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#100651 - 10/28/07 09:22 PM ...that stinkin' sump pit
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
OK, time for some down-home plumbing ideas...
We built our principal home 11 years ago. While we were digging out for the basement and foundation, we got real close to the water table. The soil is clay. As it wound up, the water table, at it's highest, rides about 4 - 6" below the basement concrete slab. So, the sump pit (a standard plastic pit, about 24" round and 30" deep) carries water most all the time. I had to set the pump to go off right near the top to keep it from constantly cycling. We also added a battery powered emergency back up. Some of the winters have been particularly dry and the sump would nearly empty, but that was not the norm. Whenever there was water in it, it was clean and clear. When it rained good, it would cycle occasionally, so the water change was fairly regular....except the winter.
About 2 years ago, I started to notice a change in the water quality in the pit. It started to smell a little stagnant. I didn't react, hoping it was some old water and needed to flush through with a good rain. Well, it got worse...and worse. Today, I get black gunk running in thru the 4" corrugated feed that delivers the perimeter foundation drains. And man, does it smell stagnant like a swamp. The whole basement (thank God I never finished it off) stinks. This morning I pulled the pump, and jeesh...stirring up the bubbling cauldron is ghastly. The pump has a black coating of flimsy jello-like sumstance that blasted off with the garden hose. It still works OK. Then I see little 1/4" long tadpole kinda things floating around on the surface, wiggling back and forth. Are these mosquitoe larvae? They look like miniature tadpoles, wiggling in a "bend left, then right, then left" kinda motion.
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I can't believe that the main septic tank line broke and is flushing down to the drains. It doesn't have that disgusting sweet musty odor.
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What to do?

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#100653 - 10/28/07 09:45 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
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Loc: Central Ohio
Yours is not a good question for me to read just after watching one of the monster hunt episodes of The X Files!

Septic leakage was my first thought, Bski, but if that's not it ??? There are insects that live very well with the larval stage subsisting in basement drains. (Maybe that's what you're seeing - I think skeeters would only be in surface water. Try washing one off and viewing under magnification.) They were very prevalent at my parents' house for a year or two just before the septic tank overflowed and they finally switched over to city sewer. I have always figured they do well in drain lines without a good flow-through. Seen any tiny little black flies around the house, maybe 1/4'" wing span? Or giant 6 foot liver fluke men?


Edited by Theo Gallus (10/28/07 09:50 PM)
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#100658 - 10/29/07 12:30 AM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Theo Gallus]
burgermeister Offline
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Registered: 02/27/05
Posts: 4025
Loc: Houston, Tx.
I was thinking septic mains, also. Not a plumbing expert, but it seems that you could flush some dye down the John and see if it shows up. Alternatively, flush some bleach down and see if the sludge dissapates to some degree. Not sure of a solution, just troubleshooting suggestions.
Another suggestions, septic microbes, just a patch until the source is determined.




Edited by burgermeister (10/29/07 12:32 AM)
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#100671 - 10/29/07 09:28 AM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: burgermeister]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Loc: Central Ohio
A further thought this A.M., Bski. I can only assume the creepy crawlies in the sump are living on some organics getting into the sump/drain lines somewhere. Figure that out and I bet you have your answer.
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#100705 - 10/29/07 05:10 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Theo Gallus]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
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Loc: Illinois
I like the dye idea. I gotta talk to my plumbing guru and get his take on this one. The evidence that I have proving that it can't be the septic system is the same evidence that may prove that it is. Nothing.
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The 1200 gal tank is located 20 feet away from the house. A 4" PVC main goes thru the basement wall near the top; maybe 2 feet down from the top/concrete. This would put the main running straight out and across the perimeter drain, about 7 feet above. This would also put the concrete tank higher than the perimeter drain, but 20 feet away. We just had the tank pumped and inspected this past spring. All systems go. I have to assume that the potential is: a) the main cracked b) the tank leaks. That's all I can think of...right? I mean, the main enters the tank at a point higher than high-water, so even if the main/tank junction is not water tight, it still shouldn't leak...right?

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#100706 - 10/29/07 05:25 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12389
Loc: Central Ohio
Given that the problem has been occurring for a couple of years and the septic tank got a passing grade last Spring, I think the septic line ("soil pipe", for those who come from plumbing families like mine) having cracked is the most likely of your two septic leak scenarios. The place it would probably do so is at the house excavation/unexcavated yard boundary, due to settling and the differences in soil density. From which point it would have an easy shot down to the perimeter drain.

I suppose the line might also have cracked farther along and be seeping back on itself toward the house, but that should be uphill. I distinctly remember my Dad teaching me "Septic flows downhill" at an early age, both verbally and nonverbally.

Mind you, we could still be full of it on the septic theory. You could dig a little test hole above the septic line where it leaves the house and see if you get any telltale odors as you dig to the pipe.


Edited by Theo Gallus (10/29/07 05:30 PM)
Edit Reason: Forgot to include gravity.
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#100709 - 10/29/07 06:08 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Dwight Offline

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Registered: 12/06/04
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Loc: Minnesota < SW < USA <...
Brettski - Those little wiggly guys are Gagh, a Klingon delicacy eaten raw. No sauce required!
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#100788 - 10/30/07 04:51 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Dwight]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
Theo is way too technical. I like Dwight's thinking. I think I'll leave it as is and open a sushi bar.
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#100789 - 10/30/07 05:07 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12389
Loc: Central Ohio
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"Live like you'll die tomorrow, but manage your grass like you'll live forever."
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#100790 - 10/30/07 05:18 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Theo Gallus]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
I'm in Buffalo right now, gettin' ready to hit some nice local restaurant for dinner. I'm inspired to take the risk and try the Gagh wings. Hope they're not too spicey and give me heartburn.
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#100812 - 10/30/07 07:59 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Dwight Offline

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Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 5495
Loc: Minnesota < SW < USA <...
Brettski - Buffalo has a nice website for a small town'

A couple nice bars and very few cars!!

Gagh don't have wings.
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#100843 - 10/31/07 06:37 AM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Dwight]
Dave Davidson1 Offline
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Registered: 01/04/06
Posts: 13567
Loc: Hurst & Bowie, Texas
Theo, I think I've spent my whole life relearning that septic flows downhill.
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#100944 - 10/31/07 11:07 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Dave Davidson1]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
UH-OH!!!
I just got back from 3 days on the road, settled in for a little din-din with my beloved Dski and headed right to the PC. Dski heads downstairs to do her nails (a pretty big basement, totally unfinished and looking like a semi-organized garage). "Brett, it's leaking water down here!!!". What the? I run downstairs and the water is leaking off the bottom of the pea trap below the stool in one of the bathrooms in a tiny, contiuous stream. WHAT THE?? My brain starts doin' flip-flops. I start talking out loud, trying to analyze what the heck is goin' on. "It's leaking over here, too!" YAAAAH!!! The other stool is doin' the same thing! "HERE TOO!!!" "AND HERE TOO!!" I actually thought for a moment that somehow this was a well planned Halloween gag by...somebody.
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TURN OFF THE WATER MAIN! SHUT OFF THE WASHING MACHINE! GET BUCKETS UNDER THE LEAKS!
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It eventually stopped, but now my plumbing dilemna has just hit top priority. We got out the electric cords, lights, shovels, wheel barrow, and plastic tarps to pile dirt on. I walked over to that side of the house where the tank is and you can already smell it. Not real strong, but it's there. I pull back the rocks and landscape fabric and you can see the depression in the dirt. I dig out about the first 5 feet away from the house and down to the soil main. I fell all around it; nothing busted that I can feel. I'm thinkin that the pipe busted and clogged with soil and backed up the entire drain system in the house. I did find sizeable cavern just below the pipe that definately explains the sump. It smells of the same and those little fruit flies are coming out of it like little bats. I take off my leather gloves and do the dry finger test around the pipe joints at a 45 degree fitting and YEP...the fitting is leaking and running down the 4 ft of main that runs down to another 45 that levels it off for the final run to the tank. If this has been leaking for 11 years, I s'pose it could do the damage ever so slowly....I hope that's all there is.
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We go inside and unscrew the 4" clean-out plug that looks straight out from inside the house out toward the tank. I let it dribble for about 90 minutes into plastic buckets to unload all the drain pipes in the house that are full. I'll bet we dribbled out about 50 gallons. I popped it off, hoping to find a clog. No visible clog. I push my electric wire snake into the pipe to see how far it goes, and based on measurement, I think I hit a clog at the 2nd 45 degree fitting(the last fitting before the level run to the tank).
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So....I'm hoping that we have 2 issues that happenned at the same time...kinda. The leak, which I can fix with a hack saw and new fittings...and...I hope a clog. If there is no clog, then somehow the tank is backed up too. We dug up the soil over the concrete cleanout plug and there was no sign of fluids seeping up and thru.
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Welcome home, Bski.
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#100955 - 11/01/07 08:41 AM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12389
Loc: Central Ohio
"It" happens.
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"Live like you'll die tomorrow, but manage your grass like you'll live forever."
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#101009 - 11/01/07 06:41 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Dwight Offline

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Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 5495
Loc: Minnesota < SW < USA <...
"snit happens”. I am confident that you will persevere, though having been in several similar snitiations in my time, it may not necessarily be easy and definitely not fun.... \:\(
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#101010 - 11/01/07 07:13 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Dwight]
burgermeister Offline
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Registered: 02/27/05
Posts: 4025
Loc: Houston, Tx.
If you undertake the repairs yourself, remember to work at the bottom of the pit and hand your work up to D'ski. That way, you dont have to take any woo woo from her.


Edited by burgermeister (11/01/07 10:30 PM)
Edit Reason: the silence was deafening
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#101029 - 11/01/07 11:00 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: burgermeister]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
We popped off the cleanout access at the interior end of the soil pipe tonite and ran a 50' power rodder into it. I couldn't get but 11 foot into it, but when I yanked it out the last foot was coated with wet clay. Not good...not at all. The upside? I think I found the problem.
I just happened to be talking with a local excavator that I am going to bring in at the pond project for some peripheral work. His specialty is installing septic systems. I carefully painted the picture for him on the phone. When I mentioned that the house sits up considerably higher than the tank that is 20 feet away and that there is a pair of 45's in the soil pipe to lower it to the tank height, he knew right away. Before I could even get to the part about the clay, he said that the break is at the second, lower 45. I blurted "yeah, we measured the distance and we hit the clay right where that fitting would be...how did you know?" He said that as soon as I said that there were 45's in the line, he knew the answer. It happens too often. Basically, it's improper packing of the support soil when the line was installed. The settling fill around the foundation and over the line either separated or crushed/cracked open the lower 45 as it pulled it downward.
We discussed further the chances of the balance of the soil pipe to be damaged. I told him that I could use the shovel to get to the bottom 45 and fix/replace it, but no way was I going to dig up that last 15 feet of pipe to the tank. He said that when I expose the bottom 45, I will have to expose at least another 2 foot of the pipe on the tank side to make sure I cut it beyond any cracks. Rinse it off with a hose; inside. It will be obvious if the balance of the pipe is wasted. He said that the bigger concern will be negative slope. He said to cut that last run of pipe back to good stuff, then twist on a 90 without glue. Open the septic tank and locate the other end of that inbound pipe. Dump a 5 gallon bucket of water into the temporary 90 and make sure: a) the water rushes thru clean and unobstructed b) that there is no pocket of water remaining at the temporary 90. He maintains genuine concern that the pipe might be leaning in the wrong direction. If so, call in the backhoe.
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#101192 - 11/03/07 05:35 PM Re: ...that stinkin' sump pit [Re: Brettski]
Brettski Offline
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Registered: 10/07/05
Posts: 6905
Loc: Illinois
Jeez, Bski...what was your first clue that the soil pipe might be fractured when you rodded it?
(I was very hesitant to examine the evidence too closely, so the sniff test was executed; it's clay of the soil type)

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Grab the shovels, dig out the bushes, and start humpin' dirt, clay, gravel, and all those goodies at the bottom of the cracker bak jox.
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I guess schedule 40 does have a limit

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All new pipe is installed; it couldn't have come together too early. We have 3 bathrooms and they were all...(ahem)...very ready to test the new pipe.
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Edit; this fracture occurred at a depth of 42" right next to a house foundation. It is a 4" schedule 40 PVC pipe. It is presumed to be the result of improper soil placement and compaction. This could be a good lesson of what can/will happen if a PVC pond drain is not properly installed.


Edited by Brettski (11/04/07 07:03 AM)
Edit Reason: how it could relate to a pond drain
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