Leach field failed.....again!

Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: steamup On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:05 pm

Pretty much every thing is correct. The pump out intervals should not be a big deal. Properly installed risers should be easy to scrape the dirt off and open. It cost me $260 last time to pump a 1500 gallon tank. Over a three year period that is cheap maintenance.

Pumping the tank may not be necessary on a three year or so basis, but changing the oil in your car may not need to be done regularly either. Since there is not odometer on your septic system, how far are you willing to go to save a few dollars and risk the damage?
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: Yanche On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:57 pm

Check the second link in my post on septic systems in a previous thread.

See: Garbage Disposal And Septic Systems

The link is repeated here:

http://www.carrollhealthdepartment.dhmh ... anual.html

It's from my local county health department. Gives illustrations of several septic system and describes how they work. Towards the end it describes how to make tools to check if your system needs pumping. I've copied that portion below:

Begin Quote:

How to Check Your Septic Tank

This can be done with improvised tools, one for checking sludge depth and one for checking scum level.

To check sludge depth, use a pole or 2x2 inch stud about eight feet long. Bind rough Turkish toweling around the pole for three feet from one end. Remove the manhole cover or clean-out hole cover nearest the outlet pipe. Break a hole in the scum layer with the pole. Press the towel end of the pole down through the liquid until resistance is felt. This is the sludge layer. Press the pole down through the sludge until the pole reaches the bottom of the tank. If the sludge depth is one-third or more of the liquid depth, cleaning is needed. Some authorities recommend cleaning when the sludge becomes one foot deep.

To check the scum level, use another pole or 2x2 stud about eight feet long. Nail a flat board about four inches square to one end. (The pole with the board attached should look like the letter "T".) Push the end with the board attached through the scum layer and move it to one side into an undisturbed scum area. Lift the pole slowly until resistance is felt from the square board contacting the bottom of the scum. Put a mark on the pole even with the top of the access hole. Next move the pole until you locate the bottom of the outlet pipe or baffle. Lift the pole so the square board hooks onto the bottom of the pipe or baffle. Again mark the pole even with the top of the access hole. The mark showing the bottom of the scum should always be above the mark showing the bottom of the outlet pipe or baffle. Cleaning is needed before the scum becomes deep enough to go under the outlet pipe or baffle.

End Quote
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:08 pm

steamup wrote:Pretty much every thing is correct. The pump out intervals should not be a big deal. Properly installed risers should be easy to scrape the dirt off and open. It cost me $260 last time to pump a 1500 gallon tank. Over a three year period that is cheap maintenance.

Pumping the tank may not be necessary on a three year or so basis, but changing the oil in your car may not need to be done regularly either. Since there is not odometer on your septic system, how far are you willing to go to save a few dollars and risk the damage?



I am not advocating that we avoid pumping. I am advocating the right measure of action at the right time. I wish I had known to pump it the first time and remembered to do it the second time. My father never pumped his (still hasn't) thus I never thought it was necessary until there was a problem. Now I know that's too late. There is however a method for determining when it is necessary but it's just not utilized as often as it should be because it's a dirty job, hence the interval pumping method. I just hope guess the right interval for their system!
Last edited by mikeandgerry on Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:13 pm

Yanche wrote:Check the second link in my post on septic systems in a previous thread.

See: Garbage Disposal And Septic Systems

The link is repeated here:

http://www.carrollhealthdepartment.dhmh ... anual.html

It's from my local county health department. Gives illustrations of several septic system and describes how they work. Towards the end it describes how to make tools to check if your system needs pumping. I've copied that portion below:

Begin Quote:

How to Check Your Septic Tank

This can be done with improvised tools, one for checking sludge depth and one for checking scum level.

To check sludge depth, use a pole or 2x2 inch stud about eight feet long. Bind rough Turkish toweling around the pole for three feet from one end. Remove the manhole cover or clean-out hole cover nearest the outlet pipe. Break a hole in the scum layer with the pole. Press the towel end of the pole down through the liquid until resistance is felt. This is the sludge layer. Press the pole down through the sludge until the pole reaches the bottom of the tank. If the sludge depth is one-third or more of the liquid depth, cleaning is needed. Some authorities recommend cleaning when the sludge becomes one foot deep.

To check the scum level, use another pole or 2x2 stud about eight feet long. Nail a flat board about four inches square to one end. (The pole with the board attached should look like the letter "T".) Push the end with the board attached through the scum layer and move it to one side into an undisturbed scum area. Lift the pole slowly until resistance is felt from the square board contacting the bottom of the scum. Put a mark on the pole even with the top of the access hole. Next move the pole until you locate the bottom of the outlet pipe or baffle. Lift the pole so the square board hooks onto the bottom of the pipe or baffle. Again mark the pole even with the top of the access hole. The mark showing the bottom of the scum should always be above the mark showing the bottom of the outlet pipe or baffle. Cleaning is needed before the scum becomes deep enough to go under the outlet pipe or baffle.

End Quote


Thanks for the link and the method, John!
mikeandgerry
 
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:28 pm

Update: The PE has finished his assessment and determined that the repair performed to my leach field in 2005 was undersized for the volume of effluent from the home ( I guess I am a big...hitter!). The original leach field was just a 40' 4" sdr 35 pipe. The 2005 "repair" was 160' of 36" infiltrator vaults. ( You would think a four fold increase in size with a two fold increase in use would have lasted more than six years). Also to blame was the septic tank, which is lacking baffling and compartmentalization, and infrequent (or lack of ) pumping given the usage.

Though I have not received the final plan, the "cure" is 250' of leach field using my choice of either the vaults or the traditional gravel filled trenches and, my choice of either the replacement of the 1000 gallon tank with a baffled two chamber 1250 gallon tank or the in-line addition of a 750 gallon baffled two chamber tank. The septic tank effluent will be pumped to a distribution box at a higher grade in a totally new field, thus a pump chamber and wiring are required.

Personally, I would prefer to repair the septic tank by installing a inspectable tee at the inlet (now missing), a baffling tee at the outlet (an improvement over the concrete baffle), and add a divider to compartmentalize the tank. I don't think the tank size was a problem and 1000 gallons is acceptable for a three bedroom in NYS. The leach field soil is a goner. That must be moved.

Not addressed differently by the engineer was water softener effluent. (Our water is very hard and we need one. I suspected that the brine was causing problems in the septic tank.) I wanted to divert it away from the septic tank either directly to the leach field or to a separate drywell. Unfortunately, the engineer brought it to my attention that, in NYS, ALL house water effluent is treated as sewage. There is really no such thing as graywater to NYS. Leach pits, drywells and the like must be sized and designed just like blackwater (septic) systems. There is an exception for water softener brine but it must be discharged 250' from any well, aquifer, or body of water. The frustrating part is that leach fields only have to be 100' from most water sources. The brine can go into the leach field via the septic tank, but not a simple drywell 100' away. I cannot find any evidence that placing brine in a septic tank "treats" it in any way. The only information I have found is the opposite, that is that brine can impede the treatment of black water in the septic system. Don't ya just love bureaucracy?!

So, any ideas on which choices of tank/leach field configuration I should make based on the engineer's recs? Any guesses as to the cost? I will get estimates after I decide and get the final blueprints.

BTW, the engineer got $800 for his services which included the perc test and other research as well as the plans with 5 copies.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: Rob R. On: Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:30 am

Mike, is it possible to dig out the old leachfield soil and haul in fresh gravel? It seems like a little excavator work is worth not having to install a "pumped" system.

As for the tank options, I have never seen a septic system with multiple tanks, but it sounds like a great way to bump up the system capacity and have some redundancy.

I already said my piece about the drywell…that needs to happen once everyone that “knows better” has moved on to the next job.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: steamup On: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:09 am

My recommendation is to contact your county health department immediately and review the options with the person in charge of septic system inspections. They offer advice for free and have the ultimate say in the installation.

Note that the Health department on this end of the state will no longer allow anything less than a 1500 gallon septic tank to be buried for new installations. No written documentation on this but all installations are subject to the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). They should let you supplement your existing tank with a smaller one.

By the way, the cost difference between a 1000 and a 1500 gallon concrete tank on this end of the state is only about $300.00 the last time I checked (its been a few years). Labor and excavation to install is about the same.

Don't get hung up on the softner. The PPM of salt in the water should not be that concrentrated to cause septic problems. If it is, then you would be going through tons of salt and you probably have a softner problem also.(my $.02).

My orginal septic system when I moved into my house was a home made septic tank of about 300 gallons and a pipe to a ditch for a leach system. The tank had never been pumped in it's life and the grass was very green around the ditch. Good thing I didn't have many neighbors.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:45 pm

markviii wrote:Mike, is it possible to dig out the old leachfield soil and haul in fresh gravel? It seems like a little excavator work is worth not having to install a "pumped" system.

As for the tank options, I have never seen a septic system with multiple tanks, but it sounds like a great way to bump up the system capacity and have some redundancy.

I already said my piece about the drywell…that needs to happen once everyone that “knows better” has moved on to the next job.


Because of my property limitations, restoration of the old leach field will not yield enough leaching space at that gravity flow grade. Pumping would still be necessary to achieve the required amount of drain field.

As you say, "after the fact", the old leach field, with some work, could become the "dry well" for the water softener brine. The old water softener was indeed malfunctioning and adding way too much water to the drain field, i.e. flooding the tank on two occasions. The new softener uses only 26 gallons of water and 6 pounds of salt to regenerate every other day with our usage volume. Most likely this will not be a problem to a properly functioning system but, I know that the septic tank does nothing to treat the brine. It can only cause problems to dump the softener effluent into the tank. I simply wish to bypass the tank on the way to the leach field (softener only). It seems like a logical solution that many "expert" sites on the internet suggest. Certain states consider that effluent not to be waste water but rather "regenerate brine is recognized and typically classified as a “salt-laden water, free of contaminant” and, thus, does not need to be discharged into biological wastewater streams."

http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/smart/pdf/sourc ... ckwash.pdf
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Thu Jul 14, 2011 1:06 pm

steamup wrote:My recommendation is to contact your county health department immediately and review the options with the person in charge of septic system inspections. They offer advice for free and have the ultimate say in the installation.

Note that the Health department on this end of the state will no longer allow anything less than a 1500 gallon septic tank to be buried for new installations. No written documentation on this but all installations are subject to the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). They should let you supplement your existing tank with a smaller one.

By the way, the cost difference between a 1000 and a 1500 gallon concrete tank on this end of the state is only about $300.00 the last time I checked (its been a few years). Labor and excavation to install is about the same.

Don't get hung up on the softner. The PPM of salt in the water should not be that concrentrated to cause septic problems. If it is, then you would be going through tons of salt and you probably have a softner problem also.(my $.02).

My orginal septic system when I moved into my house was a home made septic tank of about 300 gallons and a pipe to a ditch for a leach system. The tank had never been pumped in it's life and the grass was very green around the ditch. Good thing I didn't have many neighbors.



In NYS, the engineer's plan in a replacement situation can override the "authorities" and the rules if situational circumstances prevent following the rules. NYS law calls for a 1000 gal tank for my size home. Local rules can be more strict but not less strict than the state law. I will look into the 1500gal tank, it couldn't hurt. The engineer gave me the option of supplementing the existing tank with a 750 gallon tank.

The new softener will regenerate using 26 gal of water and 6 lbs of salt about every other day. See the link in the post to markviii above. It doesn't make sense to put any brine in the septic tank. It can only do damage. I believe it was contributory along with poor septic tank baffling and too little pumping. Our water is quite hard-probably in the 25-30 grain range. The Water Boss hardness setting had to be moved to 40 (not necessarily the grains of hardness. Exact hardness is unknown. Hardness test strips go off the chart) so as not to run out of soft water mid-day on the third day after a recharge. (demand regeneration, but set to perform at night only).

I appreciate all the advice.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: steamup On: Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:04 pm

mikeandgerry wrote:
In NYS, the engineer's plan in a replacement situation can override the "authorities" and the rules if situational circumstances prevent following the rules.


The engineer cannot "override" the AHJ. However, the AHJ will often except the engineers design (after review) because the engineer is liable for the design if something goes wrong. AHJ will require an engineers stamp on a design if special design is required because of situational circumstances.

mikeandgerry wrote:
Local rules can be more strict but not less strict than the state law.


Yes, very true.

mikeandgerry wrote:
The engineer gave me the option of supplementing the existing tank with a 750 gallon tank.


Not a bad option, talk to your contractor as to his recommendations and for pricing.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:02 pm

Perhaps "override" was a poor choice of words. It would have been better to say "bend the rules with care". But to me, it's an "override" of the hard state rules for new installations. I didn't think anyone would assume that a licensed professional engineer would jeopardize their license for a home septic system design fee. Nor would the LAHJ compromise safety. They have a responsibility to create a system that works safely and effectively within certain existing contraints. Sometimes the rules don't allow that gracefully. But in a situation where there is an existing home, the engineer will likely have considerable influence over the LAHJ. I did not intend to say that the engineer could or would run "roughshod" over the LAHJ.

In my situation, the engineer already "overrode" the state rules regulating distance from the adjoining property due to space limitations, but it has no chance of affecting the neighbor. The local guy approved that and also "overrode" the state rule regarding processing water softener effluent through the septic tank. He agrees that it compromises the biological environment and functioning of the septic tank and that it does nothing to treat that effluent. In a replacement or repair situation in my town, the real authority rests with the code guy who signs off on any plan, engineer's or otherwise. In my county, its the local town code guy who will inspect before covering. An engineering plan is not required for repair or replacement in my rural town. But, having had trouble twice, I went to an engineer. I have a stamped plan. The engineer was "ok" with the water softener effluent bypassing the tank but couldn't get the county health department to say whether it was "ok", so he stopped there. I got the code guy to say it was "ok".

I was also given the choice of 4" perforated sch40 over a 6" layer of 1-1/2" sized stone in the trenches, or vaults. I have chosen the pipe/ stone. The last time I chose the vaults. No stone was placed under them as it is optional. That leach system failed for many reasons but I couldn't try power jetting it and treating with chemicals because the jetter wouldn't work in the vaults. I want to go with the pipe in stone so that that option is available if I ever have trouble again. Personally I don't think I will have trouble again because we are addressing all the problems that could have contributed to the failure...but the best laid plans tend to go awry! I'd like your opinion on that too, steamup.

The cost of the smaller tank placed in series will save about $300 on the tank cost. But, the old tank needs modifications that will cost a few hundred dollars (baffles, tees, and relocating the outlet) but it yields a much larger capacity. In all, it's probably a wash. Which would you rather have? A new 1250 gal or a fixed up 1000 gal plus a 750 gallon in series? My house is not a candidate for any additions (no property space) so 1750 it more than needed.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: steamup On: Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:00 pm

The infiltrator leach system is designed for easier/cheaper installation with same results. Stone/pipe requires more careful placement and hence has higher labor cost. Either one works fine, the goal is to spread effluent over a surface area great enough to absorb the flow.

New vs fix up tank. Personnally, I don't like the idea of "repairing" an existing tank unless it is a minor modification. I didn't understand why your modifications to the tank included "baffles". Adding a second tank is ok but there should be no need to add baffles to the orginal tank. Avoid tanks that have plastic baffles installed. Make sure you buy a precast concrete tank with cast baffles. Watch out for plastic tanks as they can be a source of failure unless they are carefully installed.

Added extra capacity is a false sense of security. Don't forget it will cost more to pump 1750 gallons of tank in the future vs. 1250. Septic companys are charged a per gallon dumping fee, plus there is a limit on how much some trucks can hold. Check with a company that does pumping and see if the charge difference is anything to be concerned about.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:43 pm

FOLLOW UP:

They finally finished my new system today. As it turned out, my existing tank was only 750 gallons with one settling chamber, but did have good baffles (tank width and up to the top of the chamber). The tank had settled 4 inches at the outlet end which may have contributed to the outlet baffle being less effective (who knows?). We didn't dig up the old leach field and d-box to examine them for clues as to failure. I didn't want to pay for it. The engineer felt that the field failure was a combination of factors and non-committal on which contributed most. We tried to address all possible reasons.

They installed a new 1000 gallon tank in-line first. The tank was a two chamber with concrete baffles. I did add the plastic filter tee. The new tank flows into the old tank and then into a 50 gallon pumping station. The effluent pump will cycle about every 10 gallons or so. It is equipped with an alarm. The effluent is pumped upgrade about 8 inches to a d-box with 5-50' laterals (drainage field was doubled in size and re-located to new ground). I opted for the 4in perforated pipe in stone.

The county/town code guy allowed me to bypass the septic tanks with my water softener discharge. I had installed a separate 1-1/2" line directly to the pumping station. He was in full agreement with me on the water softener effluent and felt the state was wrong in its requirement. He likes the idea of separate gray water systems but will not allow a variance from state rules on those.

New water softener uses only 26 gallons per recharge. Fixed my leaking toilet. Looking for a washing machine that uses less water (currently have a speed queen commercial top loader-40 gallons per load. Yikes!) I am now on a two year automatic tank pumping schedule. I have to clean the filter tee once a year.

Estimate from digger was $9200. $800 for engineer. $500 for electrician, pump, alarm, and installation. Ouch!

Thank you everyone for all the help.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: samhill On: Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:40 am

As always nothing that money, more money & even mo money couldn't fix. But at least now you know & have a good system. Makes me want to get someone out here to check mine.
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Re: Leach field failed.....again!

PostBy: SMITTY On: Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:18 am

Wow that's not bad when thinking in MA terms. If that were my house, there would be a "2" in front of that "9" ... :shock: :shock: :shock:

Every time I hear of a septic failure around here, the numbers are between $25,000 & $50,000. Talk about an incentive to dump raw sewage in your neighbors backyard ....... :o
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