Do It Yourself septic system repair information

Septic Tank Repair Stories

septic tank toilet stopup backupHoney, The Septic Tank's Acting Up Again! (Page 3)

Reply #18

I had our septic tank pumped out several weeks ago. It had been working fine, but since we were closing on the house, we decided to pump the tank since we had no idea when the last time had been. (Longer than 8 years for sure). After that we had backed up toilets, bathtub etc. After having the first company come back and say that sludge must have clogged the leach field up and they could pump it again with out any guarantee that would work, I found another company that advertised "TerraLift" services. I had read an article the process about a year ago.

They came and aerated the leach field with a huge compressor machine. This machine had been used in Europe and had been brought to the US for use in Florida to aerate golf courses there. I was charged $750 compared to the $2000 to hook up to sewer. They give a year guarantee and will come back and aerate again if necessary. Halfway through the process, the septic tank opening "glugged" and began to drain. This company has done about 32 of these lifts the first year they had the machine and have had one failure.

Additional Information:

I live on a cliff above the Gunnison River in Grand Junction, Colorado. I believe it is mostly sandstone. My email address is Kimcce@AOL.COM.

It better work since I will be living in the mother-in-law unit while the new owners move into the main house which is on the septic!! Bestway really stands behind the process and will come back out to aerate more if there is any problem.

Thanks, Kim


Reply #19


I recently (6-2-97) had the Terra Lift done on my system which consists of two leaching pits instead of a leach field. The system was overflowing before I had the procedure done. They came and did their work, and the pits have not even come close to filling up since.

Another comment I have is on a product called Cess-Flo available at large home centers, it is made up of hydrogen dioxide and bacteria, I added this after the TerraLift was done and the level in my pits dropped even further. This product was recommended by the person who did the work.

I live in northeastern MA. and the soil conditions here in my area are not that great. We know several neighbors who have had replacements done even though the development is only 15 years old.



I had recently e-mailed you about the success I had with the terra lift. Today I was working in the yard trying to repair the damage I had done when I originally dug up the leach pits. I uncovered both pits just to see how they were doing before I planted grass seed, and to my suprise and dismay one of the pits was overflowing again. I called the company that did the procedure and they are coming out to see if they can remedy the situation, so all is not lost. I will keep you updated.


I told you I would keep you informed as to what was happening with my system. It took quite awhile to get the owner of the company that did the terra-lift at my home to come out and look at the situation, when he finally did come to my home he redid the procedure on the one leach pit that was not responding and the pit is now operational. He also gave me a one year guarantee on the work.


Reply #20

Informative reading related to tanks. We've lived in this house 25 years, moved in not knowing a thing about them. Learning the hard way. Wish this site had been available a long time ago. Less headaches would have happened.



Reply #21

My field started to saturate this spring, since the water table was quite high. I wasn't too worried. Big mistake, I wish I would have looked into it a lot sooner. This September I exposed my laterals and hired a hydrovac to snake and flush the build up out of them. (A hydrovac is a vacuum truck / pressure tank truck. What it does is flush the lateral with high pressure water through a 1/2" hose. The end of the hose has jets that push the water back to the large vacuum hose that sucks up the waste. The company I got to do this is primarily used for the oilfield industry but any high pressure water snake would be adequate, and then just reserve the services of a septic vacuum truck.)

We found that 3 of the 5 laterals were impassable. So I took on the job of excavator, After my wife and I started to expose the laterals we found a number of them crushed. Since we replaced them, all seems well (knock on wood). I guess to prevent this problem from occurring again I'm going to till the field area every year to keep the soil from compacting. Also a long term chemical treatment in now in the works, as well as getting that hydrovac out every 3-4 years to flush my laterals. For only $200, it's cheap insurance.

Dave Hrycauk,


Reply #22

Having worked in both the regulatory and consulting/design aspects of septic systems (on-site sewage facilities), the most important aspect of avoiding septic tank problems is to have your TANK PUMPED REGULARLY. This is the only way to avoid excessive scum and sludge accumulation, which will damage your septic system. Bacterial additives are not needed (think about it - fecal matter is primarily bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms), the first time you use your septic system you are inoculating it with all the microbes needed, aerobic and anaerobic.

Hoping this helps someone-

Gregrey S. White, R.S.
Hill Country Aerobic Design Works


Reply #23

Subject: Plea from a Pennsylvania sewage enforcement officer!!!

I have been testing and inspecting on-lot sewage systems for 9 years. Nearly all the malfunctioning sewage systems that I have had to deal with were from improper maintenance. Usually, not pumping the tank every 2-3 years. Many times it is from the use of the various additives that are being recommended in this article. Their claim is to clean the septic tank. The sole purpose of the septic tank is to be DIRTY, and collect solids and grease, to be pumped out occasionally. By breaking down those solids with additives, those semi-solids will now carry over into the leech field which will form a biological mat at the soil surface. Basically like installing a swimming pool liner. Do not take my word for this, refer to the late summer 1997 issue of Small Flows Clearinghouse. This is a national, independent magazine dedicated only to wastewater treatment.

Another method mentioned was a system of drilling small holes in the area of the leech field and fracturing the soil with high pressure air, then back filled with styrofoam beads. This system, as mentioned, is expensive, and it will help some, if you change your habits and pump the septic tank and practice water conservation, and don't flush any thing that you aren't supposed to.

Once a leech field is plugged up and backs up, there is only one known way to improve this condition. Let the field rest (absolutely no discharge to it) for at least one year. This allows the biological mat to break down. (Try holding it that long.)

Remember, if you start changing anything to do with the septic tank or leech field, check with your municipal government (secretary) first. In most states a permit is required for these changes to prevent you from throwing your money away on schemes that help for a little while then make it worse.

Rich Palm at


Reply #24

Long comment: What has worked for me is ...nothing. I have a flyer on Septal. Has anybody heard of it and does it work? It says it is supposed to sludge out the tank and lines. I need to make my lines flow better. Any info would be appreciated.

Bernie Richard (


Reply #25

What has worked for me is flushing 1 package of yeast down the toilet every month. Have had septics all my life..never had a problem. Don't know if this really works or if I've been lucky.

Paul Hammerl,


Reply #26

I am a code enforcement officer for St. Charles County Missouri. I have been looking through your suggestions and may have one for some of you. I have found that many of these older septic tanks have a concrete baffle on the out-flow side of the tank that is designed to prevent the scum layer and any solids still floating on the top from being passed into the drainfield. Many times these baffles deteriorate and fall into the tank, allowing the scum layer to pass into the drainfield. This will wreck a drainfield in no-time. If you are having problems with surfacing of effluent and have a septic system that is 15 years old or older, have the back half of your tank dug up and exposed. Many tanks have a access port located directly above the rear outlet, if not, you will have to remove the lid of the tank itself. If there is no baffle simply take a PVC tee, put about 18 inches [45 cm.] of pipe on one side of the tee, and connect the tee to the pipe going out of the back of the tank. The tee will look more like a upside-down L. This will draw the effluent from the middle of the tank, be! low the scum layer, and above the sludge layer. If you have any comments, please e-mail me. (Dan Walker)


Reply #27

From my experience with septic systems over the past 7 years is that the only solution for properly maintaining a septic tank is periodic cleaning by a licensed septic contractor in your local area. The environmental health department has a list of the licensed septic tank companies that are set up to do work in that county. By pumping out a septic tank you remove the solids that are broken down by the bacteria in the tank, If the solids accumulate they will eventually seep out into the drain field and clog the holes to which the water passes through, causing the effluent to surface in the yard near the septic tank or somewhere near the field lines. Pumping out a septic tank you extend the life of the system. Check your local Environmental Health Department for the recommendation on the periodic cleaning of your septic system.


Reply #29

Roger Machmeier has a good suggestion in his column in the April issue of Pumper magazine, a trade publication. Someone wrote in asking how to eliminate septic odor from house vent pipes. Machmeier replied that he knows of two companies that make activated carbon / charcoal filters designed for the purpose...they fit on top of the house vents. One is Sweet Septic Systems, Inc., 5701 Mother Lode Drive, Placerville CA 95667, tel. 800-622-8768, fax 916-622-1087. They say that their product is self-purifying...the sun's heat on sunny days rejuvenates the charcoal, so no refills are required.

The other company is Orenco Systems, Inc., 814 Airway Ave., Sutherlin OR 97479, tel. 888-878-3752, fax 541-459-2884. Their "OSI Carbon Filter" costs US$29 for 3-inch, $49 for 4-inch. Charcoal refills are less than $7.

An unrelated product is made by Septic Protector Company, tel. 800-242-6737. It is the Septic Protector, an in-line filter to prevent lint from your washing machine from entering the septic tank. Such lint is often non-bio-degradable (polyester, nylon, etc.), so it passes through the septic tank and out to the leachfield, where it clogs the lines and field. The filter assembly price is US$160 and up.

Miles Abernathy, mail -AT-


Reply #29

Problem: New (6 year old) sand filter installation is failing... OK, it's out-and-out failed. The septic tank overflows almost continuously, and when I uncovered the D-box, the pit immediately flooded to about 6" above the box lid. Won't go down either. I called out a professional, nice chap. He listened to what I could tell him about it, thought for about 30 seconds, and said the problem is the drain pipe that was installed. Brand name: Hancore [probably Hancor]. This pipe was installed with a "sock" or sleeve of permeable plastic around it that was intended to keep the sand from the filter out. Problem is that after a few years of use, the micropores in the membrane clog up (from his description I assume that a microbial mat is what clogs it).

The fix: first try a super strong dose of chlorine (sodium hyperchloride)[sic, probably sodium hypochlorite] added at the D-box. This kills the microbial mat and clears the way for the next step. Allow the chlorine to flush through for a couple of days. Then add an enzyme (don't know what it is yet) that destroys the sock membrane. Once the sand filter is in place and has settled, there apparently is no continued need for the sock. The only other option is to dig up all of the surface distribution lines and replace them with conventional drain pipe. So far the jury is still out. The field drains so slowly that I'm not convinced any of the chlorine is getting to it. Anybody else heard of this problem and/or fix? Am I wasting my time, or is this a bona-fide solution to a known problem? What about Hancore? If the story is true, this sounds like a product liability issue.

Tom Kendall (

[Website owner's note: If the membrane-filter sock around the pipe is causing the problem, it is unclear how much blame can be assigned to the pipe. Hancor sells both membrane filters and pipes.] ===

Reply #30

In response to Tom Kendall's flooded drainfield, Tom needs to check his daily water flows, possibly install a water meter to insure his daily flows are not exceeding his septic system design. Go back through the site evaluation information that the system's design was based on such as soils, percolation test, lineal feet, or square feet of drainfield, before we blame product failure. Graveless pipe is a proven product provided the contractor has followed the criteria as to proper installation and education of his customer for maintenance and water conservation.

Pat Beemer,


Reply #31

"One dead jackrabbit a year in the cess pool will keep it working." That was the advice of one old farmer in the area where I ran a pumper business for many years. Yeast, fish guts, and commercial additives were all popular among the old timers. I didn't care what they used, as long as they had the tank pumped as needed, which meant the guy with the rabbit floating around needed it pumped more than normal. The best advice is to have the tank inspected for sludge and scum depth, and pump as necessary. The tanks walls should be washed down, and a small amount of "seed sludge" should be left in the bottom. A couple of gallons is enough. The heavy use of garbage disposals, and high detergent clothes soap, cuts the recommended pump out interval in half. Installation of an outlet effluent filter, and a gas deflector on the bottom of the outlet pipe, would be money better spent than on additives.

Laurence Parker,


Reply #32

A lot of suggestions, the main one is to use the table given for the number of people to years of pumping. Also a note, if the number of women exceed the number of men, then you may want to pump more often. A lot of toilet paper is a big culprit - women use more than men. And, I have been warned by a number of 'honey' dippers [septic tank pump truck operators] to not use Charmin, because it doesn't break down as fast as other brands.

After 22 years, my field gave out, started to break out at the end of the lines. Heard about TerraLift, and just had it done. They dug a hole (test) in the field and it immediately filled up and overflowed - the field was not draining. After they blasted one hole, the test hole emptied half way. The first blast was like an earthquake, the whole field raised up. After they were about half done, the test hole was completely dry. Will keep an eye on it and see what happens, but it definitely looks good. Interesting way that they found the pipes in the field, as mentioned previously, they use brass rods (dowsing). After the pipes were found, he just threw the rods on the ground, so I tried it, WOW, it definitely works. Would like to know how brass rods can find pipes filled with water???

As to one suggestion, especially if you are in a small town, do NOT let your health officer know what you are doing, because you don't know what deals he has with septic tank companies. In a neighboring town they practically banned the TerraLift system because of a complaint by a septic system company. They were losing money from replacing fields, a $5 to $10K bill. In my town the health officer is also the road agent who contracts with a septic system company for snow plowing, etc.


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