Once the septic tank has been pumped you have between a week to two before it fills up again depending on tank side and water usage and the size of the tank.
The diagnosis for this problem was that the drain field was not taking water.
With a freshly pumped tank and a little bit of breathing room the research commenced.
With the possibility of a new drain field and what at the time was an unknown expense I was looking for options.
A little background as your situation and septic system type may be different. As the original owners of the home I know I have a perforated pipe and gravel septic system. We have added onto it once when we didn't addition on our home. And I had the map of the location and diagram from the local health department that regulates septic systems.
I started to hear words like bioremediation associated with between $800 and $1500 price tags. My thought on this was if not successful that $800-$1500 fix what I've gone a long way to paying for a new drain field. One of my neighbors had received a quote for a new drain field that was $20,000. They had finally found a contractor to do it for $5000.
By this point I had installed to access points to my septic tank. One was the 24 inch round pipe with the green lid where you access the main lid to your septic tank. This is placed directly over the inlet baffle coming from the home. The other is an 8 in.² that is directly over the outlet baffle to the drain field. The second access point came in handy when determining if the drain field was taking water.
After calling several septic service companies and asking what they would do and doing and less hours of online research, I decided to try my own version of bio remediation.
This included a drain Jetter rented from the local tool rental store and a 40 pound bag of sodium hydroxide a.k.a. caustic soda or lye. With an empty tank I fed a garden hose into the drain field line to pressurize the drain field. I turn the water off and remove the hose and watch the water drain back into the tank. The idea was to flush out any solids that may have gotten into the drain field. Then I attached the drain jetter to the garden hose and started the electric pump motor. Began to feed the hundred foot hose through the baffle and into the drain field using the second access point I had made. I was able to fish the hose pass the T, another 90° angle and down each leg of the drain field.
I repeated this process about a dozen times. The Jets on the tip help to feed the hose down the drain pipe and work to flush any solids out as you remove it slowly.
Once I had satisfactorily jetted the drain field I mixed the caustic soda and water and poured directly into the drain field via a final and clear plastic hose.
Keeping in mind that water and caustic soda give off heat and the caustic soda should not come in contact with your skin.
The thought process is that this mixture will break down any solids in the drain field. For this reason you do not want her in your tank as it can break down solids and have more of them float into your drain field and clog it.
With the drain field resting in the caustic soda hopefully dissolving any solids that may be clogging up it was a waiting game.
Well a week later as the tank filled to the level of the outflow baffle we could see a small stream of water steadily flowing into the drain field. Eureka we shouted! Success!
A $100 drain jetter rental and a $40 caustic soda purchase and we were back in business! So much better than the 800 to $1500 we were quoted.
Well, not so fast!
One more week later and we are back at square one with a full tank.....ARRRGGGGHHH!
So I call an excavator who had done work for us in the past and got a ballpark of $3500 to $4500 for a new drain field. Unsure how this process would go, I called the Health department and bought a permit for a failed system replacement. This was about half price from a new system permit. They must be having pity on someone having to replace the septic system. My assumption was we would have to dig up the pipe and abandon the old system. Much to my surprise they installed a bypass valve between the tank and the tee that went out to my drain field. This valve was put in place using rubber couplers and hose clamps. The great thing about this is that I use my new drain field for three or five years and I can switch that bypass and send water to the old field. The inspector says that the old field can actually recover after being rested for two years.
The best thing about this whole project is when it was over! Luckily for us, we got the system installed about one day before the first big snowstorm of 2014/15 winter. In conversations with the builder friend, you let me know that the new permits make your account for the proposed system location and a replacement system location.
It is important to note that there are several types of septic drain field configurations. The specific type of system discussed above was a perforated pipe drain system. Other system types include a domes system which is prone to failure and a mound system. Other types of septic system rejuvenation schemes include forcing compressed air into the earth to create an impressive explosion that breaks up the soil to allow it to take on moisture again. The thought process behind this is that the salt from various detergents combined with your soil to create calcite also known as hard Pam that creates an in permeable layer and leads to septic drain field failure.