Septic Tank Drain Line Failure

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Brando913, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Brando913

    Brando913 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    ga
    I have a 1000 gal septic tank thats about 10 years old. I have it pumped about every 3 years. I picked up a drawing and plat map from the county which shows its a 150' single chamber drain line.
    Problem: This past year its backed up a number of times, makes gurgling sounds, and I've had to pump it twice in the past 6 months. There havent been any obvious reasons for the drain failure other than maybe more water usage than previously. With teenage kids, the washing machine and/or showers seems to run constantly.
    I dont have any soft spots in the yard near the drain field or anywhere along where the drain line runs.

    Septic Co says I need to add another 50' to the chamber. They didnt scope the line or anything...just said to add on to fix the problem. Is there a way to trouble shoot this to get a better idea of the cause?
    Ive read about Biomat...Is this a possible issue? Are the commercial shock products (NT-Max, Biosafe-One, etc.) effective at all?
    Any ideas on how to definitely trouble shoot the problem?

    If the line has failed due to putting too much water thru it this past year or from solids blocking it, what is the best course of action to fix this? Are there any fixes short of replacing drain field or adding to it?

    Any knowledgeable suggestions or information would really be appreciated.
  2. Hackney plumbing

    Hackney plumbing Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,174
    Location:
    Alabama
    Limit your water use. Change all the showerheads to low flow and see about installing a field line just for the washing machine. If you have any leaky faucets or toilets they must be repaired.

    I had a few customers that added a field line just for their washing machine and their troubles are over. Try letting the system dry out some by not washing clothes at home for a couple weeks.

    Always follow the plumbing/health department rules....



    Goodluck to you.
  3. Brando913

    Brando913 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    ga
    Thanks for the reply Hackney.
  4. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    A one bedroom house around here needs 200' of drain/ gravel or infiltrator chambers. 400' is not unusual. If you have any clay in the soil, it has been recently found that the chambers fail in about 3 to 5 years, so we are all back to rock and pipe again. Also the tank is small, and yes, your lines are short. But perhaps you have blockage somewhere if your field is not moist. If you have chambers, dig down and make a hole in the top - see if they are filled. I always installed view ports on my systems.

    NONE of those elixers work - just like "marvel mystery oil" so forget it.

    Go under the kids sink [all sinks] and turn down the valves so they get only a trickle, then take the handles off. When they ask what happened, tell them the pressure regulator is acting up. A teen girl can use 60 gallons of water to brush her teeth and scrub her makeup while talking on the phone. What they can do in a shower with a hand held head, would be enough water for a village in India for a week. Also, turn down the temp on the water heater! That will shorten up a shower very quick.
  5. Brando913

    Brando913 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    ga
    Thanks ballvalve...Im in Georgia so we definitely have clay in the soil. I'll check the chambers to see if I have a blockage somewhere.
  6. wondering

    wondering Member

    Messages:
    106
    Do you use a top load or front load washer? What kind of detergent do you use? I had a similar problem a few years back. I had it pumped and then before long it would be gurgling again, always when the washer drained. The gurgling would be at different places--say the kitchen sink--but when the washer drained. I had never had this problem in years and had always used powder detergent. Had switched to All Free Clear detergent liquid because of sensitive family member. After months of this switched back to powder Tide and the gurgling went away. Havent had a problem since. Some here might say this couldnt be it but I know what "fixed" mine. SO I just wondered what you use. You hear so much about what to use/not use that liquids have animal fats or oils in them, then you read that powder wont dissolve. I just know for some reason the powder give no problems.
  7. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    If you have clay and chambers, and your local or state health dept has not figured out yet that they reliably fail in a few years, they better get on the ball.

    I did 3 or 4 chamber systems, but when I drop a rock in the inspection port, its just a swimming pool. They seem to bio-slime up and without rock to make interstices in the sidewall of the trench, just work VERY slowly. Mine are likely still working because they have 250 to 400 feet of chambers, and little water waste.

    Interestingly, septic engineers do not calculate the BOTTOM of the trench at all into leach area. Its all sidewall, so that big 3' wide bottom on a chamber has no value. When I dig a leach trench, if its 18" or 24" or 36" wide, the LENGTH, amazing stays the same. So every one uses 18" buckets.

    And I think the fatal flaw in chambers is that all of the "sidewall" area is really fill, and gives no true connection to the sidewall of the trench. A good septic guy will use forked teeth on his bucket and "scratch"
    the sidewalls to get rid of the glaze created by a straight sided bucket from digging into clay. Its all in the details, as usual in life.

    You need more than 50 feet, but I would not use chambers...and I would run 100' of rock and pipe adjacent to the chamber line. Question is how MUCH clay is in your soil. If you sieve the earth and can make a snowball with it, better tell your septic guy to read up on chamber failure.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,132
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    In our area, we can only dig down 2 feet and have to raise the other 3 feet of bed. When I built my home, the septic field contractor took the 2 feet of clay that he dug out and piled it around the perimeter of the hole. He also used too fine a material for the sand mantle. When I complained to the contractor, he said it passed inspection and that was good enough for him.

    The sand mantle was first put down and then narrow trenches dug for the field pipe. The bottoms of the four 50 foot trenches had 3/4" stone put in. The field saturated the first Winter after we moved in.

    I complained to the inspection department and a different inspector came out. He listened to what I had to say about the original install and then took core samples that confirmed it. The inspection department tried to get the contractor to remediate the install but the contractor claimed that I removed the material and replaced it with the clay they found in the core samples. I eventually settled out-of-court with the inspection department's insurance company.

    I hired another contractor to remove all the clay and sand mantle on two sides of the field (300 yards) and add two more 50 foot fingers of field pipe. Rather than just put 3/4" stone in narrow trenches, they covered a much larger area with 1-1/2" stone. Now I have 300 feet of field pipe and no more problems. I had to make up the $1000 difference between what the out-of-court settlement was and what it cost me but I didn't want to drag it out for years.
  9. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    I have done pressure dosed sunken beds - only about 6 feet deep and 8x12 feet size. Line it with epdm rubber and tie into a short 50 or 80' leach line. graded sand layers and gravel - 2" pipe manifold drilled on a specific pattern lays on top of it all and the pumped effluent has to have a specific pressure. Its just a big sand filter, and the outlet water is already 'clean'. Seems like a much more compact and efficient system than those giant raised beds.

    But you get as many systems as there are septic engineers in the phone book. And the failures are usually from the wife that washes everyones clothes after 1 hour of wear time. I can get a week out of a pair of jeans.
  10. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,132
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Ja, there are many regional variations. Don't blame the clothes washer... it's the displaced city folk that think they can flush anything and everything... cig butts, tampons, condoms, paint thinner, flushable kitty litter!
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