into the new aeration tank which discharges the waste water onto a hillside. There is NO odor from the discharge, and the discharge is supposed to be 90% pure. Hah! I'll bet.

The cost of the aeration system was about the same had I hired someone to have dug a new drain field. Now I know my system conforms to local and state codes for our area.

During all this I read plenty of research and learned: dumping dead animals, yeast and other beneficial chemicals in your tank is a waste of time and money. The bacteria present in human feces is plenty to get the job done. Pouring bleach and powerful cleaners down the drain will alter the bacterial balance in the tank, but I would think that situation would be temporary unless one dumps those bacteria-killing chemicals down the drain on daily basis.


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just for an example, my house has 2 tanks. one serves ONLY the kitchen sink/dishwasher and the washing machine. it gets a couple doses of bleach per week, yet the only problem we have had with this tank was 30+ years of grease build up. the previous owner died inthe middle of our purchase and his son flat out lied about a few things because he was mad he had to sell the house or give back several thousand of our expenses. he told us the tank was maybe 5 years old and concrete, it was original to the house and steel. seems that someone just loved to pour their grease down the drain, the lines fromteh house and the tank itself were hard packed full of grease. even though the tank is 1000 gallons, it had only about 100 gallons worth of room for liquid due to the grease. the pumper had to use a shovel to break it up, and it was not easy at all. anyway, he told me that as long as we did not pour a gallon of bleach a week down the tank it would continue to work as desired with nothing added to it. the only waste other than water that goes down this one is the occassional bowl of soup or rotten veggies that go downteh disposal. and those are only if my empties them, i take it out to the compost heap.


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RE: septic tank question

I plan to put two front loading HE washers in my laundry room to cut the time we spend doing laundry. What advice can you provide regarding my septic system. Will this damage it. The house is 2yrs old and we lived in it for 1 of those two years.

We use RIDX once a year.


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RE: septic tank question

front loaders use less water than a top loader, if i remember correctly less than half the water. so your system should already be sized for the volume of water they produce. your drains in teh laundry may not be though.


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RE: septic tank question

As to what toilet paper can be used with a septic tank: Take a handful of toilet paper (the amount you would usually use), put it in a quart jar and fill the jar halfway with water. Shake it up. If the paper breaks up reasonably easily, it's safe for your septic system. As to laundry: less water is better so don't use more water than you need for the size of your load. Use liquid laundry detergent instead of granular; some of the granular detergents, esp. the cheaper brands, may use fillers that can contribute to clogging your septic system. Try to spread our your laundry loads over the week instead of doing multiple loads in one day; that will help the septic system to handle the large amounts of water that the washing machine generates.

The biggest issue, though, is grease. NEVER put grease down your drains.


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RE: septic tank question

Take a look at the website below as it has a wealth of information on septic tanks, soakaways, do's and don'ts, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Septic tanks and sewage treatment plant system information


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First off..... this was a LONG DEAD THREAD so there was no valid reason for you to play hero and drag it out of the archives, was there?

Secondly.....the link is to a site in the United Kingdom, AKA Britain. What is legal in one country is not necessarily legal in another. Factually speaking, rules and regulations regarding septic systems can change from Province to Province, State to State and even from one municipality to another municipality within the same Province or State.

You need to find a way to utilize your spare time more constructively than trolling the archives looking for a way to try and impress people.


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Komp: Dude is there some History Here ? Not like you to go off ?


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RE: septic tank question

ewalk,
The only "history" is not with this poster per se' but rather with "posters" who seem to take great pleasure from trolling through the archives for the express purpose of bringing ancient history back to the first page.

What the heck for? 9 times out of 10, the guy who orginally asked the question doesn't even read here anymore. He came here looking for a TIMELY answer to a problem he HAD one, two, three or four YEARS ago and then moved on.

Once upon a time, there was a guy called LB-59 that did the same thing on the tractor forum 'till he finally got booted. You would see seven or eight long-dead threads suddenly appear on the board all because he had some inane comment to make about what someone said in each thread.

To me, it's absurd. The problem was covered at the time it was RELEVANT. If someone has a similar problem, then start a NEW thread and allow the members here to deal with the facts that surround that issue. Leave the old posts where they belong.........they are in the archives to be read as reference material. If you can't find an answer to your problem there, then there is no point in dragging useless material back to the first page.

Rant over.

K


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RE: septic tank question

Oh ok 10-4 , Thanks for the explanation Bro !


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RE: septic tank question

There are usually signs that things are not working properly I would go to this website: http://www.biosafeone.com/treatmentguide.html
This company totally saved my failing drainfield it would have cost me $35,000. If I hadn't used Biosafeone products I would have shoveled out alot of money to a contractor. Do not be stressed just follow my advice their products work awesome. You will not be dissappointed trust me. Hang in there. You'll love this company and yeah don't buy any immitations either I tried those they don't work get the real mccoy my strongest advice. Take care. Your septic friend. Steve L.


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RE: septic tank question

To have the best chance at Passing the New 2011 EPA Drain Field and Nitrate Level Inspections; which are happening across the Country with as little as a 2 weeks notice; Use the All-Natural http://www.MillerPlante.net "Septic-Helper 2000" and the Phosphate and Nitrate Free "Enza Washer Ball". The Septic System Treatment has the natural bacteria and enzymes that liquefy the waste in the tank AND out in the drain field.

New 2011 EPA mandates say that even a slow drain in your drain field or elevated Nitrate levels could require replacement of your entire system for $20,000 to $40,000 or move out of your home or business.

Septic System News - http://www.Twitter.com/MillerPlanteInc

UN Agenda 21 (Sustainable Development) - http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/res_agenda21_18.shtml
US Clean Water Act - http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/cwa/03.htm
EPA TMDL (Nitrate Limits) - http://www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/

Here is a link that might be useful: MillerPlante.net


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RE: septic tank question

I'm bumping this old thread because it has been very useful to us. We have septic for the first time, and this thread has opened our eyes.

I found septic friendly TP yesterday at Big Lots. We had the entire system checked, and everything is good.

This thread is so hidden, it should be brought up now and then for newbies to septic.

Suzi


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