Some settling of contents may occur

Everyone should expect some settling of the soil after digging and back filling a hole in the ground.  This is no different when a new septic system is installed.  Here are some pictures of settling that occurred after a new aerobic septic system was installed.  The trick here is to fix the settling as soon as possible so that the sod can be rolled back without harming it to much.  If you wait to long then you can only put soil in on top of the sod and wait for the grass to grow over it.  This fix was done within one week of the install and the roots of the sod had only grown about 1.5 inches.  Also the ground was kept wet by the owner so that the sod wouldn’t dry out which helped in the peeling back of the sod to add the sand.

Now the sod was peeled back and sand was added underneath.  Sand was used because when it is dry it will sift down and fill the crevice which was left by the settling.

Here is a final photo after 1 cubic yard of sand was added and the sod was watered in again.

Some additional settling may occur but it looks much better and folks should not trip and fall in the crevices.

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TIP: Does replacing the air diffuser make a difference?

Depending on the brand of your aerobic treatment unit (ATU) there might be the possibility to replace the air diffuser or at least clean it. If you do have the possibility to replace or clean the air diffuser or the air stones it is a worth while maintenance item that should not be overlooked. By performing this task the effluent should smell better and your air compressor should last longer.  As the diffuser or air stone becomes soiled the ability to pass air into the aerobic treatment unit will diminish and the back pressure on the air compressor will increase. The air compressor has an optimum and maximum pressure for normal operation and the goal is to stay within these limits and therefore prolong the life of the air compressor.

This unit had an air compressor that no longer worked (the rotary vane motor no longer operated) and could not be rebuilt. After replacing the rotary vane air compressor (very costly) an air pressure measurement was taken showing almost 9 PSI.  Then the air diffuser was replaced and a second air pressure measurement was taken.

Air pressure before the diffuser was replaced

Air pressure before the diffuser was replaced

Air pressure after the diffuser was replaced

Air pressure after the diffuser was replaced

The drop in back pressure was substantial and should allow the new air compressor to run cooler and last longer. Different manufacturers recommend changing or cleaning the air diffuser or air stones at different intervals. Check with the manufacturer of your ATU to find out what they recommend.

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New installation of a Clearstream all in one aerobic system on video!

Tell us what you think of this video on YouTube.

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What not to do when your septic field fails

Here is an example of what you should not do when your conventional septic field fails and toilets won’t flush.  What you are looking at in the picture below is the 2nd of two 500 gallon septic tanks which make up a conventional septic system.  No one ever confesses as to what happened or who did it so sometimes you have to use an educated guess.  So here are my assumptions as to what led up to what you see in the below picture.

  • The septic field failed which prevented the wastewater from leaving the inside of the house.

Action taken was to add a sump pump and force the raw sewage through two spray heads onto the surface of the yard from the second septic tank.

  • Sprinkler heads clogged due to unfiltered wastewater being pumped.

Action taken was to remove the spray heads and just let the pump release the raw sewage on the surface of the yard.

  • Raw septic effluent smelled very bad.

Action taken to try and reduce or prevent the bad odor was to add a liquid bleach chlorinator to the second septic tank so that it would add liquid bleach. The liquid chlorinator will not remove the smell and it is designed for disinfection of waste water that has undergone secondary treatment first.

None of these things worked and they should not have been done.  Maybe a solution would have been to add a pump and pump the sewage from the second 500 gallon tank to the existing field lines under ground which would then be known as a pumped effluent drain field or PED.  The sewage should never be pumped above ground with the possibility of human or pet contact.

Pump and liquid chlorinator added to conventional septic system.

You should not do this!

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Tip: Home warranty, good or bad?

I am not an expert on home warranties but for some they are indispensable for peace of mind.  That being said they aren’t always the best way to go for repairs.  I recently talked with a home owner that has a home warranty and he overpaid for a septic repair. He wasn’t very happy with the overall experience either.  The home warranty serves a purpose but that doesn’t mean that you can’t price shop for your repair.  It seems that a second opinion or estimate is prudent since just because you have a home warranty doesn’t mean that the contractor coming out to perform the work is the most cost efficient.  Maybe once the warranty company sends out a person to verify an issue and determine what the problem is with your septic system a call should be made to your maintenance provider for a second opinion or even just a repair quote.

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Tip: Making it easier to add chlorine tablets to the pump tank.

Many chlorine dispensers are located within the pump tank of an aerobic septic system.  Adding chlorine on a routine basis is tedious and down right troublesome if the lid is secured properly with safety screws. One thing that you can do in order to make it more convenient to add chlorine tablets without removing the tank lid is to install a smaller 4″ cap through the main tank lid. This can be done in many ways using either SDR or Schedule 40 PVC.  In this example I use 4″ diameter SDR which is also called sewer pipe.  It has thinner side walls than schedule 40 PVC and is a little less expensive.  Since this isn’t structural pipe it is a cost effective solution.

The first step is to identify where the chlorine tube is located beneath the lid. This step is key in order to get the hole located in the correct place.  If this isn’t done correctly then when the chlorine tablet is dropped in through the cap it will miss the chlorine tube and just drop into the pump tank.


Once the hole has been made in the lid with a 4 1/4″ hole saw you can see that the chlorine tube is just below the lid and chlorine being dropped into the hole will land in the chlorine dispenser.  The next step is to measure and cut a short section of SDR pipe that will be glued into the base of the cap.

These are the pieces that will be assembled before inserting them into the lid and sealing it.

This is what the cap (pipe and lid base) look like once it is set into the lid.

This is what a properly aligned and installed cap should look like when you look into it as if you were dropping chlorine tablets in.

Now with it all complete and the lid screwed on.  Remember that you don’t need to tighten the cap real tight.  It just needs to be tight enough to keep debris and animals out.

I like to use a sealant around the pipe where it enters the lid so that rain can’t get in.  After it is done then all that is left is to install the screw that locks the lid for safety reasons.

That’s it!  Now all that needs to be done in order to add chlorine is to unscrew the cap and drop in the chlorine tablets!



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Just in time for Halloween! Zombie septic tanks!

Concrete septic tanks can and will float out of the ground under certain conditions.  Here is a photo to act as proof.

Zombie tank 1

This is a picture of a septic tank that was buried in the ground and had some soil with foliage growing over it.  The ground had become saturated and the tank had pumped down so far that it actually became buoyant. It then slowly rose out of the ground like a zombie!

An example of the math behind it:

This is a rough calculation of the buoyancy of a concrete 500 gallon (inside volume) septic tank which is roughly 5 feet in diameter and 5 feet tall with 3″ thick walls.

The volume that the tank displaces is = π * radius * radius * height = 3.1416 * 2.5* 2.5 * 5 = 98.175 cubic feet

The amount in gallons of water that is displaced is = 7.48 g/cu.ft * 98.175 cu.ft. = 734 gallons.

A gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs.

The weight of the water that was displaced is 8.34 lb/g * 734g =6120 lbs.

The weight of water displaced is roughly 6120 pounds but the rough weight of the empty concrete tank is only about 5000 pounds!  This means that there needs to be around 1250 pounds of weight on it or in the 500 gallon concrete tank to hold it down (neglecting the coefficient of static friction of the soil around it).  If there isn’t any soil or weight on top of it then it will need roughly 150 gallons of water in it to keep it in the ground!


How do I fix the bad odor when my septic system sprays?

I have folks say to me when their system sprays smelly water that they just need to add chlorine.  Adding chlorine tablets or liquid bleach will not remove or fix the bad odor.  The chlorine tablets and liquid bleach are for disinfecting only.  The air being delivered in the aerobic treatment unit is the solution to the bad odor.  In order to remove the bad odor the aerobic bacteria need to work their magic.  They either need more air or more time and this can only be accomplished by making sure that the air compressor is providing enough air and that the flow of waste water is slow enough so that there is enough time for treatment to take place.

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Bootlegged conventional system 1

Here is what is known in the industry as a bootlegged system. A bootlegged system is a system that has not been properly permitted for one reason or another.  There can be any number of reasons for someone wanting to bootleg in a septic system rather than getting the required permit.  Here are just a few and by no means is this list all inclusive:

  • The perception of saving money
  • The thrill of breaking the rules
  • To save time
  • Not knowing what the rules are

I do not know what the reason for this bootlegged system was but it was definitely did not have a permit and was not adequate for the site.  The owner tried to have the water company turn on the water but was told by the water company that the county had to approve the septic system and provide a release before the water could be turned on.  Since there was no permit issued the county would not approve the septic and would not release the water company to turn on the water.  The owner was issued a permit for an aerobic septic system with subsurface disposal and since the bootlegged system did not meet these requirements it had to be destroyed.  These were two brand new 500 gallon septic tanks along with two conventional field lines that were paid for but never able to be used since there was never any water turned on.


Normally a conventional septic system has two tanks with the first one (the “A” tank) having the inlet several inches higher than the outlet so that the wastewater will flow downhill and not back up into the house.  This second tank (the “B” tank) has an inlet and outlet that are of the same height.  This system was comprised of two “A” tanks.  The second tank was reversed and in order to overcome the height difference of the inlet and outlet the tank was installed backwards so that the connecting pipe was level and then a new hole was punched in the wall so that the outflow was at the correct height.


This was all around a bad choice because it didn’t save money since the owner paid for the bootleg system and then for the new and correct one.  It also didn’t save any time.

Aerobic septic “all in one” with caved in pump tank chamber

Here is an aerobic “all in one tank” system that has the pump tank compartment caved in. Looking into the lid of the pump tank chamber you can see that the concrete wall has been pushed in so that it is visible through the opening.  The normal position of the sidewall is out of view when looking into the lid opening.


This view is of the outside of the tank with some of the dirt from the side area removed.  You can see directly into the pump tank chamber.


I am not exactly sure what forces were at play when the side caved in but it may not have happened if there was steel reinforcement embedded in the concrete.


This is what it looked like after the new 500 gallon concrete pump tank was installed. The 4″ pipe coming out of the aerobic chamber was plumbed to the new pump tank with 1/8″ per foot slope.  The electric for the pump and the 1″ PVC effluent line were connected to the existing system and it was inspected with a PASS.



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