2021Oct31

2021 SEPTIC SERVICE

Today our septic tank was pumped out (Sept 14, 2021). This time I have pictures to share and they are below the story so you don't have to see them if you don't want to; but really, the contents just looks like wet dirt -- nothing gross.

As you may recall (I suggest you read the 2016 entry first), I reported that our septic tank is "2200 gallon capacity" but it turns out it is a 1200 gallon capacity tank. Did I misunderstand or did he tell me wrong? There is really no way to know at this point. I don't mind taking the blame for that. He DID tell us we should have it pumped every 5 years and THAT was accurate because removing the cover showed a FULL TO THE TOP tank. What is the lesson? Get the correct information and have this particular septic tank pumped every 4 years OR be sure to add microbes once a month and stick to 5 years. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I called the same company that came out in 2016: Chapman Septic Service. David (the old fellow who came out then) has since retired and sold the business. The new folks have a nice website and were quickly responsive to the form email I sent via the website asking for service. There was less than a week delay meaning they could have come out on Friday, but that would have stressed the time for the hubby to dig out to get to the tank, so we scheduled the service for Tuesday (the 14th, today) so the hubby could have the weekend to do the digging in stages in the cool of the mornings and evenings.

There is about 30 inches of dirt above the tank and the concrete lid. The hubby had marked the location of the tank with t-posts the last time so he would know exactly where to dig. He used a big tarp to put the turf and dirt on so we make sure to put it all back after the service and the new lid with riser are installed. We were lucky that we did not have any rain the entire week before the service call.

The service man called to let me know he was on the way (about an hour away) and we made sure the gate was open and told him he could drive around the house via the pasture to get to the tank and we would direct him so he didn't drive over the laterals. I see from the invoice that it was Charlie. He was very pleasant and went right to work (which is why we didn't get around to exchanging names, I guess, LOL). He used a pry bar to loosen the concrete lid and then an ice pick like tool to hook the lid handle and lift it to the side (hubby had cleared both the lid and space on the concrete tank to set it).

Charlie was surprised that the tank had been described as 2200 gallon and I learned as he was less occupied while the machine did its sucking thing that he usually installs septic tanks and only goes on service calls when needed. So, he should certainly know what size we have, plus the machine on the truck measures how much goes into the tank so there is definitive proof of how much they remove. Yep, you guessed it, 1200 gallons were sucked out.

All in all, the process was not gross. Even though there was minimal wind, there was not a sewer smell. Charlie was pleased that there was not a thick crust on the top of the contents - I guess that makes the process easier. Once the majority of the contents were removed, he used a paddle like tool to shift the sludge at the bottom to where he could maneuver the tube to suck it up. Because he was careful about keeping the tube close to the top of the contents, there was little residue on the outside of the tube. I don't think he even had any residue from the contents on his gloves. And since he left the suction on for a bit after removing the tube, I imagine the inside of the tube got pretty well cleaned out too. (I didn't inspect that, LOL.)

It took almost as long to get the invoice written and credit card processed, which is a compliment to how quickly the process was. Charlie was nice and moved the truck off the pasture to the gravel driveway to do the paperwork. It's a big, heavy vehicle and he was aware of the damage that does to yards. We could have paid by check and both Charlie and the lady in the office made sure to make us aware of the additional charge to cover the fee of the credit transaction.

All totalled the cost was a flat fee of $335 for the first 1000 gallons and $0.20 per gallon beyond that resulting in $375 (plus the fee for the credit card). Well worth it.

Charlie also took measurement for the correct size replacement lid and riser. They have to schedule getting the product and we are hoping it can be installed this week ... we will wait to replace the dirt until that is finalized. We didn't get the cost for that yet, so I'll update this with that info after the fact.



INSTALL RISER - DIY

As often happens, the plan for the new riser changed. The product Chapman uses turned out to be back ordered and they did not know when it would be available. Thankfully, their customer service is excellent and they recommended another business to sell us what we need and assured me that we COULD install it ourselves. (Famous last words, LOL.)

I contacted Allied Concrete and, yes, they did have the riser we needed for our tank. Concrete? No, plastic. Once I answered their questions about the age of our concrete tank, they told me it was safer to NOT add a great deal of weight to the tank itself. The nice fellow I spoke with (Kyle) was quite patient with me and not only answered my questions but directed me to the website of the manufacturer of the product they sell (Polylock) so I could look at what he was talking about. I was still having trouble comprehending how to measure the round riser to fit on top of the square access without blocking any of it. Eventually, with humor, he was able to get the lightbulb over my head to burn brightly, LOL. It was in stock and we were able to get it that day. We went out and picked up the product without incident. For what we needed, the cost was just over $300 and that being a base unit (bottom piece and 12-inch riser and lid with mastic/screws) and two 12-inch risers (with screws) to equal 36 inches because you want it to clear the level of the ground several inches. And in case you are wondering, it is a 24" opening.

I thought I had photos of the setup the hubby devised to keep rain off of and out of the dug out septic tank hole. But alas, I have not been able to find them. We only had a couple of bouts of rain in the weeks between the tank being pumped out and installing the riser. I'll describe as best I can... The hubby put a couple of saw horses on top of two planks (2x6s) stradling the hole and stretched a big tarp over the pile of dirt and the hole so that it looked like a tent with the ends secured to t-posts with bungee cords on one side and the fence to the yard on the other side. It worked really well.

The day before we installed the riser, we had to clean the concrete so the mastic would seal completely.

Here you can see the metal wire scraper (yellow, upper left), the chalk (round tub, upper left), and the bottom of the riser system (upside down) next to the hole.

We set the bottom of the riser over the access square and chalked around the outside so we knew where to clean.

Here is the area still wet from the solution applied after the dirt was swept off, then blown off with the leaf blower (next picture).

The solution was 50/50 white vinegar and water, with touch of dish detergent. Basically, an acidic compound.

Apply, scrub (as needed), rinse.

Here are the tools except for the cleaner itself and some water in a bucket.

You can see the REALLY CLEAN area of concrete around the access lid. Nice job, if I do say so myself.

The hubby and I discussed several ways to remove the access lid (about 50 lbs) completely out of the hole. It's one thing to lift it to shift it to one side, it's another to lift it 30 inches up and onto the grass.

Thankfully, the old tractor was working that day and you can see the set up we decided upon.

We used the hydraulic lift and instead of the trailer hitch, the hubby inserted 2 t-posts and chained them together and into the hitch assembly.

Then he used a winch to secure the lid to the t-posts. Being careful not to get dirt onto the newly cleaned concrete.

All that was left to do was lift with the hydraulics high enough to clear the ground and drive forward a few feet.

BUT, before he did that, we decided to get the riser ready to put down so the hole to the tank wasn't open for an extended period of time.

We didn't want any animals or trash or whatever to accidentally make their way into the tank.

Up on the saw horses, the hubby screwed the first section of the riser to the base.

OOPS! It is easy to drop a screw through that hole!

Enough screws were provided to assemble all the segments and the lid to our riser, but we didn't want to take any chances of not having enough, so while the hubby installed that first piece, we figured out a way to keep from losing screws into the septic tank.

 

Here you can see the first segment all screwed into the bottom piece.

I took this photo to show that the strength is created on the inside of the segment with the vertical struts.

Again, the first segment attached to the bottom piece, this time from the outside.

The outside is smooth - that made sense to me.

Other brands have a corrugated, exterior structure.

This was our solution to NOT losing screws. We put the bottom piece on top of the cardboard and traced the inside circle.

I then cut the circle out leaving an inch or two beyond the tracing so it would sit on the ledge of the bottom piece.

Here you can see the entire riser system (on the saw horses and the sled) with the cardboard "saftey net" cutout.

The mastic is a heavy duty tar product that is VERY STICKY.

The hubby carefully unrolled it and pressed it onto the bottom piece in the groove provided leaving the paper on the top so he could really work it without compromising the stickyness that would be making contact with the concrete.

Once the entire roll was applied to the bottom piece (it when around about 1-1/2 times), we pulled the white strip off.

Here you can see it partially unstripped while the hubby continues pressing the mastic into the grooves of the product.

Once we were sure the mastic was completely secure to the bottom piece, the hubby went back to remove the access lid of the septic tank.

He hand winched the lid the first bit and BOY did those t-posts start to bend. It was a bit nerve wracking.

As you can see from these three (3) images, the t-posts held and the lid was successfully lifted and placed onto the ground.

The hubby carefully placed the now mastic-applied bottom piece (and the first segment) over the access hole. He made sure it was in line with our chalk tracing and over the clean concrete before he pressed the bottom piece firmly into the concrete on all sides, especially those corner pieces.

Because the mastic overlapped on one side, we made sure that double "layer" of mastic was on the south end where there is more water since that is the higher end of the slight slope.

In goes the cardboard safety net which also reduces any odor from the tank while the hubby has his head over it.

Another firm pressing of the bottom piece just to be on the safe side.

The recommendation was to start putting the dirt in once the first segment is on. (We watched several instructional videos on YouTube the previous night.)

Here you can see the big, heavy clods of dirt that the hubby put at each corner first.

Then he placed the dirt around the riser, being careful to not have too much pressure on one side or another in the process to keep the riser from shifting position.

Once he had enough dirt surrounding the first segment about half-way up, he added the next segment. You don't have to guess how to do this, the holes for the screws only align one way.

Once it was set, he screwed it into place.

We were very happy that we put that piece of cardboard over the hole.

We did not lose a single screw.

After the second segment was all screwed in, the third segment was placed and also screwed in.
You might be able to see the shiny screws and how they are mostly offset from each other.

Finally, it was time to put on the lid.

First we removed the piece of cardboard.

The lid is screwed on also.

Did I mention that these screws are not your regular flat or phillips head type screw? They require a special bit so it isn't likely someone will come along and easily remove the lid.

We have the extra screws and the bit saved with our maintenance stuff (you know, the "junk drawer", LOL).

Proof that the cardboard was removed before the lid was screwed on, LOL.

By the way, we positioned the lid with its handles angled to show the direction of the length of the tank.

If you look at the picture above, you can see that the handles are NOT on the long end sides and that they ARE in the picture at left.

This way we don't have to put the t-posts back in to designate direction of the rectangle that is the septic tank position.

We don't envision needing to dig it up again, so this is just a nice thing for whomever owns the place after us.

Both the hubby and I took turns replacing the dirt. We were careful to mound it around the riser and make that mound NOT ROUND, but oblong so it also gives a clue about the orientation of the septic tank.

This image is from southwest end of the tank, looking northeast (ish).

And this image is from the west, looking east (ish).

You can still see the area where the pile of dirt had been.

I ordered native plant seeds and root cuttings to grow on the mound (which will settle over time).

The newspaper is the "mulch" for the cuttings.

Hopefully, the seed will have a chance to take root before any birds eat them. But if not, no worries.

We were lucky to have several days of light rain after I planted/spread seed. So I only had to water a couple of times.

Nice to know we won't have to dig that up any time soon.



2016 SEPTIC SERVICE - Our First Time

We lived in this house for 7 years and it suddenly occured to both of us that we hadn't had the septic tank checked or drained in that time.

I went to the internet and did some research about how often to have your septic tank emptied and the overwhelming time frame was 2 years. OH MY. Suddenly this became a BIG priority.

Who to call? How long before they could come out? What do I need to do before the visit? How much will it cost?

Back in the old days (LOL) you had to pick up the Phone Book "Yellow" Pages and start dialing. But now the internet makes it easier (and more difficult at the same time) to find businesses AND (possibly) see reviews of those businesses. I always take reviews with a bit of scepticism... is the reviewer a friend of the business owner? is the reviewer just really cranky? There are no restrictions/rules about writing reviews... could even be someone who just likes to mess about and submit false reviews.

At least I was able to find a couple businesses in my area. I decided to let my "gut" tell me that I wanted to hire one of them after calling them on the phone.

I made a couple of calls and the last one I felt really good about: Chapman Septic. Turns out that all the rain we've been having is a big problem when it comes to septic clean out. (What a surprise.) We chatted about what that means and the nice man answered my questions and had a great (dry) sense of humor. He gave me some pricing and left me with some questions of his to be answered. (FYI: all puns ARE intentional, even the bad ones.)

I did not know how big our septic tank is and could not find the answer in paperwork that I kept from the purchase of the house.

It turns out that the size of your septic tank, the material it is made of, the volume of waste (including water) that you put into it daily and the location of the septic field and tank are variables to consider instead of accepting a blanket statement that septic tanks need emptying every two years.

Our situation is this: concrete constructed tank, 2200 gallon capacity, 2 foot square opening with concrete cover. We are truly blessed and VERY lucky.

Once it hadn't rained for two days in a row, I contacted Chapman Septic again and they were able to schedule a clean out for the following day around noon. They don't dig down to the tank, we (meaning the hubby, LOL) have to do that ourselves. It is common for the responsibility of digging to fall on the homeowner; although some companies will do that for an additional fee. The hubby did the digging in stages, some that night and the rest the following morning.

Thankfully, it did not rain overnight and David arrived ahead of schedule (which worked out fine on our end). He told me that the tank was filled to capacity and it is likely that it either had never been cleaned out or at least not for a very long time. I did find info in our paperwork from the purchase of the house that the septic tank had been "inspected" four (4) years before our purchase but an inspection is not the same as a clean out. So we can safely assume it had been more than 11 years since the last clean out.

Still, the clean out was not eventful (meaning it went smoothly). We are careful to NOT put anything into our toilets but human waste, toilet paper (septic safe) and water. I was using a microbe supplement every three (3) months as well.

David left a couple of inches of sludge and then packed up his equipment. We chatted as the tubing drained and he told us that due to the size of our septic tank, we should figure on another clean out in five (5) years. He recommended installing a "riser". This is a tube-like thing that replaces the concrete cap and sticks up above the ground so that you don't have to dig to clean the tank. You would still have to dig to inspect the tank. We decided we would like to inspect the tank each time we clean, so opted not to put on a riser. If we were having to clean it more than every five (5) years, we would have put it in.

He also told me that unless I put that microbe supplement in every month, it's not worth doing at all. This is because the water is treated with chlorine and while there are microbes in the human waste that it moves along the plumbing and into the tank, the chemical pretty much overwhelms and kills the microbes. By using the supplement monthly, it can help to break down the solid waste better, but anything longer than that and the chemicals are in higher concentration than even the supplement can overcome. Another GREAT reason to STOP using potable water for waste disposal!!

I would LOVE to use a gray water system (potable water that resulting from drains in the kitchen and sinks/showers) stored in a cistern to be used strictly for flushing toilets. This is a tricky situation for plumbers who are nervous about it and permit issuers. But someday....

Now the hubby has to replace the dirt on top of the tank. He is doing this again in stages. It rained after his first session, so he had to wait for it dry out to do more. Then it rained again after a couple more of feet of dirt in the hole. Heavy sigh. At least the rain helps pack the dirt in fully (silver lining). Hopefully, it will dry out for a few days so he can get it all back. Cross your fingers and toes for us, will you?




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