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rusty sparrow 29th Dec 2018 13:18

Septic Tanks - What Fun!
Borrowing a little used property from a much richer cousin before moving into our new home in a couple of weeks. This is in rural Norfolk and the properly has a septic tank.

Last time it was emptied was eight years ago and when the toilet took ages to empty and the sink and toilet gurgled when the bath emptied, that seemed to point to an urgent emptying of the septic tank. So that was emptied yesterday but the problem remains and the dirt marks on the bowl of the downstairs toilet suggest that it had backed up during the night.

The plumber that was due to call between 10 am and 2 pm today now can't come until Monday and getting another emergency plumber here may not be possible.

So it seems that sludge and muck are still in soil pipe or the vents are blocked?

I know little about septic tanks, but has anyone got any ideas of what the problem could be?

There is spade in the shed and my wife learned how to dig latrines in the Girl Guides so we have a backup plan!

cattletruck 29th Dec 2018 13:45

There are many types of septic systems around and some are much better than others. The clue is in the term "Borrowing a little used property" which could suggest the following.
- You applied city habits and managed to fill up tank (very common).
- The unit has a blockage, e.g roots, dead rat, non-biodegradable toiletries.
- Rain water may drain into the tank and fill it.
- Another neighbour is emptying their tank into yours.

When I visit my holiday house which has a septic system the first thing I do is add washing powder down the sinks, bathroom and toilet. I repeat this every 2 weeks. This has kept the system "clean" and operative for the last 20 years that I've had the place.

radeng 29th Dec 2018 14:07

Living in an area which is on Oxford clay, some movement occurs and the septic tank has risen by about an inch since its installation in 1960. I am awaiting a quote for fitting a new tank and diverting a drain to feed it.......Not going to be cheap......

Sounds to me that a good start for you would be to get some drain rods and rod the sewer pipe from the house to the tank. A pressure washer with a long hose can work, but if the blockage is substantial, it can blow back, so overalls and wellies are desirable. There might be a partial collapse of the underground pipework - that really needs a CCTV inspection.

I've used a company called Emergency Plumbers Limited. From the postcode they are in Birmingham and they use reliable local people. It might be worth calling them on 0800 917 4511.

Mr Optimistic 29th Dec 2018 14:58

Yeah always love working on our cess pit, not least because of the chance I might drop the heavy cover into the great mystery. Always think I will never get clean again. Still, you do get to meet old acquaintances. Generally gives few problems, providing you don't poison the aerobic bacteria with harsh chemicals.

ricardian 29th Dec 2018 15:08

Septic tanks should not need emptying unless you've gone mad with bleach in the toilet or allowed grey water to drain into it. Our septic tank has never been emptied and we've been here for 15 years; all our grey water goes to the same soakaway that is used by the septic tank.. A cess pit is a different matter, that needs regular emptying.
On this island all the properties at the harbour edge have sewer outlets that go straight into the harbour below low water mark. Scottish water keep promising to build a proper sewage system but they always run out of money. At least we all get charged for the supply of clean water but there is no charge for sewage or drainage.

tescoapp 29th Dec 2018 15:13

if the sink is pulling and making noises it means the vent stack is blocked and a vacuum forming behind the outgoing slug of grey water.

If its a vent above roof you need to get a plumber to sort the blockage out. If it doesn't have one of them you will have an admittance valve somewhere which may have failed and stuck closed. Its job is to let air in behind the slug but not the sewage gas vent into the house.

Although it may be the same as my sister in laws and there is nothing neither a vent pipe of admittance valve on the stack in the roof space. Then the plumber is going to have to fit one.

If you don't know what an admittance valve is its one of these.

thegypsy 29th Dec 2018 17:06

A proper septic tank should not need emptying that often as bacteria breaks down and leaves sludge. I saw an article recently that from April septic tanks which overflow into a watercourse are to be banned. I replaced my cesspit with a sewage treatment plant which can overflow into streams etc Needs power and servicing once a year.. Old septic tanks have clay pipework which can as someone says get tree roots breaking into them. I believe modern laundry tablets can stop the bacteria working properly.

A cesspit is just a large tank which will need emptying as they fill up so important rainwater does not empty into it.

G-CPTN 29th Dec 2018 17:27

I once occupied a house that was a short distance from a water reservoir.
The property had a 'sealed' tank for sewage as discharge was prohibited due to the proximity of the reservoir (which served a major city with drinking water).
The local farmer did the honours of sucking out the contents of the tank - which he then spread onto the fields that were between the house and the reservoir . . .

Mr Optimistic 29th Dec 2018 17:32

I don't want to go public on exactly what our tank is in case Anglican Water spies are on here. It has happened that new residents moving out of town haven't understood the limitations of the system and eventually complained about the smell and black water elevating their lawn. Cue investigation and them and their neighbours forced into a klargester system. Then there is the water meter, or lack of, owing to obscure location under earth and hedge. It's a game of cat and mouse out here.....

tescoapp 29th Dec 2018 17:51

And if your interested I have these fitted to all my sinks and they work an absolute treat at letting air into the system but not letting smell out.

For a bath you need to have a branch pipe coming off its drain pipe which is above the drain point


pax britanica 29th Dec 2018 18:19

septic tanks are always going to give a little trouble but as posters here point outt hat there are things you need to do to allow them to function properly.
I have a small place in France which has a Septic tank-sounds nicer in French( septeek) but being rural France you can buy a beach substitute and little sachets of enzyme filled powdery stuff the first makes sure that you dont poison the active bacteria with bleach and second stimulated and accelerates bacterial reaction. being a townie in UK I have never looked to see if Supermarkets or plumbers carry them. Worth checking out though in Norfolk were off net drainage is much more common.

I would also invest in some rods as the pipes can block quite easily but then they can unblock easily if you ahve the kit to hand.

With brexit and all I do not know if it will apply here but in France there are recent rules which have come down from Brussels about the way some septics operate and issues like proximity to water courses as another poster mentioned. It might also be worth looking at other solutions which do not involve drains,
Also a friend has a real eco house in Czech rep which has geothermal heating and a sort of mini sewage works which is basically a septic tank but with systems and filters, The systems monitor temperature and aeration and warm cool or increase airflow as required and the filters separate clean water and sludge -the cleaner water drains away and the sludge breaks down due to the monitored heat and aeration process-very clever. .I do not know the name of the system but it is very efficient and has never caused any trouble in the ten years its been in use. with increasing eco developments in Uk some of these systems might have found their way here but I suspect they are more cost effective when integrated into a new build.

Its all part of rural life-like any network its not efficient in low density areas and

yellowtriumph 29th Dec 2018 18:32

Originally Posted by tescoapp (Post 10346734)
And if your interested I have these fitted to all my sinks and they work an absolute treat at letting air into the system but not letting smell out.


For a bath you need to have a branch pipe coming off its drain pipe which is above the drain point



Agree with all your points in this thread having lived with a septic tank system for 30 years. If the toilet or sink is gurgling it does imply that a vacuum is being created somewhere that is not being released upstream of the source of the gurgling. People often confuse a septic tank and cesspit systems. Even though it is common practice not to empty a septic tank system year after year, we used to have ours emptied once a year just for the sake of it. Looked good paperwork-wise when we came to sell.

And it should not be forgotten that the septic tank will (may) discharge into a soak away which can become clogged up with small particulates over the years and a new soakaway required. We were lucky in that we lived on chalk and our system was always trouble free year in year out.

ZeBedie 29th Dec 2018 18:47

I had the exact same symptoms - it was the pipe blocked between the house and the septic tank - so nothing to do with the septic tank, in fact. Flushed water was compressing the air on the house side of the blockage, which was then escaping back through the sink traps. Low water level in the toilet bowl can also be a sign of blocked pipes - not sure why.

tescoapp 29th Dec 2018 18:53

as Zebedie says its very unlikely to be a tank issue

its either air can't escape in front of the slug or it can't get in behind it.

bgbazz 29th Dec 2018 19:12

Radeng is on the right track regarding the use of the rods...BUT...start from the septic tank end, not the other way round.Starting at the house end can mean that if a blockage is encountered down line, any crap (no pun) dislodged is just going to enlarge the size if the blockage and compound the problem. I have cleared and cleaned more than a few lines over the years and learned the hard way! The best bit of kit I have is the flexible rod with a metal bottle brush type on the end...it all rolls up on a spool which, when turned, rotated the wire brush and rod as it is fed into the line. Sounds tricky, but is dead easy to do. Once i feel like I might have pushed through the blocked section, I with draw the rod and pour a bucketful of water down the toilet or sink, whichever is easier. If a steady outpouring of water (and/or crud) is observed, I go ahead and repeat the process a couple more times to get all the line cleared properly.
The house I now live in is a tad over 300 years old and had no inside toilet facilities when I first bought it , but I modernised the place and installed three toilets, dug myself a 27 cubic metre pit and bricked it in...no problems whatever over the past 12 years. I physically checked the level in the tank at the end November and it was around 1/4 full, with the solid crust floating on top.
The bit of kit I mentioned above, cost me about 20 quid from the local hardware shop...I actually purchased it to help out my 90+ year old neighbour and it worked a treat.

KelvinD 29th Dec 2018 20:52

One of the most mind boggling sights I have ever seen revolved around a septic system. In the old Jeddah airport, during Hajj, a colleague and I were taking a break on the roof of the ATC/FIR building which was on the edge of the Hajj terminal. There was obviously a problem with the sewers so the maintenance people came along to fix it.
They had a small, wiry Yemeni labourer who stripped down to a loin cloth. A rope was tied around his waist, held by a couple of his mates, and in he went! When they pulled him out, one of his mates had a small hose to wash him down. He then went to the next manhole and repeat as before! Unbelievable! And, being Yemeni, he was probably not even getting a dollar a day for this!

ZeBedie 29th Dec 2018 22:02

The last time my tank was emptied, the bloke doing the deed got pretty intimate with the contents of the tank and obviously had a HGV licence. He said he was on Minimum Wage.

Hydromet 29th Dec 2018 22:14

I hired a bloke to empty my septic and tank, but he did a sh!t job - just went through the motions.

Mr Optimistic 29th Dec 2018 23:34

Hydro, I think that's a load of cr*p.

Jetstream67 29th Dec 2018 23:56

You missed the obvious option of doing the necessary down the pub / outdoors and assuring the owner it was all wonderful when you left it (like everyone before you) :)

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