Septic System questions

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by Smith333, Nov 29, 2008.

  1. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    I cleaned my filters for the first time today, 6 months after installation. The filters for the most part were still clean, and pretty much evenly used. There was grey stuff coating the bristles which washed off pretty easily.

    What concerned me was a ring of solid-looking grease-like material, about 1/2" to 1" thick, that covered (as best I could tell) the entire cross sectional area right at the water surface of each filter. It took quite a bit of effort to clean this material off. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures.


    Is this the usual mode of failure with these types of filters? Does anyone with experience with the Simtech filters know how thick this "ring" has to get to cause an actual blockage?
  2. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    That sounds to me like grease, and I have never had such a ring on my filters. Do you cook with a lot of Crisco? Either way, grease needs to be removed from pans and dishes before they go into the sink.

    In order to "fail" as you are meaning that, the entire top of the filter covering the diameter of the outlet must do its job well enough to not let any water through.

    Over enough time, that *could* be a place where your outlet becomes blocked by sludge saturating the lower ends of your filters. If that begins to happen, you will likely see some indication of it on the ends of your filters when you check and clean them.

    Your filters have been protecting your drain field, and now they have let you know you need to do something about keeping grease out of your septic system ...

    Nice work, eh?!
  3. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Thanks for the reply, I'm not sure what to make of the "ring" now. We do use some grease for cooking but are always sure to wipe out the pans before washing. The inlet to the tank still has the orginal U-shaped fiberglass baffle, the bottom of which isn't quite as low as the bottom of the new outlet T-baffle so I'm not sure how grease is able to migrate into the outlet. But at the same time I don't know what else could make it past all of the filter bristles all the way to the top of the filter.

    I should probably add too that we only use about 600 gallons of water per week and the tank is 1000 gallons.
  4. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    I didn't tell quite the whole story of my filter cleaning experience. I actually dropped one of them in and wasn't able to retrieve it until today (talk about fun!). There was still a piece of the "ring" I was talking about attached to it, so I took a picture. It seemed to be a little thinner than the ones found on the other two filters. Does this look like grease? The top of the filter is just to the right of the picture.

    [​IMG]
  5. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Strange. Maybe one of the experts here will know what that is ...
  6. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Today I cleaned my septic filters for the first time since last November. All 3 were about equally "soiled", and none of them had the black disk at the very top of the exit point that I found last year; this time it was a very thin multicolored flexible disk that washed away easily. I noticed however that the general exit region was much darker in color than the rest of the filter and seemed to permanently stain the filter color. Does this look pretty normal for these kinds of filters when dirty?

    [​IMG]
  7. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Considering the fact of sewage discharge being called "black water", I would say they look just fine! I moved a few months ago and have not seen mine in a while, but I think they were only slightly lighter (indicating only a difference in fresh-water supplies).

    Since you have three fingers going out into your drain field (as I recall), you might consider blocking them off one-at-a-time in a 6-month rotation. Along with the filters keeping the chunks out, that should help keep your drain field working well for a long time. Just be sure any foam ball or whatever else you might use if you do that absolutely cannot slip on down the line and plug it permanently.
  8. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Installed many a system, engineered, pumped, static, switched. Maintain many. Finishing one today.

    Lee said the inordiniate elevations of the leach field inlet lines might be okay. That is not good advice unless you have a set of engineered plans with a "switching" distribution box spec'd in. That entire fake D box has to GO, [okay on edit I see a reasonable quick solution]

    But I would have had a real D box set in a base of concrete installed, or a huge bed of compacted gravel. Nice cast d box here is only $40 with a lid. Quite smaller than that mess you have [ had] now, and square.

    Real D boxes come with adjustable 4" solid drain pipe entrance caps [spin adjust] . Or you may adjust inflow with careful trimming of the inlet nipples with notches. You should convert that junk flex pipe OUTSIDE the box and bring solid nipples inside, and make sure all lines are fed EXACTLY the same. Do careful observation and an adjustment after a few frosts.

    I believe you can exclude the lint and sediment as an issue, unless you have a garbage disposer. If you have a split chamber tank, and a correctly set "T" shaped outlet line, and no disposer, I find after repeated tests that a 1200 to 1500 gallon tank can go 5 to even 10 years before sediment starts to get deep on the bottom. If you have the money and LOTS of kids, every three years is overkill but safe.

    After 35 years of perhaps everything hitting one line, that field can be totally bio-slimed to a point where nothing will percolate properly, especially in wisconsin. The installers were obviously not pro's.

    VERY RARE to need a filter unless you are pumping into a pressure sand bed filter with small distribution lines, with a short standard leach field on outfeed. Filters on standard systems are not needed or wanted by our septic inspector, and he really watches the D box, even checks them for level. Bad d boxes kill systems. Mine all have easy access risers and lids for quick and do-able inspection.

    You are on the outside anyway for septic systems at 35 years.... so say some engineers.

    I do like your multiple filter set up - good idea, but it might be a few decades late. And who wants another chore mucking in the Sh*&^ every few months. Enough trouble comes my way without having to pay for and install it.

    Sorry for the hard line, but eventually you might need to muck out and re-gravel that over-used field. And you probably know this, but master plumbers in [at the least] California dont know a whit about septic. They give special licenses for that.

    Good photos and information here altogether...

    On edit - saw you are using only 600 gallons a week. If the installers used that junk pipe and that fake "D" box, without leveling the pipes, Sherlock says they also cheated on trench depth, length and gravel.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2010
  9. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Thanks for the replies. They do things here a lot differently than California. All septics installed in Wisconsin after 1986 are required to be pumped every other year (regardless of number of occupants), and within the past 10 years they now require filters in all new systems.

    That said, our system (1000 gal, single tank NOT split) has never given us problems except for the rusted-shut line that fed the D-Box which was replaced last year. This includes a period in the 1980's when 4 adults and 3 kids lived in the house and the tank wasn't pumped for at least 8 years. The lowest drain field line coincidently has an inspection pipe and small chamber at the end of it, which has never shown the slightest evidence of moisture reaching the end of the line (which is why I haven't tried blocking it off yet). Our septic guy (20+ year MPRS) said this type of system (shoddy materials and all) was common in this area during that era and many continue to work fine with the right soil conditions, which I guess we have.
  10. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    The county or state requires the absurd 2 year pumping? They must not have an enforcement system, if they ALSO require filters. I know Wisconsin well, and a lot of guys on septic are not letting the Gov' into their yards.

    With good soil, an old buick buried just right can last 35 years as a decent septic system. Got a few around here.
  11. liplumber

    liplumber New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    It's pretty tough to determine how long the filters will last without cleaning/replacing them. A cesspool service suffolk county that I use told me the same thing that basically everyone here is saying. You can never really be sure.
  12. Smith333

    Smith333 Member

    Messages:
    108
    It's been over two years since we had our septic repaired (and last pumped), and I've decided to open the access hatch to the distribution box and see how things are going. I was (very carefully) able to take some pictures of the three corrugated pipes that leave the distribution box and carry the effluent to the leech field, and I'm wondering if there is any usefulness of these pictures in predicting how extensive the bio mat may be? Considering these pipes are 37 years old, they look practically brand new. Granted, this only shows the first few feet of the pipes, but wouldn't they tend show the most buildup if there was an impending bio mat problem?

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2011
  13. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Not really, but you might try looking for a high-water mark inside your distribution box to see whether they have ever been completely full (backed up). Biomat typically happens when salt hits clay soil and causes hardpan, or else when tanks are not pumped regularly and solids begin flowing out into the field. With your system being that old and still working well, I would guess you just need to keep taking good care by pumping your tank every couple of years.
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