Drain Field Slowly Draining

Joined
Feb 6, 2010
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Discovered today that the line from the tank to the drain field had 'solids' in it. That's not good. I'd heard that nothing but clear water was to drain out of the tank. I used a pump to remove enough water from the line that it's all clear now. Looks like I'm going to have to remove the tank lid to be sure the outlet T is still in place. About 7 years ago, I replaced the line from the tank to the drain field. No problems then with the field draining properly. I tested it with a garden hose running full open at 80psi for a solid 10min into the drain line. Never backed up at all. So something between then and now has changed. I'm the only one here and the system is designed for a family of four. I may try a strong acid or alkaline followed by water or air pressure to force it down and out the holes in the laterals. Any suggestions?
 
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May I suggest not enough water? When my Uncle bought his previous home he was warned (by the empty nest couple that owned the property before him) that the system "didn't like paper". Family of four for about 15 years and he never had a problem. When my cousins moved out and it was again 2-person household he started having problems. His theory is fewer showers and fewer loads of laundry equaled not enough water to thoroughly flush the pipes...
 
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When was the last time the tank was pumped? Could simply be full, or not enough water like others suggest.
 
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Assuming that you have the septic tank pumped on a regular basis, and your septic system is designed and working correctly, and you clean the filter regularly, you should never see unprocessed waste beyond the outlet filter at the tank outlet. Solids will build up in a septic tank; it's designed to be pumped out every 3-5 years. If you're seeing solids making it beyond the filter, then either your scum layer is too low or the solids have built up to the outlet. Either is a sign that you've allowed it to go too long between pumpings.
 
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I'd get it pumped. Keep as much fat as you can out of the system( don't pour cooking oil down the drain. wipe out greasy pans with a paper towel before washing.) Fats mess up the leach field.
 
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You should use an enzyme treatment a couple times a year or more. It will take care of the paper and other organic solids. Fat can be broke down with lye (Caustic Soda, Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH). You can get this as a 99% solid and add to the septic outlet after you make a 50/50 mix with water by weight. Be careful though as it generates heat and is a nasty substance to get on you. Some 1:4 vinegar:water will help get it off your skin as just washing will not do a good job. Wear safety glasses. Root killer is copper sulfate. You can get that cheaper if you source the swimming pool treatment copper sulfate. It will not harm the plants, just kills the roots in contact with it. I put in a low flow toilet and being just one in the house it caused problems with not enough flow. I get all this from Amazon.
 
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Yes, you need a look at the outlet baffle. That may help in figuring out what's going on. That shouldn't happen, regardless of usage.
 
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Feb 15, 2003
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I purchased an outlet filter from septic solutions. It works well. On another note, I recently had some well trouble due to bacteria. I used Muriatic acid to clear out the bacteria. It creates a nasty gas that can (and has been) fatal. I've heard of people renewing drain fields with muriatic acid. I am not suggesting this, and I have no idea if it's a viable solution. All I know is that it worked exceptionally well for my shallow well. Which remains bacteria free.
 
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I've never seen or even knew about septic filters. Seems like a great idea that should be code. Good luck on the problem solving. All the points regarding diagnosis of solids making it out the tank have been covered. My 2 cents: If your laundry goes into the septic, don't use powdered soaps.
 
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Originally Posted By: doitmyself
I've never seen or even knew about septic filters. Seems like a great idea that should be code. Good luck on the problem solving. All the points regarding diagnosis of solids making it out the tank have been covered. My 2 cents: If your laundry goes into the septic, don't use powdered soaps.
Do you think the powder not dissolving or falling out of solution after dissolving is the problem with using them?
 

sleddriver

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Lots of varied suggestions...thanks for chiming in gents! Roots? Could be. The 32yr. old drain field is surrounded by large live oak trees and covered with grass. The laterals are down about 24" from the surface according to my previous excavation. Not enough water? I don't think so. This parameter hasn't changed. About a thousand gallons/month. Last Pumped? About 6 years ago..for the first time when I needed to replace the line between the tank & field. With only me here, there's not much in the way of solids, nor waste. Nothing floating on top that I recall like a visible scum layer. Not that many solids in the tank either. The guy doing the work said it all looked fine. All vegetable/meat waste/scraps go in the trash. I never pour fat/grease/oil down the drain. Filter? No. It's never had one. But I think they're a great idea actually. If I had wife + kids, I'd definitely have one. I didn't think it necessary with just me here. I'm still puzzled why black water + waste was in the drain line. It should only be clear. Chemical Treatments? Never used any on a regular basis. I did pour a gallon of HCL (Muriatic) acid into the access port downstream of the tank late last night. A neighbor with considerable construction experience came over and suggested this as a first step. He also said he uses rock salt to discourage tree roots in the laterals. Said a 'bio-mat' can form over time around the holes, inhibiting draining. One problem is I'm not sure of the molarity of the HCL acid. Another is I don't know the size of the drain field to determine an appropriate dose. I also don't know if there is a distribution "box" or a series of T's. With 4" DWV, then the ID area per foot is ~ 150 cubic in. If the DF has two 16' laterals then that's 4,825 cubic in. or about 3 cubic ft. If it has 4, then it would be 6 cf. A gallon of water occupies 231 cubic inches. So that comes out to about 21ga. of water IF the entire field is accessible to water AND clear. So one ga. of acid may not be enough. If I remember correctly, acid is heavier than water so it will slide down underneath it along the 24' long drain line, pitched at 1/8" per foot. Once at the bottom of this line all the lateralls should be level so I don't see it going much further on its own. He suggested buying a balloon fitting for a 4" pipe and using a garden hose, pressurizing the drain field with water, forcing the acid through the holes. Makes sense. Due to a temporary water utility issue, my current house pressure is 98psi. It's usually around 80psi. This could work. These balloon things are inexpensive at the box stores. Plus I could monitor the water flow rate into the field at the water meter. I'm liking this idea! I'm also thinking about sodium hydroxide (lye). As I mentioned originally, strong alkalines liquify proteins + are very, very slippery. Since one ga. of acid is already down the hole, I'll stick with acid for the time being. I'm liking copper sulfate too. Thanks! Laundry detergent? Always used powdered. It always dissolves too as I have soft water. This brings up another thing though...if I recall most washers filter the lint, then flush it down the line with the rinse water. Not sure how much this amounts to, but there sure is plenty of lint collected by the dryer screen. I'm going to try the water balloon trick and see how it works.
 

sleddriver

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A few details I left off: 1. The tank is dark fiberglass, not concrete. The 'lids' are curved and don't firmly attach. I'm interested in a better way. Perhaps collars trimmed to match tank curve, then screwed/glued/fiberglassed in place with the gaps foamed shut. 2. I need to have another look at both tank inlet & out T's. I don't think the outlet goes deep enough. I looked at the effulent filters on the site mentioned. They appear to be 24-36" long. I don't remember my outlet being anywhere near that long (deep). 3. More later....
 
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Jun 3, 2002
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Regarding additives, there is plenty of evidence that suggests otherwise: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/ww/septic/additives_sfqw02.pdf https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HENV/HENV-13-W.pdf http://www.septicsystem.com/additives/ http://www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org/index.php?septic-system-additives "Some experts say additives do more harm than good, and some believe that they are not harmful, but they don't do much of anything at all, except cost money. Other than the septic additive manufacturers themselves, we could find no scientist, engineer, academic, or government source that recommends the use of septic system additives."
 
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Originally Posted By: doitmyself
Regarding additives, there is plenty of evidence that suggests otherwise: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/ww/septic/additives_sfqw02.pdf https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HENV/HENV-13-W.pdf http://www.septicsystem.com/additives/ http://www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org/index.php?septic-system-additives "Some experts say additives do more harm than good, and some believe that they are not harmful, but they don't do much of anything at all, except cost money. Other than the septic additive manufacturers themselves, we could find no scientist, engineer, academic, or government source that recommends the use of septic system additives."
And, yet there is anecdotal evidence that they work. I've tried them when my outlet filter gets clogged and it does help for a short while. Clearly, they do something. Others say the same thing. I'm 51 and I've been on a septic system from age 10. They do seem to have a limited lifespan and a "bio-mat" does seem to be a typical drianfield problem. I watched my neighbor pull up and relocate his septic drianfield due to clogging. It really did not look all that bad. I'd guess that acid would have worked for him.
 
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