How to locate septic transport pipe? (pump chamber to mound)

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WayOutWest

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Hi, I need to figure out the exact path of the ~125-foot transport pipe running from my septic system pump to the mound. Is there a trick for doing this?

Sadly there are no as-builts, the engineer who designed the system in 2007 is deceased, and the drawings are pretty vague about the transport pipe. The drawn path is only approximate and it appears that the pipe runs to the other end of the mound (installer may have rotated the mound 180 degrees). I dug carefully by hand around the pump chamber and found where the pipe emerges, but I can't hand-dig like this the entire length of the pipe -- it would take me days to do that. And I can't use machinery because I don't know where the pipe is.

Unfortunately I need to put a gravel driveway perpendicularly over some segment of the transport pipe. I know this isn't ideal, but otherwise I have no vehicle access to 70% of my property. I have no idea what the original owner was thinking, I guess he thought that land was just for hunting or something. He didn't even bother to replant after it was logged! The county strongly advises that I "double sleeve" the part of the transport pipe over which the gravel driveway will pass. I'm waiting for them to provide more specific requirements regarding the sleeving. Any suggestions here would be very welcome. It looks like this will require cutting the pipe in order to add the sleeve... if there's any alternative (even if it costs more) that would avoid that I would really appreciate it, because cutting the transport pipe almost certainly means re-permitting the entire system, and the inspectors are backlogged like you wouldn't believe.

Incidentally, if anybody can recommend a contractor for this job, I would be quite grateful. This is is Grays Harbor County, WA, near Humptulips. Everybody I've called so far says either (a) they don't do anything related to septic or (b) they only do large commercial stuff, no residential. Obviously I am calling the wrong people.

Many thanks,
 
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Reach4

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There are pipe locators where a probe, called a sonde, is pushed down the pipe on a snake.

A topside locator picks up a signal.
 

WayOutWest

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There are pipe locators where a probe, called a sonde, is pushed down the pipe on a snake.

A topside locator picks up a signal.

Ugh, I was hoping there was something simpler. The pipe into which this must be pushed is, literally, full of sh*t. Also I'm not thrilled about having to cut apart the pump chamber piping in order to get the probe in there. There's a filter upstream of the transport pipe, so simply flushing something and waiting for it to get pumped won't work.

But I guess it beats digging a 125-foot trench by hand.

I will spend another few days hoping for some magical trick :) Or a contractor referral.

Thanks for your reply!
 
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Reach4

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Ugh, I was hoping there was something simpler. The pipe into which this must be pushed is, literally, full of sh*t. Also I'm not thrilled about having to cut apart the pump chamber piping in order to get the probe in there.
If that is true, you need a lot more than locating a pipe.

Normally the pipe from the septic tank to the leach field is mostly liquid.

From a durability point of view, solid schedule 40 pvc pipe that is dual-rated for pressure and DWV is stronger than other pipes used for home sewage.

Click Inbox, above.
 

Jeff H Young

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whats throwing some gravel down going to hurt? the line is barely beaneath surface?
 

WayOutWest

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whats throwing some gravel down going to hurt? the line is barely beaneath surface?

Most building permits around here require a septic inspection. Even if the new building isn't connected to the system they get to inspect it if the "vehicle access path" from the public road to the new building crosses over or "near" any part of the system, including the transport pipe.

So I gotta dot the I's and cross the T's.

It's also the right thing to do. We have a very very high water table around here in the winter, any kind of septic failure creates problems real fast. My well is uphill of my septic and all my neighbors, but that doesn't mean I get to be an asshole.

Assuming that is a straight line, you know the path pretty closely, don't you?

Yeah, I think that's the plan. There are large river-stones everywhere, so probing for the pipe isn't going to work. Fortunately when it rains, hard, it's extremely easy to dig by hand. So if I wait for a good powerful storm (we should have a few more before summer) I can dig the whole thing by hand in a day. I'll get soaking wet, but it'll be done.

So seems to me you could dig a trench across that estimated path. https://terrylove.com/forums/index....pply-from-the-street.92728/page-2#post-671616 has a cool tool dealing with deeper paths. I suspect a couple of guys with narrow spades would be cheaper.

Ah, yeah, that's a hydro-excavation rig. Our local electric utility uses those all the time anytime they have to dig. It's awesome, you can make huge holes in the ground with zero damage to buried fiber optic cables. Unfortunately it's pretty expensive unless you're digging a lot of deep holes -- they charge a fairly steep fee for the "truck roll" just to show up. I live way out in the middle of nowhere (for a reason!)
 
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PlumbNuts

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My sewer camera has sonde locater on the head that transmits a signal that I can locate with my handheld recevier. It is very accurate and the reel is 200' long. I know you said the line is full of crap but if it is liquefied crap the camera can go through it; might not be able to see anything but can still locate.
If you cannot find a drain cleaner that has one and can come to you perhaps you could rent one.
 

Reach4

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My sewer camera has sonde locater on the head that transmits a signal that I can locate with my handheld recevier. It is very accurate and the reel is 200' long. I know you said the line is full of crap but if it is liquefied crap the camera can go through it; might not be able to see anything but can still locate.
If you cannot find a drain cleaner that has one and can come to you perhaps you could rent one.
WayOutWest , do you have a cleanout that would accept the camera with sonde? Fishing the line trough port on top of your tank and then around a baffle of unknown construction would make it hard enough that people are not going to take that on.

So now that you have dug down to the upstream side of the pipe, consider adding a cleanout with a wye or combo. To get the right flex couplings to insert the combo, you will want to measure the diameter carefully. Schedule 40 is 4.500 OD. And a plumber who does sewer work will be plenty able and willing to do that if the pipe is accessible.

I think un-shielded couplings are OK for this buried stuff.
 
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Jeff H Young

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dosent seem he concidering a location service, that leaves 2 options 1 dig by hand 2 dig by machine.
 

LLigetfa

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dosent seem he concidering a location service, that leaves 2 options 1 dig by hand 2 dig by machine.
I don't know why you say that. The OP asked for recommendations for a contractor.

If a locator is not available, a long steel snake and a metal detector might suffice.
 

Jeff H Young

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I don't know why you say that. The OP asked for recommendations for a contractor.

If a locator is not available, a long steel snake and a metal detector might suffice.
yes he did ask that. but theres no contractors in the area he said just big commercial. dont know what else he has going on work wise mentioned a building permit . if he going to have a backhoe up there anyway might be good way to locate it. plus he mentioned could dig by hand in a day
 

WayOutWest

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plus he mentioned could dig by hand in a day

Turns out that was overly optimistic. As I started digging a bigger and bigger hole more groundwater came in, and eventually it turned into a mud-hole.


WayOutWest , do you have a cleanout that would accept the camera with sonde?

No, the cleanouts are upstream of the tank. The order of components from upstream to downstream is: house, sewer pipe, cleanouts, first tank, second tank, pump chamber, transport pipe, mound.

So now that you have dug down to the upstream side of the pipe, consider adding a cleanout with a wye or combo.

Hrm, maybe, but the cleanouts would need to be able to withstand the pumping pressure. This is a pressurized system: there is a pump in the last tank that drives the water through the transport pipe and into the mound. The cleanouts I see on my unpressurized sewer line wouldn't work; the pump would blast the caps right off of it. Do you have some other kind of high-pressure-tolerant cleanout in mind? I've never seen one.

And a plumber who does sewer work will be plenty able and willing to do that if the pipe is accessible.

Yeah, I guess I should explain something about contractors in Grays Harbor. Our county contains roughly half of Washington State's Pacific coastline, and most of its beach towns. Two types of people own property here: normal people like me, and millionaires from Seattle who want to be able to say they own a beach house, even if they only visit it a few times a year. Guess which kind of homeowner the contractors like better? During a building boom like right now the first question the contractors ask you is "what area are you in". If the name of your area does not include the word "beach", "ocean" or (best of all) "seabrook", the answer is "too busy". Sad reality.
 
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WayOutWest

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Halp!

Unfortunately I dug myself into a really deep hole here. I feel like the guy in my avatar image.

Called the county and they assured me that no permits are required to work on the transport pipe -- only need permits to work on the tanks, pump, or drainfield. I realized that I would need to cut the transport pipe anyways, and was renting a 36" trencher to bury fiber optics and add a curtain drain, so I said "why not just switch off the pump and cut laterally across the area where I know the transport pipe is, and watch for PVC shards to come flying out of the trench?

Well shards came flying, but not many, and I don't see any pipe remnants in the trench. The water table is about 24" below ground (this is why we all have pressurized mounds here), and I don't see any sawed-off pipe in the upper 24" of the trench. I definitely cut the line though -- chunks of PVC came up, and I could smell the pump tank odor in the trench -- there was probably a gallon or two in the pipe when I made the cut. I cut two trenches, about 12 feet apart, at the edges of the section that must be reinforced, which the road will pass over.

So now I no longer have a functioning septic system. I've probably got four or five days of toilet-flushing and very short showers before this becomes a crisis.

The worst part is that I desperately need to find where the pipe enters the mound, since I need to re-connect to that. I know exactly where the pipe leaves the pump chamber, and do not mind at all digging a completely new trench and installing a completely new transport pipe -- with the trencher it is actually very easy, I love that machine. I know where to trench *from*, but not where to trench *to*. And the general area at the base of the mound where the transport pipe enters is the worst-drained part of the property -- it's so bad in fact that I couldn't even trench over there to improve the drainage -- trencher got stuck twice, and I spent over four hours fighting with high-lift jacks to get it out. Bringing machinery, even tracked, into that area is very risky. It's like quicksand, but made of mud. Quickmud.

I may have screwed myself here. Now that the line is cut, fishing things through it from the pump chamber is no longer helpful. Even if I fish something in from the pump chamber, that'll only show me where the old transport line encounters the first trench. But then there's another 12 feet to the second trench, which is where the transport pipe enters the drainfield -- that's what I need to find. I tried pulling off the caps on the drainfield but all I see beneath those is squirt-hose (on the wrong side of the drainfield) and packed sand for the soil/sand observation ports (on the side of the drainfield where the transport pipe enters). Nothing I can insert a fishing probe into anymore. There is no "d-box" on the engineered septic plans, just some tees to the three fingers of drainpipe.

PS, as penance to the septic gods I bought a spool of underground locator tape (like the phone+power companies use) to bury along with the new transport pipe. This problem will never, ever happen again on this particular septic system. I cannot understand why the county issues permits without requiring that tape in the trench.

PPS, current plan is to rent a "trash pump" to try to temporarily bring down the water table around the trench. Hoping the sawed-off pipe end is just below the waterline and I simply can't see it. Cross your fingers. Any better ideas would be very welcome.
 
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Reach4

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Just ideas--

Do you remember where the shards started flying? I wonder if the probe would work there. I guess you are pretty confident that the pipe is below the ground water level.

How about making shallow, and then progressively deeper passes nearby, and watch carefully where you are. Cutting only the top half of the pipe this time might help.


Your idea of a trash pump sounds good. I was wonder about getting both chambers pumped. Add fluorescent dye and water to the last chamber, mix, and pump. Look for the for the color in the bright sun or UV light.

Too bad you cannot pressurize that one chamber and blow air. Or disconnect the pump output and blow high volume air into the transit pipe.
 
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