HELP pressure testing underground water line

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by idontwanttobeaplumber, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. idontwanttobeaplumber

    idontwanttobeaplumber New Member

    Hi, I'm new and have an urgent question. I recently purchased a seasonal cottage to fix up and enjoy. We had the owner replace the septic system with a new one after we discovered that it actually drained into an old well:eek:, but thats another story. The contractor who installed the weeping bed dug up the area exactly where the water line is located. He dug up lots of old wiring and water line by the time I had got there and already had most of the hole backfilled. The water is turned off at the road, so he wouldn't know if he hit the good line or not. My problem is that I have to know if the water line has been damaged before the closing date next week. I can't have the water turned back on until I install a shutoff in the mainline, but I can't touch the plumbing yet, since I don't actually own it 'til next week. I'm worried that once the lawyer pays the installer at closing, we'll never get him back to repair it if it's damaged. If I can get permission to pressure test the underground line will this tell me if I have a leak between the house and the curb shutoff? I have a gauge and adaptors but I'm not sure if the soil around the pipe would be enough to hide a leak, if there is one. How many psi and how long should I stare at the gauge for? Help .........Forgot to add that the line is black plastic pipe. It looks to be that thin stuff (100 psi?) you buy in coils.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2008
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    This is really a legal question, but yes it would be possible to test the underground line if it is shut off at the street. A guage and an air compressor at the house end, with fittings, would do it. The soil backfill will not hide a leak if one exists.
  3. that makes my stomach churn

    I am sure you have probably lost sleep worrying over this
    one already

    If you can get access to the inside of the home and the water meter is shut off on your side of the pit.....

    all you need is the air compressor and fittings to
    pump it up with air....

    should hold 75 bls for at least 10 minutes....
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Actually, you only NEED 5 psi to check for a leak. Either it holds it or not. Increasing it to 100 psi for an hour or so will tell you if it had been damaged to the point where pressure would cause it to fail.
  5. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    I'd like to know how you learned that a septic system was draining into an old well?

    And how do you see this water line problem the responsibility of the septic guy?

    Do you think he could have put the leach bed somewhere else? Or that he should have dug around the cable and water line without disturbing them?

    Me thinks you don't know of or understand the regulations and codes concerning the installation of septic systems. And now you want to go on the property and do things you have no right to do, or IMO even ask to be allowed to do. You should have negotiated a lower purchase price and done the septic yourself.

    You can't tell the pressure rating of pipe by looking at the wall thickness unless you've looked at quite a lot of pipe but, a hint here, city water doesn't have a power cable or other wire run with it. You're probably seeing the old well stuff. And for a cabin on a well, 100 psi is just fine in many cases. It depends on the pump and geology in the trench.
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    And as an aside, unless he was told that the water line was there, and given some indication of exactly where, there would be no way he could avoid damaging it if he contacted it. AND if it were damaged, someone would have to pay to repair it, other than the septic contractor.
  7. economy is getting tough, I can feel the stress

    seems like everyone lately on this site is really
    trying to nit -pick the DIY fellows... I noticed the
    trouble thrown on another fellow wanting his plumbing system critiqued today too....

    like everyone has to run a guantlet to get an answer
    without an insult

    perhaps it is the economic times we are crashing into

    or is it a Full Moon tonight??.

    basically , you have not bought the property yet...

    you still hold all the cards and you can insist that
    this issue shoud be addressed before you put down your hard earned money...

    why not just be an a-hole and threaten to hold back 3 grand at the closeing unless they prove everything is ok to your satisfaction?????.

    holding back money always makes things get done ...
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    Where I live, you can't dig until you get (here they call it DigSafe) a company out to mark any hidden water, gas, electric, etc. lines.

    But, basically, you don't own it yet. Upon purchase, it should be intact. Won't the utility turn the water on? There should be no usage, since nobodies in there. In a week, if it was leaking, it would be obvious, probably in a couple of hours if big, or a day or so if not.
  9. idontwanttobeaplumber

    idontwanttobeaplumber New Member

    Thanks for the advice everyone. Since I can't see all of the responses on this post I'll try to remember them.
    We discovered it was draining into an old well because we had a clause added to the sales contract that he "must produce the permit". When he kept stalling, but assured us it was legal, we called the inspector directly (public information) and inquired about the permit. We were told it only had a holding tank permit issued in '97. Since the inspector was now aware of a problem, the owner admitted the illegal system and contracted a new system. We did not have the price reduced and install it ourselves initially, because a system could not be designed until the perc tests etc, were done and there was still a question as to whether or not a regular bed could even be installed because of the proximity to the lake, water table, soil conditions etc. To make a long story short, the system was installed, the tank was able to be reused with the addition of a divider. The contractor and the inspector both missed that it didn't have a divider in the tank and I was assured it did. Only after I stuck a digital camera into the access lid and snapped a pic with the flash on, did they admit I was correct. It's common knowledge that "holding tanks" don't need to be 2 chambered, and it wasn't. The system cost was $6000. The contractor then started to get the runaround about getting paid, and I agreed to pay for it myself at closing and the price of the cottage was reduced accordingly. This avoided having a lien registered against the property in case of a bounced cheque.The owner lives in the U.S., so suing him would be a losing battle. The installer was aware that the city water was there as well as the gas, and underground hydro service, and chose to try and miss them. The property is only 46' wide. If he missed or not, can only be decided with a pressure test. If he had of hit the live hydro cable, well:eek: .I'm not sure how I can be "doing something I have no right to do" if I have permission to do it? The pipe entering the house is the thin stuff, we commonly refer to as utility pipe around here. It is not the thick walled municipal pipe that is commonly used for town water. All you have to do is squeeze it between your fingers when its not under pressure and its pretty simple to tell the two apart. Although I can't tell you the different colour stripe designations any more, the thin stuff is obvious compared to municipal pipe. This thin pipe is also what was dug up out front. It's not uncommon around here to tie the municipal line to the old well line to avoid punching a new hole etc, into the house. Is it a good idea, no, is it done, yes. The wires that were dug up were not supply cables for the pump, but an older underground service, maybe 1/0 AL (can't remember exactly) from a demolished building (?) on the site. As far as I know we also need locates before digging around here, but because it is a different municipality, I will confirm. If the line was damaged, it is on the "unmetered" side( meter at house) so I'm sure whoever supplies the water to there will be anxious to have it repaired. I can install a new line myself for probably under $500 including, pipe, trencher rental, etc. But why should I spend my precious time or one penny to clean up after somebody that is too lazy to use a hand shovel. For $6000 you have to expect to do a little work. As far as I could tell, he used about 1 load of filter sand, 1 load of 3/4 stone (not even washed, as required here), maybe 250' of 3" perforated pvc (capped at end of runs) and had less than 15 manhours (including a helper the first day) and his hoe ran for maybe 2-3 hours. He didn't supply a tank, and I had to help him install the homemade 3/4" plastic divider. He didn't even have to truck away the excess dirt as he had planned. If i have to legally "eat the cost" of a new line, so be it, but if I don't have to, I won't, PERIOD. As far as holding off paying the owner. He has now met all of the conditions we had stipulated in the contract, and as far as I'm concerned, it is no longer his problem. Although he has proven himself to be a liar and general PIA, he has made good on what was asked of him. The sale was basically "as is" but for a couple of clauses I added, as this is a "fixer upper". I paid according, and I am happy with my purchase. ...... I'll let you know how the pressure test goes, assuming I can get permission.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2008
  10. jar546

    jar546 In the Trades

    This sounds like a complete clusterf^%# of a deal.

    If he had a permit for a holding tank then you don't have an absorption area because a holding tank is a sealed unit and the only way anything leaves a "holding tank" is when it is pumped out. He may have had a permit to replace the septic tank also known as a "solids" tank but probably not a holding tank. They are expensive to have and decrease the value of the property because they constantly need to be pumped.

    Sounds like you are in Canada and they have their own variation of electrical, septic and building codes so good luck with your project.
  11. idontwanttobeaplumber

    idontwanttobeaplumber New Member

    Without boring anybody else with a long answer. :rolleyes: A septic tank without the divider was used as a holding tank. How this passed inspection is a mystery. The tank was able to be reused with the addition of a divider. According to what I have found out (quite a paper trail), a bed could not be installed at that time because of that "old well" that was still being used. For whatever reason, they chose to do it this way. If they had of hooked to the municipal water first (was available at road) a proper system could have been installed at the time. It looks like the whole mess was an attempt to save a few thousand dollars, that ended up costing them a lot more. I attempted a pressure test, WITH THE OWNERS PERMISSION, and it was impossible to get a good seal because of the freezing temperatures (stiff pipe and frozen gauge) and limited access in the crawl space. The contractor *has agreed* verbally that if the line was damaged he will repair it. He wants me to rely on his word, and I truly wish I could, but we will be putting it in writing if he wants to be paid. When spring roles around it will be a simple matter of testing it and finding out for sure. If I was a little younger, I'm sure I could do it now, but oh well, as long as I have an agreement, it can wait for warmer weather. Thanks for the help! PS I apologize if I somehow offended anyone by doing my own plumbing, but I do everything myself, and don't see that as a bad thing. At the end of the day, if it works properly and passes inspection, I think thats all that matters. My current home was built entirely by myself. I brought the hydro in from the road by myself and started digging the foundation with a hand shovel. Plumbing is entirely by me, as are the foundation and footings, electrical, drywall/insulation, framing, roofing, window and door install., brick and block work......... well you get the idea. I had a friend with a power trowel:) help with the basement floor, and 2 friends help put up the trusses. Other than that it has been all me, alone, and my wife when she's got a minute. I have passed all inspections, with only 2 infractions, as of yet. They were , height of meter base (easily corrected with 6" of dirt) and no warning tape in the electrical service trench. That one stung a little since I had to re-dig a 600' long trench to the mid point (about 2 1/2' deep) by hand again just to drop in the warning tape, that I completely forgot about :eek:. The inspectors seam to be a lot more fussy when inspecting an amateurs work (can't blame them), so I think I've done well, and am proud of that. Again I apologize if I ticked anybody off by asking what may have seemed like a stupid question, but that's how I've learned most everything I know, by paying attention to details, and asking questions. I'm not a rich man, so if I make a mistake, the money comes right out of the grocery budget, and that's no lie. Thankyou for taking the time to help, all the best.:)
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