Re: Septic drainfield problem?
Posted by More on October 07, 19100 at 23:57:55:
In response to Re: Septic drainfield problem?
: This is probably very wordy but I thought as many details as possible will help in answering my question/situation.

: I live in suburban Atlanta in a home I had built 13 years ago and am on a septic system. I have a 1,000 gallon tank with 300' of drainfield laid out in "serial" fashion, one continuous trench with 3 different levels. I never had any problems until 4 years ago, all of my plumbing backed up and I immeadiately thought it was time to have the tank pumped. This was done the next day and again no problems until 2 weeks ago I noticed what appeared to be effluent surfacing in my yard at a point that appears to be at the very end of the drainfield based on my recall as well as looking at a drawing I obtained from my local county health dept..

: I examined the rest of the yard along the rest of the drainfield route back to the tank and saw no evidence of any other surfacing along the way. I called the pumping contractor I used 4 years ago and he came out the next day. He also inspected the drainfield area and found no other evidence of surfacing. His opinion was that the situation told him that most likely my drainfield was saturated rather than clogged otherwise the effluent wouldn't make it all the way to the end of the line and that there would be surfacing in other areas.

: I explained to him that there only 2 adults and 1 5 year old living in the home and according to our county water bills we use an average of 6 to 7,000 gallons of water per month with most of that going down the drain. He didn't think that was an abnormal amount of water and that the field should be able to handle that with no problem. We have had a severe drought problem this summer so I don't think excessive rain could be the culprit. He first suggested that I pump the tank again which he did at that time, 10 days ago. He said that would give the drainfield a few days to dry out some but suggested that I keep my eye on the spot in my yard after a few days. Sure enough, 9 days later, effluent is again surfacing at the same spot, although not a tremendous amount but I want to remedy this problem right away.

: The pumping guy also pointed out to me that the level in the tank was several inches higher near the top than it should have been which indicated something slowing the outflow. Also, he mentioned that a good bit ow water flowed back into the tank from the outlet as he was pumping.

: Before he left he said that if the problem showed up again there were a couple of remedies to correct the problem. His preference was to install a large seepage pit at the end of the existing drainfield although he mentioned that in recent times our county people frowned on this method. He said the county would prefer that a couple of hundred feet of additional be installed which would completely destroy my backyard. My entire lot is sodded and I keep it like a golf course. I can't bear to think of the mess I will have to get back this way. Of course, the large pit would do less damage.

: My question is,what could have suddenly caused this situation after 13 years with no changes re load on the system? I have always been very septic concious, no grease or other problem liquids down the drain, etc..Any ideas for the correct remedy? I have read about the Terralift procedure and wonder if this really works? Thanks.

Thirteen years is a long time between septic tank pumpings, but if you keep your yard like a golf course and water thirty minutes per day every day, you may be hurting yourself by saturating the disposal field. When you don't pump the septic tank every five years, bacterial sludge builds up in the primary compartment and seeps into the secondary compartment. From there it can seep into the disposal field and clog the pores of the earth which are supposed to act as the tertiary disposal area. Your pumper is correct. You might put a seepage area at the end of the disposal area to minimize the lawn damage, but the engineered design of your system with 300 feet for a 1000 gallon septic tank indicates that the soil has a very percolation rate. Your building department can tell you what the rate is for your home. A normal percolation rate for a home in sandy loam is 30 gallons per hour (times a 100 foot leach line is calculated at 5 square feet per foot or 500 gallons of water waste disposal capability per hour) If you had to install three times that much, your soil probably has a very high clay content. Clay soil swells up and closes the air pores when wet. If you water the entire area above the leach line, you may be saturating the soil. A simple test is to place tuna cans along the area of the leach line and measure how much water per day your sprinkler system is placing on the sod surface. A simple solution might be to change the hours you water the lawn from early morning to late evening. If you water early, then the clay soil swells up then you and your wife and child shower (using 30 gallons of water each) and flush the toilet (another 20 gallons and brush your teeth another (5 gallons) all the water would run through the tank and probably straight through the leach line to its end. Try watering at night after your evening constitution. The clay soil will still swell up, but will have the nine hours you sleep to percolate and dry out. Ask your pumper about installing an air breather at the end of the disposal field to help dry out the disposal area, and to evaporate out some of the heated water vapor.

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