The Septic System

One thing that’s been on my list for a very long time has been to have the septic tank checked out.  I don’t know anything about it – where it is, how big it is, what its condition is.  I’ve owned the house for 15 years and never done anything with it.  The old owner did an enzyme treatment on it, but never said anything about pumping it out or having service done on it.  Obviously, the best time to have this stuff checked out is when there isn’t a problem, so, I guess the time is right.

I called a nearby place and ended up in voicemail.  I left a message and never got a call back.  Oh well.  I called another place and got on their schedule for te next week.  The tech showed up on schedule and without any formalities, just started into the work.

The first step was to locate the tank.  He had a probing rod he stuck in the ground at various places and found the borders of teh tank quickly.  I guess when this is your life you know all about these things.  So he knew just where to dig to uncover the lid.  He went back to the truck and got a pry bar to lift the lid off and pop, we had an open tank.

The first thing I noticed is that it didn’t stink.  I expected the most foul smell imaginable out of a septic tank, but that’s not the case.  The tech’s quick evaluation is that things are actually really good.  The water level is correct, meaning the drain field is working well, and there’s no buildup of solids, so whatever enzymes are in the system are doing their job just fine.

So with that $150 quick check complete, I just started getting random information.  I learned the boundaries of the tank so I determined I could get a truck onto the property as long as it stuck close to the fence.  The drain field probably extended to the end of the pool patio and there was a small concern about the neighbors tree roots eventually causing issues with it.  The septic tank is concrete, so there’s not going to be any root penetration there.  The tank is 1050 gallons, which is pretty standard for a house of this size.  If the house was smaller, it would likely be a 950 gal, and if bigger, or if a 1050 gal isn’t available at build time, sometimes a 1500 gal is installed.  The area of the tank is about the size of the MX-5.

He estimated that I could go a couple more years before needing any pump out service and shared a bunch of stories about people who have had critical situations with their systems.  We talked about enzymes and he pointed out the enzymes actually working in the tank right there.  They move and everything.  Fascinating and gross.  Before the days of Rid-X and active enzymes, he said the company’s founder used to throw roadkill into his tank to generate the bacteria for breaking down the waste.  Another customer who had a fresh pumpout christened her tank by throwing a whole supermarket chicken in the tank.

As far as enzyme treatments go, I guess they’re legit.  I never thought they were effective, but I’ve seen them in action now.  On top of my disbelief of their effectiveness, my understanding of their application was off as well.  It’s not a one-time application, or even a yearly thing.  You’re supposed to add them once a month.  And maybe my situation is different being alone in the house vs having 4-5-6 people in the house.

So, that was a good peace-of-mind expense to know I’m not going to have any shitty emergencies for a while.  As long as I don’t drain grease into the sink (guilty), flush wipes (nope), or use powdered detergent (nope), I should be plenty safe and the tank should outlive me.  Most likely, I’ll end up pumping it out as a pre-sale list item.