Septic Frozen?

Page 1 of 2  
Hiya, I had my septic tank pumped out around 6 months ago after it backed up. I made an assumption that I had killed the bacteria off due to a number of projects in the house that ended up with me washing some chems down the sink (was stripping sealed saltillo floors). Anyway, 6 months later and it appears it's backing up again. We've been very careful not to put bleach/chlorine/etc... down the drains. We lived in the house 3 years without even a sign of trouble and now to have to pump it twice in 6 months seems a bit much. After the last pumpout, I installed a riser and cover just to prevent having to dig it out the next time. I'm wondering if I should have stuffed the riser with insulation or not? Could it be that the thing is just frozen? We've been seeing temps in the teens at night and the low to mid 30's during the day and it's been very dry (haven't noticed any spots in the leach field that are wet either). I'm not really all that familiar with septic systems so am hopeful someone out there might have some advice. I can always call the pumping service and get the lowdown from them but if there's something simple I can do or check, I'd prefer to do that before paying a fortune for Sunday service. I suppose I could pull the lid and see what's what. Thanks much for any advice you may have. Cheers, cc
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Very unlikely it's frozen, especially at those temps, which aren't really extreme. You say you've lived in the house for 3 years, but how old is the septic system? They don't last forever. And I don't understand the comment about not seeing wet spots in the leach field. If you normally see wet spots, something is very wrong, as with a proper system, this should not be happening.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I was trying to point out that there are no wet spots, meaning it appears anyway, that the system was working as it should (ie. don't have a saturated leach field). The septic system is about 12 years old.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 18 Dec 2005 03:14:31 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Yes, don't forget that clean water freezes at 32, but dirty water freezes at lower temperatures. It doesn't have to be alcohol or ethylene glycol that is dissolved in the water, for the freezing and boiling points to be lowered and raised respectively.
Anything that dissolves int he water will do that. And aiui septic water has a lot of things dissolved in it.

Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Normal septic system consists of the tank (which holds and decomposes solids), this flows into either a leeching pit or a leach field ( which dispenses the liquid). If tank keeps backing up than the outlet to the leech system or the leach system itself is plugged. Common cause is roots in the pipe. If trees/shrubs are allowed to grow in the leech area than roots area the problem.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The last time it was pumped, the guy did the full inspection and said all was ok. I don't have any trees or shrubs in the area. I suppose at these temps, that the thing isn't frozen and I should get it pumped again. At that time, I'll ask them to do a full inspection of the system, again. Cheers, cc
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
James "Cubby" Culbertson wrote:

The bad news is that you have something plugged up somewhere and it is after the septic tank. The worse news is that there is no good news.
You say he did a "complete inspection". Not unless he had a remote camera that can peer down the drain field pipes he didn't. The most he could inspect is the tank itself and any distribution boxes that have inspection covers plus run a bit of water down the outlet pipe.. You have a plugged up drain field if this is an old house or a field that is not operating correctly if it is a recently installed one. Any tank that needs pumping in 6 months indicates a very serious condition. Hope they can find a plugged outlet pipe but be prepared to replace your drain field.
Time to call in an expert and the grunt running the pump truck is not an expert.
Harry K
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Cubby, I don't know where you are living but frost doesn't go any lower than approx 20 inches in the ground. In cases where there is no snow, frost may go as much as 36''. I live in eastern Canada and the first thing I done when I purchased my home was to dig up the tank to see the condition and put an extension on the clean out. The piece that I have is approx 36'' deep. To date(knocks on wood) I've never had any problems. Here are some questions, things to look for and a few suggestions. How much soil(deep) is covering your tank? The tank should be covered ground level with at least 2-1/2 to 3 ft of dirt Is the vent in the roof of the home un-obstructed? If the vent is bent,plugged or capped off, the system could get air locked. Is your sewage system up to code have a distribution box and septic field with 4 lines running away. This is the first question you should be asking and is there a sufficient grade running away from the home. Is there ground water from a spring anywhere near by? If the ground is saturated wet from other sources such as changes made by road work crews in the area to change ground water direction then you could contact the municipal government in the area to correct it. If the water table is high or the distribution lines are not grade properly than you would see problems. Do you flush tissue paper down the toilet? I have no idea how many people are using the toilet(s) in your home but to get an idea, ask wife or yourself, how often do you buy bum wad? Once you get an idea, multiply that and you can draw from that how much paper you flushed in 6 months. It takes years for paper to break down in a tank. You should instead put a small container in the bathroom lined with a bag and discreetly dispose of the tissue tied up and tossed into a regular garbage bag with the rest of the household trash. You could flush several packs of bakers yeast in the toilet monthly, this promotes a healthy culture of Bacteria in your tank. In the basement of the home, do you have a clean out access where the sewage goes out? If your plumbing is done right then it must have one of these per code, so it would be wise to open it up and look for the obvious and run a snake thru it. Do you have a back water valve? This prevents sewage from backing up in your home so you should find out if you have one and see why it is or isn't working and if indeed the baffle in the tank is not clogged up. What do you do with the grease from cooking? If you answer that you pour it down the sink or toilet than you have created your problem as the PVC pipe acts just like an artery and a cholesterol build up and everything is choked off. The only difference is, grease sticks better to the inside of a cold piece of pipe. thank god for that or we'd be all dead. How do you know the septic or chemicals is the problem? The tank under normal conditions when you open the lid should always be full of water but low in waste, that's common sense as the run out to the distribution box is located at the top at the back of the tank. If you are flushing chemicals(bad boy) than you must be flushing everything and anything. Cut back on the tissue paper, give up flushing everything besides what it is intended for and it will serve you well. Give the pipes a good cleaning with a snake and hot water, remove and replace them if you have to and make any necessary changes so it doesn't escalate into another costly venture. Mine has been working effortlessly for the past 10 years and I have yet to open it for any reason.

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

Holy Cow Dan! Thank you for such a lengthy, in depth look at Septics! I really appreciate it. You asked a number of questions, some I have asked myself and other's which have me thinking. That's great! I went out this morning and checked my vent pipe (which showed water in it last night). It was dry as a bone this morning. I'm going to monitor it through the day to see what happens. I'm suspecting (and hoping!) that I had a small blockage between the vent pipe and the septic tank itself which has since cleared itself. That would be best case. Worst case is the field lines are frozen/plugged in which case I'm in for a bit of work. We've been very careful about what we put down the septic since the pumpout 6 months ago....no grease (ever for that matter) or chems. We do put toilet paper down but no "female hygeine" items. All in all, you've prompted me with enough questions to get this thing figured out. I really appreciate that. Thanks very much! cc
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 10:01:31 -0700, "James \\"Cubby\\" Culbertson"

You should be able to run some water in the house and look in your pumping hole on the tank to see if water is coming into the tank. You could have a clog or freezeup in the pipe between house and tank. I used to live in a house where the pipe froze between house and tank. I added about a foot of soil over the pipe and just tapered it into the lawn so it was not very noticable. It never froze again.
If the water is going into the tank but not exiting the tank, your drain field is either clogged or frozen. That is much harder to check, although you could try to snake it out, but that may be difficult this time of year with frozen ground around the top of your tank.
It never hurts to add some of those bacterial "chemicals" they sell. I cant think of the name of that stuff at the moment.
Depending where you live, you might consider draining wash machine and bathtub water directly on to the lawn. I do that here, but it is allowed here, plus my lawn is a steep hill that goes down to a creek. I am not allowed to drain directly into the creek, but I just run it down the hill. It tends to form an ice slick in winter, but I never walk down there in winter anyhow.
My septic only gets toilet and sinks, so there is much less water going into it.
Mark
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
James "Cubby" Culbertson wrote:

If you think that the field is the problem, you can try flushing it with an enzyme product. Probably won't work, but way cheaper than building a new field.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 10:01:31 -0700, "James \\"Cubby\\" Culbertson"

What a name, eh?
AFAIK, almost everyone with a septic tank uses toilet paper and flushes it. We did, 7 years for 2 of us, and 4 of those years, 3 of us. No problems. We had the tank cleaned once in those 7 years iirc.
(The previous owner had built a patio over the tank, with only a 4 foot hole to access the tank. My mother worried we'd lose the patio, which would have been hard to repair and we didn't have much money, if there was ever a big problem, but there never was. I was back there 40 years later, but there was snow on the ground and I couldn't see if it was the same patio or not.)
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

What a shitty place to build a patio !!!!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Some of your advice is good, others are questionable. Baker's yeast does nothing for a septic tank. Toilet paper is not a problem for a properly built septic tank and keeping a pail full of shitty toilet paper in the bathroom is disgusting. Frost in Canada goes much deeper than 20 inches or even 36 inches. In southern Ontario we regularly get 48 inch deep frost sometimes up to 60 inches. Most septic tanks should not be 30 to 36 inches deep to the top or the drain field will be too deep for proper operation.
I have a 35 year old septic system that is still working good. The rules I work with is keep the amount of water sent to the septic tank to a minimum. Do not send laundry water to the septic tank, powdered detergents clog up the system and synthetic fibres from the wash water get flushed down the drain field where they do not decompose causing the drain field to permanently plug up. No cooking oils nor grease down the drains. Minimum amounts of bleach and other sterilizers are used. Pump every year or every two years maximum.

of
and
out
any
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
No laundry in septic? I don't beleive that it's legal here in Ontario Canada to drain laundry right on your yard. Got a new house with new septic and all goes in there. I won't be using bleach or anything like this but I don't think I can avoid draining laundry into the septic.

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

I'm not going to comment about the sewer problem except it is most likely a plugged field. The OP should have done something about it the first time. It is unlikely to be frozen, but to address your comments on freezing depths.
Your information on freezing depths is not correct. Although fairly unusual, frost depths can go to 6 feet and did so in 1990 near here. Frost depths of 4-5 feet are fairly common at elevations of 5000 or more.
In 1990 the frost line in a town about 50 miles away went to 6 feet and caused a lot of headaches. Four feet deep is not uncommon for a frost depth. The county extension office or a city building permit agency will information on the frost depth is in your area. People that live in the lowlands tend to think everyone experiences the same conditions.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 21:47:32 +0000, George E. Cawthon wrote:

The frost line has gone down as low as 7' here (NW Vermont) in the mid-'90s. All sorts of water mains broke. Frost down to four feet is an annual event.

True, but even low-lands get cold. We're at about 1-300' above MSL. ;-)
--
Keith

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


While New Brunswick ain't exactly the Rivieria or Florida, most of the rest of Canada gets colder than that.
In Ottawa, we've had frost to 7 feet a few years ago, but 3'-4' is routine.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Any septic tank that can't handle at least 2 years worth of normal TP usage is just plain busted. But it is TP usage that will often determine how often you need a pumpout.

Septic tanks do not operate off baker's yeast. It does nothing whatsoever. Septic tanks get all they need in the way of bacteria from your gut.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment indicates that _NO_ additives should be used. None of them do anything.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ok, An update on my situation. I went ahead and lifted the lid off the septic tank. It's full right to the top. If I'm not mistaken, I should have a foot or so of air space in there correct? Being completely full like this would indicate a problem with the septic's drain lines (either clogged, frozen, etc...). Is that correct? I have no trees in the area so it's probably internal to the lines themselves. So what do I do? I suppose I need to call someone out to confirm my diagnosis and I suppose it'll turn into digging up the yard to put in new drain lines. What a mess and only a week from Christmas..... Thx. cc
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.