Buying a house, may have a septic tank problem - please help

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by caliskier, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. caliskier

    caliskier New Member

    Messages:
    7
    All, I am buying a house and am looking for information so I can make a decision. I do not know a lot about septic systems but have done some internet research and have made several calls to different septic service companies. I came here because I am getting conflicting information. Here is the background...

    1. House is 29 years old
    2. Owner bought it 4 years ago and stated he did not have it inspected or pumped since he lived there
    3. It is unknown if it has ever been done
    4. I had it pumped for an inspection. They said "it was solid, no liquid, sludge has run up in the lateral lines, but the tank itself is good" I did not see it before it was pumped.
    5. They recommend cleaning the lateral lines, which they said their company would do.

    The conflicting info:
    1. The leach field has lighter and darker shades of grass, which I was told is an indication it is working fine. But someone else said it means water is percolating up vs down and it is not working fine. I noticed the grass color before I knew about the septic and it looked to me like he had a clever mowing technique almost like professional baseball fields. The coloring difference is not super drastic. I do not care about the color, just it's indication of the system working or not.

    2. Some say you can't clean lateral lines, they break too easily. If you attempt to clean them they are just going to get damaged. Some say you can do it, it's flushed out and taken away no big deal.

    Currently I plan to have the homeowner clean the lateral lines before I take possession of the house. But what is the risk here with doing that? And is the grass coloration normal and an indication of the system working properly? Trying to protect myself, what am I getting into?
  2. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Sludge accumulates at the bottom of the tank, not at the top, so maybe they meant to be saying the crust had been growing into the drain field. Either way, however, it sounds like the tank might need a deflector or output filter to keep that from happening. The goal is to keep both the sludge and the crust inside the tank while allowing nothing but water into the drain field.

    You might have a failing field that can no longer saturate down. Something that might help there could be to add a second drain field and use an A/B valve to switch between them every year or two and let the dormancy work for you. Overall, you might want to be cautious about moving a larger family and septic load into that house than what is presently there without first knowing you have a plan for updating the septic system.
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