When I last had my tank pumped 2 years ago a small hole was
discovered half way up the side. It is\\was the size of a roll of
pennies. Having waited two years to get it fixed I finally started
digging out the tank at the approximate location of the hole. I got
down about two feet when my hole started to get waterlogged. I was
able to dig a trench almost the entire side of the tank about 3 feet
down before it got to messy with all the waste water. I still dont
have an exact location of the leak but should not have a hard time
locating it tomorrow. I have a septic company scheduled to empty my
tank tomorrow morning so I will be able to make the repair. Having
talked to a friend who was employed in the septic/excavation field for
many years he advised me to fill the hole with hydraulic cement and
then put an asphalt shingle on both sides with roofing tar or some
other sealant. Does this sound like the proper approach? Will I be
able to get roofing tar to stick on the wet cement. How would a
professional perform this repair? The reason I waited so long to
perform the repair was based on an estimate of about $1000 to get it
professionally fixed. If I am able to do it myself it will only cost
me the price of the cement and a $200 pumping fee. From what I read
it sounds like I have a mid seam tank (1000 gal.) (25 years old) and
these leaks at the seam are a notorious problem for this style. I was
also told by a different source that their were holes used to lift the
tank in place which are then plugged. The reason I say this is that
the hole appeared too perfect to be caused by natural wear on the
tank. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thanks Brent and JC. I really wouldnt have much of a problem with the
hole except every 3 years the township requires that my tank be
inspected. When it failed 2 years ago I got a notice to get it
repaired. Luckily my township is fairly lax with these type of
problems as we are mostly rural where I live, that is one of the
reasons it took so long to get to. Anyhow, more bad news, I just got
done digging the rest of the hole and it seems now there are more then
one leak. And that is just the side that I have exposed. JC, I think
I am going to use your idea with the chicken wire which should give
the plug extra strength, unfortunately it is looking like I might just
end up replacing the tank. This is extra sad because just the other
day I was staking out the corners of my future garage which will now
be put on hold for another couple years. Anyone have any real world
experience with the costs of replacing a tank? I was always told
around 4-5 thousand.
It depends upon your "township", whether or not they will allow you to do it
yourself. If they will, it should cost the price of the replacement and the
rental on a backhoe, if you can use it. I'd say under a grand total. But, it
would be so much cheaper to just dig out all around it and patch whatever
needs patching. It's a lot of work, but just look at it as good exercise.
And then you can try to find a place to put the new boat or whatever you
spend that 4-5 thousand on. <G>
Honestly I was just thinking that. Probably 2-3 days of work and
showering down the road at my parents. I am just worried with the
pressure from the tank pushing outwards any patching I do will
eventually come loose. As far as replacing the tank myself I would
still need a crane to lower the new tank in place and jackhammer out
the old one as well as doing all the plumbing fittings which I have no
experience with. Not to mention I am not well informed with the codes
regarding the new tank installation. What if I were to trench out
around the tanks seam tamp down all loose dirt and then pour a 6"
thick "footer of sorts" around the tank seam??
That's a fairly common method. But most country folks around here just dig
down to the hole, drive a piece of coroplast or other plastic sheeting down
far enough to hide the hole, backfill it and leave it. It would probably
never cause you an ounce of trouble. If you want to go to the trouble, just
get you some chicken wire, ball some up and cram it in the hold, then cut a
sheet big enough to cover the hole, hold it over the hole and plaster it
with some ready mix concrete. Just make sure the area around the hole is
damp, preferably wet, when you put the concrete on it. Let it sit for a day
and then backfill with dirt and forget about it.
The approach you propose sounds reasonable. There are roofing cements
that are used on wet roofs and they should stick to the tank once you hose
the sides clean. I'm a little uncomfortable about you getting inside the
tank without a respirator. At least have a helper outside the tank keep an
eye on you..
So here is the update... The pump truck came at 10 AM and did a
thorough job of cleaning and rinsing out the tank for me. They were
annoyed by the fact that the little leak I pointed out to them
warranted me to shell out money to repair it. They said if it was
ever up to them they would have never reported it. Therefore I have a
new company that will pump my tank out for now on! After the pumping
was complete I went to the store and bought a 10# bucket of hydraulic
cement. Climbed down in the hole, which was not as disgusting as I
imagined. I scrubbed the seams first with a wire brush which seemed
to tear away at the concrete too much. Then I switched to a stiff
bristled brush designed for pots and pans. Once the cement appeared
fairly clean I smeared the cement on with my hands and then pressed it
in with a putty knife. Instead of doing just the problem area I
decided to use all the cement and got 3 out of 4 sides sealed up. I
also did the outside seam where the leaks were coming out which I
already had excavated. I really hope this fix lasts at the very least
for one more year when I have to get it inspected. The cement was
easy to work with at first but if you messed with it too long while it
was on the walls of the tank it would start to get soupy. Also after
studying the leak some more it was not the size of a penny but rather
a slit the size of 2-3 pennies on their side. My only concern now is
that the seam I scrubbed with the wire brush may have created more
potential leaks in the future. I doubt it but I tend to worry too
much when it comes to $. If there is any advice I can offer to others
is that you purchase a top seam septic tank and not have to worry
about this sort of problem. So now I am going to prohibit water usage
in the house until at the very earliest late tonight so the cement has
time to cure. Even so it will take a couple days for the tank to fill
up to the seam. I just dont want water splashing the sides when it
hits the floor of the tank. That is about it...now I am off to my
parents to take a shower.
True. Every so often you hear of one or more people getting
killed after climbing into a holding tank or enclosed manure pit.
However, he did say:
Once you've pumped out a septic tank, and did a thorough clean
and rinse, there's not going to be a lot of methane gas left, nor
much (if any) being produced.
Especially if the tank lid was the size of the full tank
(rather than just a small hatch) - methane rises.
Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
True, I was advised by many people to be careful about the fumes and
definately to have someone watch over me while I was inside. Though
when the truck pumps out the liquids they are replaced with clean air
sucked down through the hatch. Just to be safe I opened the other
(outflow) hatch and ran a fan for 15 minutes down the main hatch. The
girl was entertained and digusted at the same time watching me climb
down in. She took several pictures of me wearing fishing waders,
poncho and rubber gloves which will soon be developed. I do recall
though a few stories involving farmers dying while working with
sanitary systems usually animal wastes. I had an incident where my
old boss asked me to stain the wood paneling in his racing trailer not
telling me that a few hours before he had someone else hanging up the
panels with chemical adhesives. When I stepped in the trailer to
begin work after sitting in the summer sun all day I was immediately
overwhelmed by fumes and lost my vision and most of my motor
functions. Luckily I stumbled back outside (not sure how) and
recomposed myself. Ever since then I am very alert to any dangers
posed by harmful gases.
How about this one? When I was in the Air Force back in the 1960s, stationed
at Altus AFB, I was put on a detail to paint the concrete floor of an Atlas
F missle site. So here I go down into the bottom of what seemed like a mile
deep hole in the ground, with my little bucket of Air Force gray paint and a
roller. After I had poured a little paint out and was rolling it out, a full
blown one star general came walking down the gangplank type stairs and
screamed at me "what the hell are you doing?" I told him and he wanted to
know just who in the $^&*^%(&(^% told me to do that. I was instructed to
follow him to the 2nd Louie that gave me the order. Come to find out, you
can make bubbles with a paint roller and if I had made one big enough,
stepped on it, I could have blown up the whole damn base. So, always get a
second opinion before you take on a task you know nothing about.
Glad you got your problem solved.
Glad you were aware of the hazard. Some people aren't.
Doing a google search for "manure pit asphyxiation" yields altogether
too many examples.
We had one near here a few years back like the one described here:
While this is a lot less likely with a residential septic tank,
it still needs to be treated with considerable respect.
Methane is the most obvious hazard, but you need a fair amount of
it to displace enough air to asphyxiate or become explosive.
H2S (hydrogen sulfide) is a different beastie. It's very
toxic even at quite low concentrations. While the rotten egg
smell is an obvious indicator of its presence, a little known
fact is that concentrations of H2S high enough to kill you have
paralyzed your sense of smell. So if you smell rotten eggs
getting stronger, and then the smell abruptly fades away,
_don't_ assume that the H2S is gone - drop everything and run!
[In other words, as long as you can smell it, you're probably
Then of course there's CO2 and Ammonia potentially present...
Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
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