I have a septic tank issue, that I need to address.

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Asia-Off-Grid, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    So, about a week ago, our septic tank gauge ended up on the full mark. (The toilet no longer would flush.) So, we had to empty the water from it.

    Wait. Let me start with, we have two toilets on this property.

    We have a "Khmer style" toilet, bamboo and wood construction, semi-private, no running water, wash-by-hand kind of situation. Trust me when I say none of us here would like to use this one - unless we were in a really bad way, and it were the only toilet within 10,000 kilometers.

    Then, we have the more "westernized" toilet we had built a few years back, to accommodate - well, ME. (Well, truth be told, the Boss and her mom also use the facilities.) It is much more convenient / comfortable for a westerner. Water pump providing pressure, bum gun for that morning fresh clean feeling, and tiled walls and floors, for an aesthetically pleasing environment. It still has a manual flush toilet, though - no water tank. Fill a dipper and pour it in to flush. Simple. This was, primarily done to save water consumption.

    The "Khmer style" toilet was built and associated septic tank installed, oh, 9 years ago? That septic tank has never, not once ever, been opened. Our toilet, and associated septic tank, was built about 5 years ago, located about 50 - 60 meters away from the first one, and in the same soil - err, clay. To date, we have had to "pump" out the newer septic tank three (3) times. Two of those times have been within the past month or two!

    Here, they do not use any leach bed pipe to construct drain fields. (They have no idea what a drain field even is.) Basically, dig a round hole and add gravel to form the base of the tank. Then, they layer concrete rings, each about 1 meter in diameter, one on top of one another, typically about 4 or 5 in all, with cement in between. In the top ring, they knock a hole in the side for the sewer pipe coming from the toilet and cement it in. (Body / Gray water from the shower drains elsewhere, so as not to add to water flowing into the septic tank.) On top of these rings, they cement a concrete formed lid, with a 19mm (~3/4") vent hole in it.

    Anyway, my question is, has anyone here ever had a septic system installed in ground that was mostly clay? If so, how did you help the water to filter into the ground? Obviously, it does not drain fast enough through the bottom of the tank, for the volume of use it is currently getting.
    sec_monkey likes this.
  2. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Types of Septic Systems, Alternative Septic System Designs, Master List & Descriptions of Kinds of Septic Systems

    Septic System Design Basics: Choosing Septic Tank Size, Absorption System Size, Basic Septic Design Notes
    Septic systems in clay soil can be a bitch. We have clay here so I had to go with two tanks. The second is for fluids then out to the drain field from there. The drain field uses plastic chambers which cuts down on the total amount of pipe needed as well as the size of the drain field.
    Hope the links will give you some answers.
  3. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    In Texas where they have high clay soil they do 2 tanks. A settling tank and a storage tank.
    The settling tank over flows into the holding tank then when the holding tank fills up it pumps to a sprinkler and gets used as land app.
  4. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    After having this 3 stage aerated waste water treatment unit for a while now........... I am loving it. The discharge just goes into a ditch and no leech fields or lagoons to mess with or maintain. Only mechanical part is the aeration pump. Don't know if something like that would be a option or workable over there or not. But it has proven to be a very efficient use of $$$ for me here.
  5. ochit

    ochit Monkey+

    I think you answered your own question, you need a leach bed If I recall and there are few but similar ways to do it in clay, the trenches need to be 18 inches to 24 inches deep gradually in a fall from the toilet I have seen them in T pattern main trunk out and lines going out in a T pattern app 6 or like a comb with 8 laterals even one long run but all of them have to go down hill (water does not run uphill) another reason why the positioning of the restroom heeds to be higher than where the leach line in running.

    because you need surface area a wide trench say 12 to 18 inches a layer of 4 inches of gravel a 4 to 6 inch layer of hay lay in the perforated line 3 to 4 inches in diameter cover with 4 to 6 inches of hay then sand and a few inches of better or good top soil and plant grass or something that does not have long roots to draw up the water.

    one of your problems is (IF) you live in a high humidity area evaporation is low to not much your drain field need to be in full sun as you can get and still in rainy season it will flood and your water will not drain.

    I suspect you have solids in your line this happens when you do not have down spouts let me see if I can explain a soild line goes to your tank then a Tee top open and 16 inches of pipe going down you can glue this one but not the Tee to the line coming from your toilet this is so you can slide it off if you need to clean it out from a backup of solids I am needing to explain your waste (shit) is solid it needs to set a while and it turns to sludge and falls to the bottom of the tank now on the exit pipe same Tee on the line going to your leach field solid line for a section or 2 --10 to 20 foot of solid line then start your perforated line, What that Tee and downspout does is only allow water to exit the line solids may float and enter the line without that Tee as far as gas goes it will escape. Below is a simple diagram.


    Some finer points do not run your leach field toward a water source like a river stream or lake.
    the "drop of the line is a 1/4 bubble down using a level your leach field should because of your soil be more than the minimum of a square foot per gallon of flushing water a 3 or 4 inch pipe here is a link to a pipe volume chart copy and print so you will have a reference.

    I am only guessing but I think your line is filled with solids and it is not using the above Tee's in the in and out lines so they may well be filled with sludge or solids not allowing your water to drain to the leach field.

    Sewer pipe is not meant to be glued line like we use has an upset (socket expanded on one end to insert the next pipe not using a separate coupling. the lines should go put to a upset / coupling if the other way the edge of the pipe in the coupling looking uphill stuff can get stuck on it and start a bridge and clog the pipe over time,

    every month or so add a bag or jar of yeast to a flush of water this is what breaks down the solids there should be a separation of and sewer / septic lines from drinkable water lines.

    A bed could be dug for the leach field and back filled with pure sand and topped with good soil to grow a garden -- you need roots to draw up the water to leaves so the sun can evaporate the water but the trick is roots or root vegetables that can go down can get into your leach lines and plug them with roots because that water is liquid fertilizer and roots will migrate to the holes in the leach field / perforated.

    a standard commode has a "P" trap

    reason for a "P" trap is to hold sewer gas from traveling up the pipe into the bathroom even if you use a bucket to flush water should remain in the bowl this is your seal from the pipe and tank where the gas from biodegradading is stopped from coming up the pipe.

    Probably clear as mud but I figure with some other posts you'll get the picture.

    One not not all sand is the same Olitic (more round) sand does not pack because it is round irregular sand packs and makes leaching harder.

    I have seen where a area the size of a basket ball court was dug up about 3 foot deep back filled with sand about 4 inches lines laid out with fall stones under the pipes hay under and over the pipes and filled with sand.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  6. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I add septic system bacteria .
    Oft times people make the mistake of using antibacterial in there washing and such and this kills the bacteria the septic system needs to function .
    Asia-Off-Grid, Zimmy and Motomom34 like this.
  7. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    Its been my experience that sometimes female products plug up the lines before the tank. Or snakes like big azz Cobras!!!
  8. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    Around my area there is lots of clay soil. Often a “mound” system is used. Water won’t percolate down through the clay soil. It can only evaporate or drain away as surface water which health departments don’t approve. So a big mound of sand, 2-3 feet high and maybe 5-700 square feet in area is created on top of the clay and in a way that rain won’t flow into the mound saturating it. The effluent from septic tank flows to a set of perforated pipes that distribute the effluent somewhat uniformly in the mound and the water over time evaporates or is taken up in the roots of all the grass that is planted over the mound. Trees and things with long roots that may ultimately clog the distribution field pipes are generally eschewed as cover crop on the mound.
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    There are a significant number of sand mound systems in this area as well, due to rocky ground. They do require a chopper pump to lift the waste to the settling tank. While there might be a lot of debate as to how to size and use such a system in country there's no doubt they work.
    Asia-Off-Grid likes this.
  10. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    My apologies. We are currently in the city (on short notice). I am using a tablet, which I am not fond of. I will reply when I get back to the farm tomorrow (tonight, for most of you folks), and on a real computer. Thank you for the replies.
    Gator 45/70, Tully Mars and Motomom34 like this.
  11. ochit

    ochit Monkey+

    you can use buttermilk as a bacterial "starter" as well as yeast it is good that you do not run anything but the bathroom water into the tank, washing machine and Kitchen water (grey water) contains a lot of Oils, grease cooking fat and those combine into a white caking that clogs lines, like cholesterol clogs your veins. washing machines really need to use liquid detergent as powdered detergent exacerbates the caking.

    Grey water from your tub or shower and sinks can be piped out to a garden if it pools or goes to a tank it stinks as it has biological's that break down. Sunlight is about the best killer of biological matter in grey water sewage sludge can be put on a field where it gets full sun and must lay there 2 years mowed and be turned / tilled a few times every year be ore it can be used as a garden additive I would only use such areas for hay fields after 2 years.

    Sewage treatment and proper drainage and leach field techniques help to prevent disease and contamination of soil the design is the basic ranch / rural septic system that has been used for years in the south using gravel straw or hay back filled with sand pipe has changed from baked terracotta or concrete and you could not run over those with heavy machinery .

    Reminds me that perforated pipe the holes on both sides should face out to the sides the hay keeps the sand from intruding into the lines and clogging them like a grass mat filter.
    Cruisin Sloth and Asia-Off-Grid like this.
  12. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Okay. Back home, although having returned a bit later in the day than I expected.

    Now, I think I should explain myself a bit better than I did previously:-
    1. I do not have a clogged drain. In fact, it is a straight shot (at a slight incline), a single 4 meters run of 3" PVC, from the toilet to the tank.
    2. The toilets here do have "P" traps internally. However, they do not even use wax rings, when installing them on the floors. No bolts to fasten them down, either. They use some sort of sealing cement around the edge of the base of the toilets. I have to give them credit. They work. I've never broken the seal on one, ever.
    3. I never had any cobras go down the drain and clog it up. :D
    4. Here in SEA, flushing almost anything down a toilet, aside from Number 1 or Number 2, is almost unheard of. Believe it or not, they throw all tissues into a rubbish / waste bit.
    5. The solids in the tank may be a non issue. But, I suppose it would be possible for the solids to be building up on the bottom, preventing the liquids from seeping down through the stone base?
    6. To my knowledge, my only issue, is with the water filling up inside the tank, rather than being absorbed into the ground through the gravel base.
    This crossed my mind, as well. It would be somewhat of a tight fit to add a second tank. However, without adding a leach bed, I am wondering if I would only be putting off the inevitable. Adding a leech bed to the current tank, or to a future tank, would probably be a "must".



    I should probably ask you for more information regarding this idea.

    No solids. As previously stated (in this reply), it is a single, straight run from the toilet, to the tank. While the tank does not have a "T" in it, while they were cleaning / pumping it out, I did pour water down the toilet, about 8 Liters, to make sure there was no blockage. All clear.

    Now that I look back, I wish I had constructed a 2 chamber septic tank. The primary chamber would have a solid bottom and a 3" pipe with a "T" on either side of a separating wall, flowing into the second chamber. The second chamber would have an open bottom with a stone layer. This would have been better than going back now to install a second tank, solely for liquids. Hindsight.

    True. But, in this case, the ONLY device piped into the septic tank is the toilet. Here, most washing is done by hand, and is done outside the home and bathroom. The vast majority of families here do not have mechanical washing machines.
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Re: item 5 regarding the solids possibly plugging the (hopefully rounded) gravel. Yes, it is more than possible, just about guaranteed in fact, but is more or less easily addressed when hauling out liquids, stir 'em up. When that no longer works, it will take a bit more effort to remove the solids, but the system will continue to work once that is done.

    That clay has to be wicked tight if liquid removal is needed, so plugging is probably immaterial since the tank isn't draining anyway.
    Cruisin Sloth and Asia-Off-Grid like this.
  14. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Do not quit your day job. :D And, in case there was ever a question, I wasn't brave enough to pick that ol' boy up and throw him into the toilet, then use the plunger on him. Can you picture that actually happening?!

    Here, the septic tank is already on some of the lowest land on the farm. One concern of mine is that we may end up using a macerator pump to move the waste to higher ground. I am trying, desperately, not to end up with that type of situation.

    I think the above statements addressed @ghrit's reply, as well?

    Brother, that is truly appreciated. However, the only thing worse out here than the internet speed / connect, are cell phone signals. Most of the time, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, if you were to call me, you would be cussing either the connection, your phone, or me, within 5 minutes. :D

    Already is piped elsewhere. It goes into a drainage area and is absorbed into the ground where the water from the rice fields drain off. If I can solve my drain issue for my septic tank, I want to put a gray water tank into the ground, for sink and shower water. Two words not common in this country, are "Health Department".
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
  15. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    I tell ya, it is a headache, for sure. But, it is an issue that I must sort some how, and danged soon.
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
  16. ochit

    ochit Monkey+

    Central Water free Composting Toilet Systems Sun Mar makes one here is a testimonial page this may solve many problems as well as some positive points.

    SUN-MAR. The Environmental Solution
    Asia-Off-Grid likes this.
  17. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Can you get info on the permeability of the clay you have? I'm thinking of a way to adapt your existing tank as a sort of septic tank. That said, adding another tank sorta as suggested above might be an interim step. Eventually, you'll need one (or several) trenches to lay in pea stone and perf pipe. The short term alternative to having MIL and SWMBO carry buckets is a solids handling pump and hose to the bucket dump site.

    The existing single tank is about like the old time cesspools, just a brick lined hole in the ground, but those are/were in well drained soils. When they filled with solids, they simply filled them up and dug a new one, just about like an outhouse pit, but bigger.

    Now, FWIW, I have seen composting toilets out west. I have no direct experience, but I have yet to hear from anyone that uses them on other than a short term, camp like, basis. The stink, so I'm told, in spite of the mfrs saying otherwise. How well they might work in your climate is beyond my ability to guess.
    Asia-Off-Grid and Gator 45/70 like this.
  18. natshare

    natshare Monkey+++

    Not sure what to tell you, in how to fix your problem. But I can say, even with a leech field, clay can be a stone cold bitch, to deal with!

    My parents built their house in 1960 (when standards weren't quite as tight as they are now, regarding leech fields and perk tests). A few years ago, I was going past their old house, and noticed that the current owners were entertaining a few friends, with the garage door open....and on a whim, I decided to stop and introduce myself. They were gracious enough to act excited, in meeting one of the original residents of the house, and we spent about 15 minutes, talking about the house, property and neighborhood.

    The new owners told me that when they had put in an offer on the house, the powers that be had required a perk test on the leech field, to ensure proper operation (figure that the system was 55 years old, at that time). It failed, miserably. So they split the cost of replacing the leech field with the seller, which included hauling off a ton of old clay dirt, and bringing in new top soil, in the hopes it would perk out better. Nope! Although it wasn't as bad, it still failed the perk test! But since they had done everything possible, to make it work right, they were told that it would be waivered (typical government!).

    Truly, even with a leech field, you have to have some pretty good soil, to have good drainage. Since you don't have good soil, it might behoove you to add that 2nd tank, for storage, as suggested above.
    Asia-Off-Grid and Gator 45/70 like this.
  19. BenP

    BenP Monkey++ Site Supporter+

    I have seen people use exposed gravel pits around here when the limestone rock bed is too close to the surface, In every system you just want the water to evaporate.
    Asia-Off-Grid and Gator 45/70 like this.
  20. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    You have a wonderful build up on the gravel layer. I have used a system like yours and after about 5 years (sound familiar) it stopped working. Had an old guy come over and pump it out then stir up the gravel layer. When he did it released the smell from hell. We let it dry out for 2 days before putting the lid back on and it started working again. Sold the property a couple years later so I didn't have to deal with it again. It was in clay with a lot of rocks in the NC foothills.
    Asia-Off-Grid and Gator 45/70 like this.
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