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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: can a home's septic be set-up for emptying holding tanks
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 18:51:03 -0400

GBinNC wrote:
> On Thu, 19 Jul 2001 13:33:57 -0700, "Kenneth Shelton"
> <> wrote:
> >The information I've gotten from the Washington State University Cooperative
> >Extension Service is that the primary function of the septic tank is just
> >for the removal of solids.  The tank MUST be pumped, usually between two to
> >five years depending on load.
> Sorry, but my experience indicates otherwise.

Same here.  My first house was 15 years old when I bought it.  I
lived there for 10 years and never even gave the tank a second

My cabin in the mountains is about 35 years old.  For the first 10
years, we entertained every weekend and with large crowds.  I'm not
sure I even know where the tank is.

My house in Atlanta was 40+ years old and had never had the lid
opened on the tank until a cement truck collapsed the leech field
feeder (clay pipe!).  Even then, the pumping was to manage the
liquid until I could replace the field.  Very little solid matter in
the tank.

The key, I think, is to have a large enough tank that even the
solids can be eventually digested, followed by a large enough leech
field to handle the solids carryover without harm.  I suspect, but
can't prove, that the use of a garbage disposer contributes mightily
to filling a tank prematurely.  We've never used one.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Anybody Camp On Their Own Property
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2005 21:55:58 -0400
Message-ID: <>

Yup.  I use it a lot and since it's one of the most beautiful places
I've ever camped, I never get tired of it.  YMMV, of course.

I didn't spend anywhere near that kind of money.  I spent about $500
to have a friend come in with a dozer, cut a road and level a site.
Another $500 got a few dump truck loads of crusher run gravel for the
road and pad.

I carry enough consumables that I don't need water or sewer.  For
power I use either my rig's generator (in winter when I'm not going to
be sitting outside) or my quiet portable generator on the end of a 100
ft wire.  I built a little waist-high block building with a lift-off
roof for the generator.  I can roll it in there and put the roof on
and not hear the thing back at my camp.

If I did want utility power I'd set a mobile home pole.  The pole and
someone to set it costs under $800 around here so figure a couple
grand out there.

If you want a sewer system and the property is secluded so that nosey
people can't see you, you might do what a lot of folks do around here
for their backwoods "hunting RV".  You don't need a full septic system
for an RV.  A cesspool will work just fine.  The standard "Tennessee
mountain cesspool" involves a hole in the ground large enough to
accommodate one or two 55 gal drums.  Put a few inches of large gravel
in the bottom of the hole, drop in the open top drum upside down (open
side against the gravel), cut in the drain line in the top and cover
with a foot or two of dirt.

This thing uses the same biological processes as a septic tank but on
a much smaller scale.  When the solids buildup finally clogs the
gravel in a few years, simply abandon the site and dig another hole

I'd probably look for a park model RV, actually, a small mobile home.
These are built like RVs but are not self-contained and have 120 volt
wiring an appliances and a conventional flush toilet.  They're cheaper
than conventional RVs and provide the most room for the buck.
Especially used.

The whole theme here is to go in for the least amount of money up
front since you don't know if you'll like this style of RV'ing.  Even
if you like it, it's a good idea to do things on the cheap since
construction of your cabin will disrupt your RV infrastructure anyway.

BTW, I'm writing this at my cabin in Tellico Plains, TN, a place that
started this way.  My parents bought the lot in about 1968.  We parked
a pickup camper on the lot the first year (yep, complete with the

Lacking a fat pocketbook and determined to pay-as-we-went, the second
year we built the basement, had the flooring constructed and covered
it with tar paper to make a roof.  We "camped" in that basement for a
year and then we had the shell of the cabin built. No paneling on the
walls and no flooring other than the sub-floor but we had us a cabin.

It took maybe 10 years to get it 99% finished.  It was finally
completed only about 3 years ago when we installed central HVAC. We
have no more than $20-25k in the place and have a cabin much nicer
than surrounding places that have recently sold in the $150k range.
Sweat equity at its finest!  You can see it on my web site.


On 25 Apr 2005 22:59:30 GMT, William Vojak <> wrote:

>We have some property in SW Washington State that is only
>1 block from the ocean, (Long Beach Peninsula.  We bought
>it with the idea of bulding a vacation house on it some day.
>Since it seems that we won't be doing that for a few years,
>we were thinking of having the lot improved (water, electric,
>3 Bdrm Septic and a driveway/pad) put in.  Probably $10K-$15K
>of upgrades, with the septic being the most expensive part.
>This site is about a 2 hour drive from our house.
>We are allowed to have a camper on-site for up to 90 days per
>year.  We don't own a camper right now so by time we're done
>we're probaly looking at another $10K-$15K on top of the
>So has anyone here something like this.
>If so, did you use the site a lot, or did you get bored
>with being in one place all the time.
>Bill Vojak
>SW WA State

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: rejuvinating leach fields
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 00:35:00 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 13 Oct 2005 19:49:07 -0700, just another
<> wrote:

>My septic system has gone south (full just two months after pumping) and
>I can't afford the $7,500 I was quoted for a new leach field.
>Has anyone had success rejuvinating a leach field? I've heard of two
>techniques. I've heard of blowing air through the leach field, and I've
>heard of chemical treatments. Anyone had experience with them? Thanks in

I would not let anyone blow air through my leech field.  There is
enough stored energy in compressed air that if a weak spot exists, the
air could blow it completely out.

The idea of pressurizing the leech field is to expand the dirt around
the field and open the pores.  High pressure water does this just fine
and doesn't suffer the stored energy problem of air.  A high volume
pressure washer type pump is normally used.

If the field is intact but just stopped up, the pressure likely will
work.  If there is a major fault, such as a tile system having a
collapsed section then the pressure will escape there and no work will
be done on the rest.  Depending on the cost, it might be worth a shot.

I have heard from reliable sources that some of the enzyme/bacteria
treatments work on fields that have built up too many solids.  I don't
know any brands to recommend.  My first call would probably be to my
ag extension agent.

One other thought.  Have you considered replacing your leech field
yourself?  When I lived in Atlanta, Cobb county refused me a permit to
replace mine, trying to force me to connect to the sewer at about
$25,000.  I rented a small landscape-type track-backhoe, worked at
night and did the job over one weekend without working too hard.  The
modern perforated corrugated black hose is very simple to lay.

I just dug a ditch about 4 ft deep, laid in some nugget gravel, laid
the pipe, covered it with a couple inches more of gravel and
backfilled.  The backhoe I rented had a blade on the front for
backfilling so that part took less than an hour.  I also rented one of
those stomping foot-type soil compactors.  By the time Monday came
around, I had the field in, the dirt compacted and grass seed and
straw down.  I tore up the dirt around the field so it wouldn't be
obvious to busy-bodies that I'd been trenching.

I had less than $750 in the whole job.

One other thing you might consider.  My house was on some old built-up
fill.  There was a bank going down into an overgrown gully.  I brought
the far end of one leg of the field out through the side of the bank
and capped it.  The idea was that if the field ever stopped up again,
I could remove the cap and let the effluent run down the bank until I
could fix things.  I tested the idea and it worked well.  There is
practically no odor to the effluent and the tiny bit that is there
dissipated in minutes after capping the pipe.  The tiny flow was
absorbed into the heavy undergrowth within a few feet of the pipe

One other note.  While I was working on the leech field, I placed a
small submersible pump in the leech field end of the septic tank and
pumped the effluent through a garden hose out to soaker hoses on my
lawn.  This let me keep using the plumbing while I worked.  There was
no odor at my property boundary and my lawn had never been lusher :-)

This kind of stuff will probably make some busy-body bureaucrat wet
his panties so I suggest going about it quietly.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: rejuvinating leach fields
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 12:11:23 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 14 Oct 2005 15:52:13 GMT, Larry Caldwell <>

>In article <>,
>(Neon John) says...
>> One other thought.  Have you considered replacing your leech field
>> yourself?  When I lived in Atlanta, Cobb county refused me a permit to
>> replace mine, trying to force me to connect to the sewer at about
>> $25,000.  I rented a small landscape-type track-backhoe, worked at
>> night and did the job over one weekend without working too hard.  The
>> modern perforated corrugated black hose is very simple to lay.
>You were doing great until you got to the corrugated black hose (AKA ABS
>perf) which is the wrong stuff to use.  Traditional leach lines were
>clay tile, which were replaced by PVC drain pipe in the 1960.  The most
>modern material is a large plastic drain channel that eliminates the
>need to install gravel and straw.  It comes in 10' rigid sections, and
>just snaps together.

The black hose is what the plumbing wholesaler sold me when I asked
for leech field line.  This is heavier stuff than the french drain
hose and is, I think, polyethylene.  It was not ABS, I know that much.

Sounds like what is "proper" varies by region and what the local
wholesaler stocks.  I've never seen the drain channel you mention so
it must not be used much around here.  I'd have to be convinced by
some strong evidence not to use gravel.

>Whatever he does, this guy needs to evaluate why his tank failed.  Those
>solids should never have made it past the baffles.  The tank may be too
>small to allow adequate settling time, the baffles may have rusted out
>and fallen into the bottom of the tank, he may be pushing too much water
>through the system, or it may have died for the "haven't pumped it for
>17 years" syndrome.  If he doesn't fix his solids problem, the new leach
>field will go the way of the old one.

I'm one of those who has never pumped a tank.  My oldest was installed
in 1970.  The one that I replaced the leech field on was >40 years
old.  The field was consumed by roots and not solids.  For that
matter, I don't know anyone in this area who's ever had to pump a tank
other than as part of a failure repair.

At the same time I don't doubt that some people need frequent
pumpings.  I wonder what the difference is?  I wonder if there is a
propensity to install too-small tanks in some places?  I've always
erred on the side of largeness.  The standard tank stocked around here
for small one family houses is 1000 gallons.  I get the impression
from reading on the net that this is considered to be large by some
standards.  I wonder if that might be the difference?


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Septic Systems
Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2005 16:39:18 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Sat, 22 Oct 2005 18:03:18 GMT, Larry Caldwell <>

>As for the type of drainfield, almost everybody is going to the plastic
>channel that doesn't require a gravel bed or straw.  You just dig a
>level drain line, snap this stuff together in 8' sections, then

I'm puzzled by this advice.  I've seen it twice now.  I've never seen
anything like that in use around here or in the Atlanta area where I
used to live.  That is a highly proprietary and probably expensive
system that, looking at their web site, requires much more trenching
than for a conventional leech field.  Old fashioned perf pipe and
gravel has certainly worked for a long time and is quite inexpensive
to install.

>> I
>> have a backhoe and would like to do it myself. I want to use the
>> existing tank and will need to pump approximatly 500' to a higher area.
>> Thanks,
>Don't forget to read up on site selection, infiltration tests and
>protection of your water supply.

I'd install a pump only as a last resort.  You're creating a
continuing maintenance problem, especially with a pump capable of
pumping to a 500 ft head.  The pump is expensive, uses considerable
power and is expensive to repair.  A friend of mine owns an electric
motor shop over on the next block.  A good portion of his business is
selling and repairing submersible sewage pumps.  Maybe you could
relocate the tank and field?

I suggest talking to your local ag extension unit.  If they don't have
someone knowledgeable about local conditions, they can recommend

Talking to the code inspector might be worth the risk.  The risk is in
attracting unwanted attention.  Some inspectors are well informed but
many are dumb as dirt and only know how to apply the local rules
inflexibly.  I'd try the ag extension unit first.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Home built septic tank
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 00:21:51 -0500
Message-ID: <>

I'm not sure what you're asking here.  If you need to learn how to
design a septic tank then Google is your friend.  If your question is,
can a tank be built from block, the answer is "of course".  Tanks were
built up piece-wise for years before cast tanks came about.  I'd
probably use double row brick instead of block for strength
considerations.  That's the usual construction I see in old cisterns
and cesspools.  I think I'd form up and concrete cast in place before
I'd mess with blocks.

I think your main question is, "how do I beat the county?"  A
perfectly valid goal.  Hard to answer that without knowing details of
your county and your homesite.  How visible is it from the road?  Any
nosey neighbors around to meddle into your business?  Any county
inspectors out roving around looking for violations?  Will material
vendors snitch on you?

I installed a new field line at my house in Cobb county, Atlanta after
the county refused me a permit, trying to force me onto the sewer
system.  I rented a small backhoe and did the job at night.  My house
was barely visible from the road and was surrounded by woods.

Here are my thoughts on beating the county.  Bureaucratic memory is
short so the best method involves a combination of apparently
unrelated steps separated by time.

Given the cost, time and labor involved, I'd not even consider using
anything but a precast tank but I'd hide its purpose.  I'd buy the
tank and put it in the ground and stop at that point for awhile and
see what happens.  If someone snitches on you or you otherwise get
noticed, you've put in an underground storage tank to collect
rainwater.  You're going to use it for watering, washing your car and
so on. It might not hurt to run a plastic line from a downspout to the
tank.  Having the tank full of water both looks convincing and will
equalize the hydrostatic pressure.

Leave that in place for a year or so.  Then put in the field line.
Perhaps lay in some under-turf irrigation tubing for just in case you
have to explain the trenches all over your property.

Leave that alone for some period of time.  Then cut in the new system
but leave the old one in place.  You want to be able to show a
functioning system unrelated to your digging in the dirt.

A lot of this work you can do at night when it's much harder to
attract the attention of snitches.

A variation on this idea is to put the tank in the ground and stop.
Continue using the other system until it malfunctions.  Then lay in
the new field line and cut in the new tank.  Meanwhile build your
patio or whatever on top of the old one.

This leaves a couple of other issues.  One is the matter of
percolation.  From another post in this thread I see that you realize
the important of percolation.  I suggest that you procure a perc
procedure and do your own testing to find out where on your property
the best soil is.  A perc test is easy - dig a hole of a certain depth
and diameter, put some water in it and measure how long it takes to

The other issue is the matter of the old tank.  If the old tank dries
up in dry weather, it may implode from hydrostatic pressure in wet
weather if the concrete is old and weak.  There is a risk of the top
disintegrating and caving in too.  I'd want the old tank pumped out
and filled with dirt before I constructed anything on top of it.


On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 18:46:31 -0600, bill wilson
<> wrote:

>Anyone here built their own septic tank out of cement blocks?  I have a
>septic tank now but it's right next to the house and I want to build a
>porch over it.  I want to abandon this tank and put in a new one, only
>the county says I have to do a perk test and permit.  Soil is suby-wet
>here and if we fail the perk test, it'll cost at least 12K for a raised
>bed system.  I want to build my own tank and put in a new leach field.
>I had a neighbor out west who used to build tanks in ground and his at
>his house has been there for almost 60 years and never pumped.  Anyhow,
>anybody got any guidance in this matter?

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Home built septic tank
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 12:26:30 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 21 Dec 2005 14:43:21 GMT, Janet Baraclough
<> wrote:

>   Dunno. Even in the coldest winter we've experienced (-25C), when
>water supply pipes froze underground, the septic tank pipes (in and out)
>did not, and  had no problem. I've always supposed that , same as a hot
>manure or compost heap, the bio- activity in fresh shit keeps tank pipes
>and contents warm.

I've certainly heard of sewers and sometimes septic tanks freezing.
Worse is that the low temperature slows or stops the biological
activity.  Then the field lines become shitty.

Or maybe there's a simpler explanation.  Maybe your shit is, er,
shittier than ours....

>   On level land,  and where septic tanks sit at or above ground level,
>how to you get enough "gravity drop"  from toilet waste pipes on the
>ground-level floor of the house?

During my very brief residence as a pipefitting apprentice (I quickly
learned that I'd rather wrestle electrons than shit), I learned 3
things, the only things one needs to know to be a plumber:

1.  Payday is on Friday
2.  The boss is an asshole
3.  Shit flows downhill.

Keying on item 3, when there is insufficient natural downhill, some
artificial downhill must be imported.  More commonly known as a
macerator pump.  Otherwise known as a shit grinder and a pump all in
one package.

Our usual practice whenever possible is to mine for natural downhill,
eg, dig deeper for the tank location.  No big deal to dig up the lids
every 30 years or so to pump the thing.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Yet ANOTHER septic tank question...
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2006 16:45:53 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 29 Jun 2006 11:51:02 -0400, "John Gilmer"
<> wrote:

>> The minuscule amount of bleach in a load of dishes won't have any effect
>> on your septic.
>I would tend to agree with that.
>> You would have to pour 50 gallons of bleach into the
>> tank to have any impact, assuming you have a standard 1000 gallon tank.
>I would wager that (depending upon the amound of solids) even a few gallons
>of bleach into the 1000 gallon septic tank might "kill" it.

A little "back of the matchbook" calculation.

The health department and FDA say that 50 ppm free chlorine is enough
to completely sanitize dishes in a food service environment.  I know
from experimenting that it takes 5 oz of bleach to bring approx 50
gallons of water to 50 ppm in my restaurant's sanitation tank.

5 oz * (1000 gallons / 50 gallons) = 100 ounces.  There are 128 oz in
a gallon so just under a gallon of bleach would bring a 1000 gallon
tank of water to about 50 ppm.

It would take more than that because ingredients in dishwashing
detergents and other chemicals will bind up the hypochlorite before it
can release the chlorine and because other organics in the tank
compete with the bacteria to be oxidized.  I bet that 5 gallons would
do the trick.


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