Waste-disposal system 161 in .NET

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Waste-disposal system 161
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Fig. 13-3. Terminations of fresh air vent: top left perforated plate covers opening in foundation wall; bottom left perforated cover plate for vent opening is missing, a common condition; right a freestanding gooseneck cover. In some communities, however, once a sewer line is installed, all the homes on that street are legally obliged to connect. Your best bet is to contact the local municipal building department and ask them if this house is connected to the sanitary sewer system. It might save you a lot of aggravation later on. Cesspool A cesspool is basically a hole in the ground that has been lined with stone, brick, or some other material. It is constructed to allow raw contaminated liquid sewage to leach into the soil while retaining the organic matter and solids. Because of environmental and health considerations, 162 Plumbing most communities no longer allow cesspools in new construction. The older homes that have cesspool disposal systems are not required to upgrade them to septic systems as long as they are functioning properly. However, when problems develop, the homeowner is often legally obligated to replace the cesspool with a septic system rather than repair it. Depending on soil conditions, topography, and available space, the installation of a new septic system may cost several thousand dollars. Septic system A septic system consists of a watertight container that functions as a detention tank for
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sewage sludge and a disposal field for the absorption of the liquid wastes. A septic tank is usually made of concrete but might be made of steel or fiberglass. Raw sewage from the house is discharged into the septic tank through the house drain line. (See FIG. 13-4.) After the sewage settles, the solids are decomposed by bacterial action and are converted into a liquid and a sludge that accumulates at the bottom of the tank. Several types of gases are by-products of the decomposition process, the most common of which is methane, an odorless and highly inflammable gas. The gases generated in the septic tank usually flow back through the house drain and are discharged harmlessly to the atmosphere at the roof-mounted vent stack. When the level of the liquid (effluent) in the septic tank rises to the outlet port, the effluent flows through the outlet pipe to a drainage field. The drainage field, also called the leaching field, consists of a series of perforated pipes set into a bed of gravel. As the effluent flows
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through these pipes, it trickles through the perforations and is absorbed into the ground. The rate at which the ground absorbs the effluent (percolation rate) determines the size of the leaching field. When the topography changes abruptly or the area available for a leaching field is too small for adequate absorption, a seepage pit is used. It is basically a covered pit with an open jointed or perforated lining through which the effluent will seep or leach into the surrounding soil. To determine the size of the leaching area needed for a house, percolation tests are taken in the area of the proposed sewage-disposal system. The rate of water absorption will depend upon, among other things, the type of soil and the level of the water table in that area. If the percolation tests are taken during a drought or when the water table is low (the water table rises and drops during the year), the concluding data might result in designing an undersized leaching field that will cause premature failure of the septic system. I know
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Vent stack
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Clean out House drain Septic tank Seepage pit
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Fig. 13-4. Typical septic system with seepage pit. Depending on the topography and amount of available land, the pit may be replaced by a leaching field. Waste-disposal system 163
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of a village just northwest of New York City where the septic systems in hundreds of homes failed within eight years of installation, some of them within two years. A properly designed and maintained septic system should last between twenty and thirty years; indeed, fifty or more years is not uncommon. Failure of the septic system will usually show up in the area of the leaching field and not necessarily over the septic tank, although there might be indications in both areas. Look for wet spots or a lush growth of grass. Both can be accompanied by an objectionable odor. When the ground in the seepage field becomes saturated and can no longer absorb the effluent, the liquid will build up and accumulate on the surface. The effluent contains nitrogen and other compounds that are natural fertilizers. When the effluent surfaces, it causes vegetation in the area, particularly grass, to thrive and have a lush green color. However, a healthy-looking patch of green grass over the leaching field is not necessarily an indication of a septic failure. During dry weather, when grass is apt to grow very slowly and turn brownish, the ground over the leaching field (depending on the depth of the field) often contains sufficient moisture to promote the growth of the grass and maintain the green color. For the leaching field to function properly, there must be sufficient voids in the soil so that the effluent will be absorbed by the ground. Over the years, the voids can be filled with suspended solids, reducing the rate at which the effluent is absorbed into the soil to the point where the effluent surfaces. When this occurs, it is necessary to install a new leaching field. Aside from the cost, a serious problem can arise concerning how to handle the effluent when there is no more room on the property for a new leaching field or seepage pit. If the house has a septic system, find out if there is sufficient room for expansion of 164 Plumbing
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the leaching field should it be necessary at a later date. Premature failure of the septic system can also occur as a result of neglect and abuse by the homeowner. A septic tank should be cleaned or at least inspected for sludge buildup every two to four years. If the tank is not cleaned periodically, the sludge will build up to such a level that the solids are carried out of the tank and into the leaching field. Eventually these solids will clog the voids in the soil or the perforations in the leachingfield pipes, blocking the normal flow of effluent. When this happens, the leaching field requires replacement. This type of problem can be avoided. Unfortunately, many homeowners neglect to inspect and clean the septic tank periodically. On many occasions I have been told by an owner that the septic tank has never been cleaned. The owner knew from experience that if the septic system functioned properly, it was best not to disturb it. After all, his neighbor across the street had had his septic tank cleaned after fifteen years, and two weeks later the system failed and had to be replaced. If he had not touched the system, it would have been all right, wouldn t it No! That system apparently had been on the verge of failure before the cleaning. The cleaning had nothing to do with the failure. Occasionally septic systems can operate satisfactorily for many years without the tank being cleaned. In those cases, the tank might have been grossly oversized for the number of people living in the house, or, perhaps the house was used as a vacation home and occupied only part of the time. One method of extending the life of a septic system is to reduce the volume of water that passes through the tank and leaching field. This is often done by installing a separate drain line for the waste water from fixtures such as the washing machine and connecting it to a dry
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well or seepage pit that is located away from the leaching field. Sometimes the homeowner indicates that he has not cleaned the septic tank because he has been using a chemical compound or septictank cleaner that he pours down the drain. This cleaner is supposed to improve bacterial activity and eliminate the need for periodic cleaning. The advertising claims for these cleaners are not well founded; there will always be a sludge buildup that must be removed. In addition, some of the cleaners might contain compounds that will actually reduce the bacterial process and can cause the system to fail. To reduce the possibility of premature failure of the septic system, some homes are equipped with a grease trap in the waste-disposal system. The trap separates grease from the kitchen waste line, thus preventing it from entering the septic system. A buildup of grease in the system can result in clogging or reducing the porosity of the leaching field and can also affect the bacterial action in the septic tank. If there is a grease trap in the waste-disposal system of the house, you should be advised that for maximum effectiveness, it should be frequently cleaned or at least inspected for grease buildup. Discharging large volumes of water into the septic tank, such as rain runoff from roof gutters or storm drains can over a period of time adversely affect the tank s operation. Large volumes of water can flood the tank, forcing suspended solids into the leaching field where they can eventually block the perforations in the pipes and clog the voids in the soil. Depending on the soil condition, a water softener can be detrimental to a septic system. If the seepage field consists of a clay-type soil, the waste water from the water-softener regeneration process must not be discharged into the septic tank. The salt brine in the water-softener waste water is not broken down by bacterial action as it passes through
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the septic tank to the leaching field and can clog the voids in the fine-textured clay soil. Even though a septic system might be faulty, there might not be any visual indications of a problem when you inspect the house. Whether there is a water (effluent) accumulation over the leaching area or septic tank will depend upon the dryness of the season, the usage of the plumbing system prior to the inspection, and the degree of deterioration of the septic system. One way to check the operation of the system is to push it by turning on the water in the tub and letting it run for about one hour. (Before you do this test, ask the owner for permission.) The tub drain must be open so that the water will flow into the septic tank. Assuming an adequate water supply, this pushing should introduce about 275 gallons into the septic system, which very often is enough to cause the effluent in a faulty system to surface and be visible when you reinspect the areas over the tank and leaching field. An adequate evaluation of the plumbing system requires an interior and an exterior inspection. Although most of the plumbing inspection is performed in the interior, an exterior inspection can reveal venting problems, violations, and septic-system problems.
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