Drywell Cleaning Question


I've got a plugged-up fifty-year-old drywell that is a ceramic or concrete box with an iron inspection opening (about a foot in diameter). I can feel muck under five feet or so of water (no rocks in there). Am I most likely correct to think that all the water is supposed to go out the bottom of this box, and not through holes in the sides? The surrounding earth is hard-packed clay with lots of rocks, as far as I can tell. It's not damp at all. I'm trying to think of how to make or buy a low-budget tool that will pick up that muck through the inspection hole. A ten-foot pole with a scoop on the end? Is there a standard and cheap way to do this (without a big truck pumping it out)? How about the best (cheap) way to bail out the water? A pail on a rope? How much help would it be to have the thing pumped? They aren't going to get all that muck with a regular pumping, right?
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Wouldn't it be a lot easier to abandon it, and just put in a new drywell next to it?
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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I never tried this, but there is such a thing as a pump that you can rent that might help clean out your dry well. I think it is called a rock and muck pump or a trash pump. They are usually 3" or 4" in diameter and are used to suck out water that has debris in it. Maybe it's called a debris pump. I don't remember the exact name for them. I know that the Home Depot near me rents them.
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John Grabowski wrote:

These aren't generally made with watertight sides. In fact, the sides are not sealed so that water can get out anyway it chooses.
The surrounding earth is hard-packed clay with lots of rocks,

I think there are several factors to consider before you go down that path. First is what are you going to do with the muck? As I recall, this "drywell" served kitchen sinks, etc. Most locations have some pretty strict codes concerning this. If you think you're gonna put it in a corner of your property, what happens if someone smells it and calls the local code officials?
Beyond that, I'm not sure how much muck you'd have to remove to make it functional. My guess is that contaminants seep pretty deep into the soil, plugging it. If it were me, I think I would either go for a pro pumping and see if that lasts for awhile, or else do a correct replacement, which of course means permits and following code.
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Bert, for what purpose are you using this drywell?
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Dumping gray water (kitchen sink, clothes washer). The dry well reduces the load on the septic system. It's an old but solidly-constructed tank, and I don't want to lose it.
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I thought that it was runoff from your roof gutters when I suggested renting a pump. Stuff from the sink could be quite nasty. I suggest like another poster did, to get it professionally pumped out and hauled away.
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Bert Byfield wrote:

Don't do it. The lint from the washer and foodstuffs from the kitchen sink should really go to a proper septic system than can handle it by letting it settle out in a septic tank that is pumped out at proper intervals. A simple drywell lacks this.
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mike wrote:

So the same stuff won't settle in the drywell? A drywell is nothing more than a small cesspool, which many old home used for years, had pumped out, etc. I'm not saying it's better than a septic system with leach field, but as far as stuff settling out, they function the same.
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