Septic Tank questions

A month or three ago I noticed an area of our lawn where the grass was greener/more lush. As time went on, I then noticed the area was wet and had a sewage odor. I assumed a problem with our septic tank.

I’ve lived here for about 9 years and we haven’t had the tank serviced in that time. I asked my gf about the matter. She (and her ex husband) built the house 30 years ago, and the tank hasn’t been touched in that time.

She gave me the file on the tank (she has a file for everything!) Turns out it’s a 1,000 gallon tank. There is a map showing location, but all measurements involve defunct structures, a tree that blew down 25 years ago, etc.

So I called a company and explained the situation. When I came home yesterday there was a hole in the yard about the size of a manhole cover. Deep in the hole is the tank cover!! But the hole wasn’t refilled, and they didn’t leave a bill, so I called them.

They said we have a poly tank and there is a large crack in one end, where it is collapsing. The tank needs replaced, and they are working on an estimate for excavation, new tank, etc.:frowning:

Questions:
[ul]
[li]How did they find the lid so easily? Our front yard area is just shy of an acre.[/li][li]How did they find the crack? I assume they emptied the tank. Did they stick their head in or use a camera/probe?[/li][li]What do they do with what was pumped out? Thirty years worth of shit, 1,000 gallons, wow![/li][li]What are the dimensions of a 1,000 gallon septic tank?[/li][/ul]

Shit, I’m guessing this is going to be $$$$$.:frowning:

On your first question: Is the lid metal? If so, a metal detector would find it easily. Or, they could follow the path of the waste line from the house.

Don’t know on your other questions, but if the tank is, in fact, leaking, you are about to have a major expense. Very major.

They probably just used a mirror to check the tank. Part of the routine pumping includes a quick inspection of the tank anyway. If it’s a big crack and a collapsing tank, the level may have been low enough that they didn’t have to pump it out first.

No idea on finding it so precisely, if the plans are as outdated & useless as you say. The plans for my system locate the tank & cover based on the corners of the house.

1000 gallons is probably an 8x5x5 ft external dimensions. Normal sized residential septic tank. When they pump it, they take the sewage to a septic treatment plant. That’s why pumping a tank is expensive. But yes, while that’s 1000 gallons of stuff you don’t want to deal with, it’s not really 10 years worth of shit. Most of the shit has decomposed and liquified and gone into the leach field. The stuff left at the bottom of the tank is stuff that won’t decompose, like hair.

And yes, the repair will be pricey.

There is usually a record of the location held by the municipality. They also saw where the grass was greener. Maybe they’ve serviced that tank before for your friend and have their own record. I assume they pumped it out, used a camera to examine it, and took it to a local facility for dumping, depends on your location what that is. If they pumped it they’ll surely bill you and you’ll find out the details.

Your tank was likely full of solids after 9 years. I don’t know anything about poly tanks but 30 years is a long time for any type of tank to survive. If it’s just a holding tank the only reason you’ve been able to flush your toilets is because of that crack. You must need a new tank, maybe more depending on the type of system. You’re going to have an interesting time ahead of you.

Yeah, not servicing the septic tank in 30 years isn’t good. I have mine pumped out every 2 years. I’d be surprised if your leach lines are not full of shit. The tank has a baffle that allows soilids to separate from the liquid, and then the liquid flows out to the leach field. When the tank is full of solids, then solids can find their way to the leach field.

On the positive side, it sounds like it’s your girlfriend’s house, so she gets to pay.

I don’t have one now but when we did we had it pumped out every two years. It wasn’t that expensive. About $175 IIRC. Certainly worth it.

Me and my big mouth.

We kind of share house maintenance expenses. A few years ago I paid for a new roof, she paid for new windows and siding. She’s currently having some kitchen renovations done, so when the septic issue arose I offered to pay.:frowning:

It looks like concrete with metal angle iron handles…

My dad, who helps install and repair septic tanks, impressed upon me the importance of getting our tank pumped every five years.

We’ve lived in the house for 15 years and have never had a problem.

Once you get your tank fixed/replaced, get thyself on a maintenance regimen.

Remember, put nothing down the drain that you wouldn’t eat, no coffee grounds, no paint, no engine oil, etc. If possible, do not pour fat down the drain either.

I don’t know about the OP’s location, but here septic tanks are permitted by the state, so there are records. Major repairs may require that the permitting authority be notified. The company replacing the tank should take care of this. But the system may be required to be upgraded to meet new groundwater requirements, if there have been any changes in regulations the last 30 years.

It depends on what kind of system it is. Replacement costs can be from $5,000 to over $30,000. I would renegotiate.

Yes, this is much bigger than most other home maintenance costs. It’s like splitting the bill at the restaurant when your friend ordered the most expensive appetizer, entrée. and dessert on the menu and you only ate a salad, and you’ll never order an expensive meal like that yourself in the future.

There was a permit in the file, but it only listed results of various tests, the size of the tank, the soil description, name and address of the property owner, etc. The “map” was on a piece of scrap paper.

When we lived in FL, the guy we called found our septic tank using a long metal rod with a handle. He knew approximately where it was, and he literally poked around till he figured out where it sat. I expect in sandy soil, that’s enough.

In our present home, in an area with fairly heavy, clay-filled soil, the guy started out based on the location of the vent and the major drain pipe in the basement. When he found the opening, he suggested we might want to buy a cover unit that would extend to ground level so he wouldn’t have to dig in the future. That was a couple hundred dollars well-spent.

I don’t know about the previous owners, but we were here for 8 years before we had ours pumped out, and he suggested we do it every 3 years. I suspect that for just 2 of us, we might be able to go longer between visits. It’s the only major system on the property that hasn’t been replaced in the 11 years we’ve been here - can we hope for another 20 years?? Fingers crossed.

It’s what they do. Years of experience lets them assimilate wet spot in lawn, normal dimensions of a 1,000 gallon tank and typical piping layouts to say “Dig Here.” Sweeping that area with a metal detector in the targeted area just refines the prediction.

If they haven’t pumped out the septic tank for 30 years, then replacing it probably won’t be your biggest problem. Solids will have overflowed to the septic field and you might need to replace the field which is an expensive undertaking.

I recommend you read up on septic systems so you understand how they work.

Holy crap (literally!) at the differing costs in various places! We put a modular home on completely undeveloped land about 3 years ago, and the new septic installation - 1500 gallon tank, 150 feet of drain field - was under $2000! (I think the quote was $2000, but the contractor gave us a discount for paying cash, and I don’t care how he handles his accounting.)

But that reminds me: probably time to get it pumped!

In 1965 we moved into a nice split-level house in Hermosa Beach that was on a slope, in an area where all the houses had cesspools and septic tanks side by side. The people who sold us the house didn’t tell us about the condition of the cesspool. We had to have it pumped out NINE TIMES–once even with caustic soda. After a year of this outrage we moved out.
The former owners tried to sue us, but my parents went to a lawyer, who pointed out the problem we had with the cesspool. (The adjoining septic tank was not involved.) The lawyer said that WE would sue THEM if push came to shove. We never heard from them again, but I did later find out that other people moved in there. :rolleyes:

Wow, was I wrong. I looked at night with my iPhone flashlight. Looking today, it looks more like plastic. There are two cinder blocks on top of it right now.

And dougie, I don’t even like the sound of “cesspool”.

How did you get your money back a year after the sale? Or was this done with seller financing?