Septic failure? stinky house!

Page 1 of 3  

We just bought our home and moved in less than a week ago, so I haven't had much time to get used to the ins and outs of our new home but there are a couple things I'm not sure about with the septic system here. I've never had a septic so I don't know if this is common, acceptable, or not.
1) Seems like when it rains, the outside back yard (where the tank and drain field is), side yard (driveway) AND front yard smell like sewage. I guess this is normal. .. However, today I could smell sewage inside while I was just watching tv, which prompted me to start doing a bunch of research. It's a little gross. And Ohio is very wet during certain times of the year, so it's going to be awful if this is normal.
2) Our yard is very long and a little narrow (for it length). It also slopes downhill, gradually at first and then half way down it is steeper, ending in a forest... and I only have my best guess where the drain field is, but I think I know where the tank is due to a concrete disc cover. Anyway, the further you go down our yard, the squishier the ground gets. Some places it's very wobbly and if you're going too fast you could probably trip and break your ankle! One time I was running down our backyard with my dog and stepped straight into a wet puddle, and it hadn't rained recently so I was a little confused and disgusted. Didn't smell like sewage then, but who knows (my dog wasn't very interested in the smell or the water though, my logic is if it was actual sewage she would probably be eating it and rolling in it)
After reading posts on this site and doing a lot of research, I'm growing increasingly concerned. At first I was like "oh, 200 bucks to get it pumped!" but now it sounds like a failure that only a replace can fix....?
Help?
-------------------------------------
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Nov 19, 11:39 am, tehaleks_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (tehaleks) wrote:

Start by having it pumped. That's going to be the first thing anyone suggests I think. What you are experiencing is not normal for a properly functioning septic system. Frankly I'd say you should have had it inspected by a specialist prior to closing. If the field is failing it's going to cost a lot to have it fixed.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Nov 19, 11:39 am, tehaleks_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (tehaleks) wrote:

No, it's definitely not normal. How many back yard barbecues/parties have you been to? Ever smell sewage?

You should be concerned. Did you have the septic system checked as part of inspection prior to buying the home? Do you know how old the system is? Was there any state disclosure documents that the sellers had to fill out and sign? I'd start by getting a good septic system company out to take a look and do a thorough inspection. Try to find one from neighbors, etc if at all possible.
If effluent is showing up at the surface, that would seem to indicate that either there is break in a pipe going into the system or else the leach field is not percolating down.
I'd also ask the neighbors if they noticed any septic work, trucks, etc at the house prior to your purchasing it. If so, you might have a case that the buyers concealed a problem they knew about. Even without that, I think you might make a case that with a stinking backyard, they knew about it and didn't disclose. Document everything, pictures, get in writting any reports, opinions, etc., have good witnesses that saw it, etc. You could pursue it in small claims with little to lose and you might win.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
tehaleks wrote:

Is there a municipal sewage system...storm and/or sanitary?

If there is a sink or tub not used for a long time, the trap can dry up and allow sewer gas to back up into the house.

If you live on the edge of a swamp, that might be the normal condition. You can also get stinky air around swamp if a lot of stuff is rotting, I think...or someone else's septic is draining down there?

Was house inspected prior to purchase? What did it say about septic?

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
tehaleks wrote:

with the County, City etc. Public disclosure is also an issue. The owner, realtor have to tell you of any issues with the house. Again, check with the proper authorities. Take the lids (2) off the tank and have it pumped. The inlet pipe is closest to the house. The outlet, to the drain field, is on the other end of the tank and is a little higher than the inlet. When the tank is pumped observe the outlet pipe. When it is fully exposed see if water begins running back into the tank. If it does than your drainfield is saturated and needs repair. My first call would be to the realtor and start raising hell!
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ed Mc wrote: ...

I've never heard of anywhere that had that as a requirement for selling; I'd think it _most_ unusual.
OTOH, afaik all states do have disclosure requirements of known issues; I agree w/ other posters it's essentially impossible to have a failed drain field and not know of it.
To OP--you _did_ have a legal beagle on your payroll didn't you? (I just know you wouldn't be one of those trying to get by "on the cheap" and not, now, would you?) Since you did, check w/ them on best course of action.
If you didn't, start by looking at the state and local requirements for disclosure by the seller and the documentation you have and disclosure form as submitted by the seller. Also, what did the inspector's report indicate?
All places I've been that had any zoning or restrictions at all did require a local sanitary inspection that would have discovered the issue--is this not a requirement where you are or was it somehow not done?
One possible way it wasn't uncovered would be if the house had been vacant for quite a long time and thus the drainfield had dried out and so didn't show the failure on the surface. There's still no way imo an owner couldn't have not known of the problem other than by willingly ignoring it.

If the outlet is higher than the inlet you're going to have big trouble since that will cause the drain line from the house to stand full...you've got it backwards here.
It's not at the tank OP has a real problem although if the tank does have a high level of solids that's an issue; his problem as described is that the drainfield has already broken through the ground surface.
That'll take replacing the existing field or having sufficient area on the property within the requirements for separation from next, etc., to dig another.
Had to do that in TN; we subsequently put a diverter valve in the outline line and were able to switch from one to another although never had to as the second functioned as intended. In our case, the cause of the first failing was that the original installation didn't get it graded where it drained both ways from the inlet so all water went to one (low) end.
All in all, sounds like OP has a problem and may have some recourse against seller if it has only been such a short time. That, of course, relies on him being in an area that has such rules of disclosure and that the buyer (OP) didn't do something to have accepted the condition of the property "as is" despite defects under a quit-claim deed or somesuch.
--
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Here in NJ I sold a home in a township that required the septic system be pumped prior to sale. Don't know if it's municipality specific or statewide.

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

As another respondent said that's peculiar at best. You sure it wasn't a mortgage company or similar requirement and not municipal?
I looked at the NJ disclosure form -- it asks half-dozen questions re: sewage system and includes whether has been inspected to confirm is actually a septic tank/field or just cesspool and if is answered to be septic system asks for date of installation and location.
Also asks about whether are abandoned or closed systems on property and if so whether were done in accordance to local statute.
Ends section w/ question of any problems over all plumbing including sewage system.
But, this is a disclosure form not an inspection so doesn't say anything about requirements, of course.
Everywhere I've been it's been an occupancy requirement that the system is functioning correctly but that can be so w/o pumping for a properly functioning system.
It's possible (virtually anything's possible) just highly unusual that would be an actual requirement.
--
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
dpb wrote:

being higher than the inlet, (I meant lower), sure got me into a world of ***t, didn't they. I'm afraid I was assuming most municipalities are operating in the 21st century, as they are here in Washington. Below is just the requirement for King Co. (Seattle).

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ed Mc wrote: ...

"INSPECTED" not "pumped" == big difference. That's not uncommon and hasn't been for quite a long time. ("Even" TN over 10 years ago... ;) when we left there.)
--
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Don't you think that some, if not many of the places that require a septic system inspection would require that the tank be pumped as part of that inspection? Just to show you I'm not nuts, I did a bit of googling. Here's some examples of pump out requirements prior to a sale or obtaining a CO that I found:
Manalapan, NJ requires proof that the tank has been pumped within the last 2 years http://www.mtnj.org/tinymce/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/cco%20application%20-%20website.doc
Huron, NY Requires an inspection which must include a complete pump out http://townofhuron.org/content/Laws/View/18
South Carolina State Dept of Health has a sample ordinance for municipalites to adopt. It requires an inspection which includes a pump out. http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/plan_tech/docs/sample_pos_ordinance.doc
Iowa requires an inspection which includes pump out http://www.iaenvironment.org/documents/TimeofSaleFAQs_000.pdf
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

http://www.mtnj.org/tinymce/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/cco%20application%20-%20website.doc
next logical step, after exposing a tank for inspection, is a pump out. Making sure the inside walls and floor are not cracked or broken is part of any THOROUGH inspection.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No, it was a requirement by the township in order to get a CO. I don't know why you'd find it peculiar. Two of us here have reported it from different areas. Obviously different locations in the US have different requirements on all kinds of things.

Yes, and the NJ form looks like it was done by total idiots. Real sharp and pertinent questions like "Have any repairs ever been made to the roof? If so, explain." I guess we're all supposed to keep a log book now, like you would for an aircraft, and record that one shingle blew off in 1987 and was replaced.

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ed Mc wrote:

Up until 12/31/08 I was a licensed real estate broker in two states and I have never heard of a requirement that the septic has to be pumped prior to selling. It may be true somewhere but I certainly don't think that it is true "MOST" places.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Could this be a city person, he admits he is not familiar with septic systems, who moves into a house with a lot of kids who flush the toilet(s) umpteen times a day and does all the laundry using lots of water. I have seen this in the past, a perfectly working septic system suddenly overwhelmed by a newby who thinks they have unlimited sewage capacity. One has to use common sense with a septic system, that is why mine is still working fine after 40 years.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

???
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
tehaleks wrote:

No, it is not normal. *NO* odor is normal. ____________

You said it was in the back yard. No? ______________

How far down the yard? Drain fields aren't all that long IME, ours is maybe 60 - 75'. Where's the water table? Lots of rain recently? _______________
I'm no expert on septic but it sounds to me as if your drain field is plugged. If that is the case, it should not be a huge expense to replace it. Not cheap but not huge either (unless they are bending you over)...backhoe for 2-3 hours, perforated pipe, gravel...dig, replace...like that. I would also suggest you have a perc (percolation) test done to make sure the soil will absorb sufficient liquid.
Someone suggested you document everything. I second that...pix, description, dates...be thorough. Get a septic guy out there to diagnose the problem and give you a *written* and dated report. A thorough and detailed report. There is no way the seller wouldn't know of a septic problem and since - apparently - they did not disclose same it seems to me they are going to have to pay to fix it. A lawyer may well be necessary.
--

dadiOH
____________________________
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

First, go to the county or city records clerk and get a copy of the permit that was used when the septic system was installed. If it was done legally, there should be a map of the house and property and septic tank and drain field, and percolation test results. These all must be done if the system was done legally. If not, then you can sue the previous sellers for not dislosing that fact as it was material to the selling of the house and property, unless it was sold "as is". We have had 2 houses with septic tanks and drain fields over the past 50 years and never had problems. But we pumped the tanks every 4 or 5 years so they never clogged the drain field..
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Most sales contracts are "as-is", at least for previosly owned homes. If it isn't sold "as is", then you'd have to give some kind of guarantee and warranty the house and exactly what would you cover and for how long?
Even if it was sold as-is, the buyer could have recourse in a case like this if the seller materially misrepresented the property by failing to disclose a major defect they knew about. Especially given that most states now have disclosure laws that require sellers to fill out a form with questions, which typically include septic system related ones. Of course, the hard part is proving they knew. But with a stinking backyard a couple weeks after closing, I think you might convince a judge. Of course there are some exceptions, like if it were a house the seller just inherited, never lived in, had no direct knowledge or involvement with before, etc.

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

In Indianapolis, where it doesn't rain in the summertime, we could tell where the fingers were because there the grass was green when it wasn't as green elsewhere. Even other times of year the grass grew faster there, but it wasnt' as noticeable.
Isn't this typical, for the grass to be greener and taller above the fingers? ______________
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.