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Thread: Who can provide rural septic system installs?

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    Default Who can provide rural septic system installs?

    Good morning, have a two stage septic tank with a small leach field, would like to upgrade the system to a larger, deeper system and haven't had any luck finding anyone who is interested to come up and install it from Anc or Fairbanks. Obviously have the heavy equipment and such onsite, just no experience with these systems. The guy who built the house installed it, but he passed on and I don't have much details about it. It is vented correctly out of the top of the house but for some reason it has vents on the tank sticking out of the ground.

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    those are so it can be pumped.

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    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Cleanout lines to pump it. They should be capped, FYI.
    BK

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    If it works DON'T screw with it. If it does Not work get it pumped first. I f that does not cure the problem (assuming that there is a problem) then the line between the structure and the tank is all that needs to be fixed.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskan9974 View Post
    Good morning, have a two stage septic tank with a small leach field, would like to upgrade the system to a larger, deeper system and haven't had any luck finding anyone who is interested to come up and install it from Anc or Fairbanks. Obviously have the heavy equipment and such onsite, just no experience with these systems. The guy who built the house installed it, but he passed on and I don't have much details about it. It is vented correctly out of the top of the house but for some reason it has vents on the tank sticking out of the ground.
    If you're capable and interested in doing it yourself, DEC offers a homeowner certification class/process that will allow you to do it yourself and have a DEC certificated install. Details are on their web page.
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    If it works DON'T screw with it. If it does Not work get it pumped first. I f that does not cure the problem (assuming that there is a problem) then the line between the structure and the tank is all that needs to be fixed.
    ....Unless the tank has never been pumped, and the leach field is plugged up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    ....Unless the tank has never been pumped, and the leach field is plugged up.
    We just moved in, have been in the home for about 4 months now. It has been raining off and on for the past week or so and I noticed a small patch of melted frost one morning with a little bit of water about 30ft from the tank at the end of one of the field's tubes. the vent and field positioning look very similiar to the picture the DEC has on their website. The vents on the tank are steel pipes with steel mesh over them. On our other house with a septic system in the lower 48, the only vent for the system is the one running out of the roof on the house.

    http://www.dec.state.ak.us/WATER/wwd...rofile%204.gif

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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    ....Unless the tank has never been pumped, and the leach field is plugged up.

    Yes, I agree. I I would sure NOT build a whole new system........If he wants to upgrade it, it is hard to argue with more leach field.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskan9974 View Post
    We just moved in, have been in the home for about 4 months now. It has been raining off and on for the past week or so and I noticed a small patch of melted frost one morning with a little bit of water about 30ft from the tank at the end of one of the field's tubes. the vent and field positioning look very similiar to the picture the DEC has on their website. The vents on the tank are steel pipes with steel mesh over them. On our other house with a septic system in the lower 48, the only vent for the system is the one running out of the roof on the house.

    http://www.dec.state.ak.us/WATER/wwd...rofile%204.gif
    First, I would follow the "if it aint broke, don't fix it" rule. That said, if a person desires to upgrade a system, it can NOT be accomplished in winter here, and if there is any cause to believe the system is unreliable, fixing it before winter or waiting until next summer are the only viable options.

    Next, your description of steel risers with screens indicates an installation that is definitely NOT standard. There is (or should be) no reason for "vents" anywhere at ground level. An normal/typical DEC approved system will have 4 risers: one immediately outside the house where the drain line exits the house; two on the tank; one at the far end of the leach field line. None of these are vents. They all serve as access to the drain lines and tank for purposes of cleaning. There is no reason they can't be of steel pipe, but 4 inch black ABS is typical. All should be capped.

    The only vents of septic/sewer lines are to be found penetrating your roof, and in some cases additionally within the home in the form of one-way vent valves. None of the above is unique to Alaska. In the example of your L-48 house, if you really were on a septic tank, the risers must have been cut off below grade and buried for esthetic purposes, or perhaps you were actually connected to a city sewer system.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    First, I would follow the "if it aint broke, don't fix it" rule. That said, if a person desires to upgrade a system, it can NOT be accomplished in winter here, and if there is any cause to believe the system is unreliable, fixing it before winter or waiting until next summer are the only viable options.

    Next, your description of steel risers with screens indicates an installation that is definitely NOT standard. There is (or should be) no reason for "vents" anywhere at ground level. An normal/typical DEC approved system will have 4 risers: one immediately outside the house where the drain line exits the house; two on the tank; one at the far end of the leach field line. None of these are vents. They all serve as access to the drain lines and tank for purposes of cleaning. There is no reason they can't be of steel pipe, but 4 inch black ABS is typical. All should be capped.

    The only vents of septic/sewer lines are to be found penetrating your roof, and in some cases additionally within the home in the form of one-way vent valves. None of the above is unique to Alaska. In the example of your L-48 house, if you really were on a septic tank, the risers must have been cut off below grade and buried for esthetic purposes, or perhaps you were actually connected to a city sewer system.
    I am hoping to repair it correctly, or at least get it in working order before temps drop below freezing full time up here, I will cap the vents that are on the tank. The vents were likely buried on the other house and I have never had any problems with that system and it has only been pumped once in the past 22 years. This system up north here was put in 8-9 years ago and never used up until now. The house is new construction.

    With other forum members in rural areas on here, I was hoping for some leads to someone to a company or individual that is certified to install these upgrades, and is willing to travel out to the bush. I could attempt it myself and try to follow the DEC guidelines but I am sure there is room for me to goof it up.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskan9974 View Post
    I was hoping for some leads to someone to a company or individual that is certified to install these upgrades, and is willing to travel out to the bush.
    DEC should be able to provide a list of certified contractors in your area. (You haven't yet said where you're located...).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frostbitten View Post
    Up north near Kotzebue. I contacted a few companies in Anchorage and Fairbanks and they have no services offered in the bush.

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    It would seem an installer or two would be available in Kotz, but my experience in Dillingham would suggest caution there, too. I bought an existing home in DLG w/ well and septic in the 80's, and spent the next four years mucking around in the crawlspace with innumerable septic backups. I actually got used to it, like Ed Norton on the Honeymooners. Finally I had enough (slow learner) and called a contractor to put in a new system. They started at the the septic tank and dug out around it. The tank had been installed backwards, i.e, the port into the tank was lower than the port out of the tank. I still have to take a shower and launder my clothes after I tell that story.

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    You can take an online DEC course to get certified for a self installation. They still want you to have an engineer there to test soil and inspect as you build. They would not give me the homeowner class on cd form (could not download it) unless I planned on installing a system within one year.
    Good luck with your project.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CinANC View Post
    It would seem an installer or two would be available in Kotz, but my experience in Dillingham would suggest caution there, too. I bought an existing home in DLG w/ well and septic in the 80's, and spent the next four years mucking around in the crawlspace with innumerable septic backups. I actually got used to it, like Ed Norton on the Honeymooners. Finally I had enough (slow learner) and called a contractor to put in a new system. They started at the the septic tank and dug out around it. The tank had been installed backwards, i.e, the port into the tank was lower than the port out of the tank. I still have to take a shower and launder my clothes after I tell that story.
    That is crazy!!! I would track down the installer and send them a turd, parcel post.

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    Seriously listen to IOTT on this one. Some water at the end of your leach field doesn't indicate a problem with the system. It could be a mud puddle forming on the surface from surface water. Does it have sewer odor or is it just melt water? If you flush the toilet and the water goes down, do NOT dink around with the system. Especially if it really is a never used installation. But if it has been used for the last 8-9 years, then it is long overdue for pumping as the tank is probably full of crap.

    A very important point between your L48 system and AK... you cannot run a septic system in AK for more than about 2-3 years in between pumpings. The bacteria that break down the tank contents down south do not like AK. The tank will never get warm enough for the bacteria to thrive. The "septic booster" products from the hardware store do not work in AK. Would be just as well to just flush the $20 bill down the toilet as to go buy that stuff as they work about the same.

    Also, never ever flush anything but human waste and toilet paper! Do not use an in-sink disposal for food waste. Do not use those moistened "but wipe" products or baby wipes as they will NOT break down in Alaskan septic systems. Do not let the gals flush any of their "hygene" products! Do not flush any waste from the cat litter box. All of these items are septic system killers in Alaska.

    As long as the tank is a decent 2 compartment steel tank (and not installed backwards) of at least 1000 gallon capacity, you should be fine with the tank. It needs to be buried at least 4 feet deep and preferrably with foam insulation over the top of it prior to the backfill. The questionable part of any septic system is the leach field. How many leach field pipes are there? Measure the distance between the tank and the furthest pipes to get an idea of how much leach field they put in. If there is just one short leach field line, then that is where you are going to have your failure. A tank can last decades, but a small leach field can fail in less than 10 years. You can replace the leach field without messing with the tank.
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    could be a "crib" system. Built with logs. I think those had to have a vent on the crib itself. Depending on the soil, some had a drain field (sort of a hybrid) some did not. They were/are very popular in the McGrath, Kotz - Western Alaska bush for a long time. Seen a few of them still working after 20+ years, no pumping, and no special care.

    Good article here.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    Seriously listen to IOTT on this one. Some water at the end of your leach field doesn't indicate a problem with the system. It could be a mud puddle forming on the surface from surface water. Does it have sewer odor or is it just melt water? If you flush the toilet and the water goes down, do NOT dink around with the system. Especially if it really is a never used installation. But if it has been used for the last 8-9 years, then it is long overdue for pumping as the tank is probably full of crap.

    A very important point between your L48 system and AK... you cannot run a septic system in AK for more than about 2-3 years in between pumpings. The bacteria that break down the tank contents down south do not like AK. The tank will never get warm enough for the bacteria to thrive. The "septic booster" products from the hardware store do not work in AK. Would be just as well to just flush the $20 bill down the toilet as to go buy that stuff as they work about the same.

    Also, never ever flush anything but human waste and toilet paper! Do not use an in-sink disposal for food waste. Do not use those moistened "but wipe" products or baby wipes as they will NOT break down in Alaskan septic systems. Do not let the gals flush any of their "hygene" products! Do not flush any waste from the cat litter box. All of these items are septic system killers in Alaska.

    As long as the tank is a decent 2 compartment steel tank (and not installed backwards) of at least 1000 gallon capacity, you should be fine with the tank. It needs to be buried at least 4 feet deep and preferrably with foam insulation over the top of it prior to the backfill. The questionable part of any septic system is the leach field. How many leach field pipes are there? Measure the distance between the tank and the furthest pipes to get an idea of how much leach field they put in. If there is just one short leach field line, then that is where you are going to have your failure. A tank can last decades, but a small leach field can fail in less than 10 years. You can replace the leach field without messing with the tank.
    Three systems in our family, mine at 20 years, my parents at 15 years, my old store's systems at 27 years have never been pumped. The only system we have pumped is one that had a frozen leach field. It's been 10 years since that pumping. I helped re-do leach fields on two less than 10 year old systems that were annually pumped. I know dozens of people that have never pumped their over decade old systems.
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    AKDoug, some naive speculation: Perhaps your experience suggests that pumping a well-located and installed system may do more harm than good, i.e. pumping may remove a critical mass of the microbes needed for good tank function. Maybe it takes (at our ambient ground temps) a long time for the good microbes to again reach useful mass after they have been pumped out, and until effective tank activity is restored the system empties crap (literally) and paper instead of digested black water into the leach field, thus clogging it up. So a system otherwise effective may be best left alone. Seems like a multi-variabled equation, so that the pumping or no pumping (or frequency of pumping) decision probably depends on specifics of each installation, e.g., depth, surrounding soils, winter ground temps, blue board or no, etc. Also on patterns of use, i.e. temps, volume, frequency of waters introduced into the system from the house. I am guessing that the best thing I do for my system is make sure I am putting a good volume of warm water into the tank each day. The one winter/spring my main tank (1k gal.) and my lift tank (500 gal.) both froze up was when I was here alone and I was parsing on water because my water line had separated from the pitless because of deep frost heave. I did have the tanks pumped the first time in 8 years last year. Comments from the pumpers were how clean the tanks were with almost no crud on the bottom. Kind of reinforces what you said about your systems.

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