Drainfield problem

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    • #278699
      Avatar photoAnonymous

        I have a problem that I would like to see if anyone has an opinion about. I live in suburban Atlanta, GA in a home I built 13 years ago with a septic system.

        I have a 1000 gallon tank and 300′ of drainfield which snakes around my front yard and terminates on the side of the house toward the backyard. As background, I never had the tank pumped until the house was 9 years old and on that occasion the plumbing backed up into the house, showers, tubs,etc. I had the tank pumped the next day as I assumed that was my problem. I have had no other problems since then until about 2 weeks ago. I then noticed water surfacing in my yard at about the point where my drainfield terminates. It appears that this septic effluent based on odor and the fact it is at the end of my field according to my memory and a diagram I obtained from my county health department from when the home was built. I called the septic contractor I used 4 years ago and he came out 2 days later to look things over. He walked the area of the drainfield and found no other surfacing of effluent along the line which he said was more of an indication that my drainfield was saturated and unable to absorb water fast enough opposed to the line being clogged. He felt as though effluent would be surfacing in other areas as well if the line was clogged. He suggested first pumping the tank again which he did at that time. He said that would give the drainfield a few days to dry out. I have been watching the spot in my yard since he pumped again and 9 days later, effluent is again surfacing at the same spot!

        Two adults and 1 5 year old live in the home and according to our monthly water bills, we use 6 to 7,000 gallons per month with most of that going down the drain. The pumping contractor said that was not very much and the drainfield should easily absorb that volume unless there is a problem.

        When he pumped the tank 10 days ago, he pointed out to me that the liquid level in the tank was higher than it should have been which told him effluent was not flowing out as it should which certainly indicated a problem of the field not accepting the water. Also, he said a good bit of water flowed back into the tank as he pumped.

        He explained that the best remedy, if the problem occurred again, which it has, would be to install a large seepage pit at the end of the existing drainfield although he said my county frowned on this as they would want me to add more traditional field into my backyard which of course would destroy my yard. My entire yard is sodded and looks like a golf course and this has me sick! I would prefer the pit he described as that would do less damage.

        I am curious as to why all of a sudden I am having this problem. I have always been very septic concious, watching what goes down the drain. No grease or other problem products. We even had a serious drought in the area this summer so saturation from rainfall is out of the question. My front yard is fairly level with slight slope from curb to rear. Any ideas as to my problem? Also, would this Terralift procedure I have read about be something to try first? I don’t know if that really works but I’m told costs around $1,500. I would hate to spend that then still have to spend about $2,500 for the seepage pit anyway which the septic contractor estimated.

      • #299091
        Avatar photoJohn Aldrich1

          BDozier, I responded to an inquiry from Richard McClung regarding a similar problem that you are experiencing. You can read this response by scrolling down the list on this Bulletin Board, and clicking on “Response to Richard McClung’s Inquiry”, dated Sept. 26, 2000. I recommend that you follow the advice that I gave to Richard.

          I have tried the Terralift Process on 2 failed leach fields here in Colorado. Both applications were initially successful in that the sewage effluent elevation in the leach field receded dramatically in a very short period of time. However, both systems failed again in about 6 months. In my opinion the Terralift Process provides only temporary relief to the problem of leach field failure.

          Constructing a seepage pit at the end of your existing leach field is also an installation that will provide only temporary relief, not to mention that it is also not an approved method in your jurisdiction.

          Proper septic system maintenance, an effluent filter in the outlet tee of the septic tank, risers to the ground surface over both access manholes to the tank, and alternating leach fields with monitoring/ventilation ports are the key factors in the design of a permanently sucessful septic tank/soil absorption system.

          Another discussion that relates to this issue is titled “EEE ZZZ LAY DRAIN”, an inquiry posted by Paul Canalizo in March 2000. The last response was posted by me on October 3, 2000. This posted response has a ‘flaming toilet’ next to it. There have been 9 responses to the original inquiry, most of them were submitted by ‘yours truly’ in an effort to enter into a dialog with Mark Hooks, an on-site system regulator who was ‘offended’ by my remarks, or any other regulator, regarding the issue of minimum design standards for permanently sucessful septic tank/soil absorption systems. To date, not Mark Hooks, nor any other regulator has chosen to respond to my invitation to have a discussion on this issue. I will continue to post to this original inquiry until someone responds to my invitation.

          If you have any questions regarding your specific system problems please post them on this forum so that other readers can benefit from the knowledge gained in this dialog. JWA

        • #299092
          Avatar photoJohn Aldrich1

            BDozier, after reviewing your very detailed, and complete inquiry, I found that I did not answer all of your questions in my response.

            I think that the reason for surfacing effluent at the end of your leach field trench is that a biological clogging mat has grown to a thickness sufficient to reduce the percolation rate of the effluent through it, to the point where the application rate of the septic tank effluent is greater. When this condition occurs the effluent backs up into the septic tank, and surfaces on the ground through the path of least resistance. The soil at the end of your leach field trench just happens to be the path of least resistance.

            The thickness of this clogging mat is what controls the performance of the leach field. The mat consists of microbes, microbial slimes, Ferrous sulfide (an iron compound created in the digestion process in the septic tank), organic material that has escaped the septic tank, and suspended solids which also have escaped the septic tank. Some of these suspended solids are indigestible by the microbes in the leach field.

            In order to have a leach field which will function properly indefinately, you must provide the ability to “rest” 1/2 of the leach field for an extended period of time(1 year). The food that sustains the clogging mat, and makes it grow must be withheld. The effluent from the septic tank is anaerobic, and so the Ferrous sulfide will not be oxidized unless the clogging mat become unsaturated. Ventilation ports to the atmosphere are important so that the air that replaces the saturated condition upon alternation of the sewage flow will have a maximum oxygen content. It is also important to change the environment to an aerobic environment so that the aerobic microbes will consume the other constituents of the clogging mat. The clogging mat, and the soil below it, never dry out. They just become ‘unsatureated’.

            This is my best shot at explaining the situation which I believe exists at your leach field. JWA

          • #299093
            Avatar photoKen Zoeller

              “300′ of drainfield which snakes around my front yard” Question are the latertals in “serial failure” or are they in parallel, out of a D-Box? If they are in “serial failure”(the lines are in a line in series)get ready to mess up that good looking back yard and you may need to pump it there.You might look at drip dispersal. This is putting irrigation drip tube 6″ to 8” below ground with a thin plow that may spear that good looking back yard.(It is NOT cheep) If it is in parrallel, the D-box may be out of leave and the all of the effluent is going to oneline over loading same. Find the D-box and level it. Or replace it with one that can be maintained from the surface. go to http://WWW.zoeller.com to see one called TRU-FLOW model number 173-0001.

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