A Case Study of a Simple Septic Repair

The Situation

A customer called us to repair his septic system. He had already had a septic pumping company on site, and they had done a brief analysis of his situation and pumped down the tank and one dry well to get a handle on the problem. Their investigation narrowed his septic issue down to one dry well that was completely full of water, indicating that the surrounding soil was saturated and could not accept any more wastewater for the time being. His other dry well was completely empty, meaning no water was reaching it for some reason. This situation resulted in a backup into his tank because his drainage area was not functioning correctly.

The Assessment

Because there are many variables in a septic repair project, we arrived with our complement of heavy equipment prepared for any eventuality. We first excavated the septic system’s distribution box because, from that point, we could investigate the septic tank and drainage area. The distribution box is also usually the point that causes uneven distribution between two dry wells, making it the natural location to begin our work.

After carefully uncovering and removing the distribution box lid, we discovered too much water sitting on the bottom of the box. This indicated that one pipe was compromised along its run. We started our investigation with camera equipment to scope the pipe connected to the septic tank and the lines leading to the drainage area. The septic drain line was open and in good shape, so we moved onto the drain line connected to the full dry well. We examined the whole length and saw the pipe was in serviceable condition to the dry well. Moving along to the next dry well pipe, we could only push in about 25 feet before the camera head hit an obstruction. After locating this spot on the lawn, we began excavating down to find the problem.

The Problem

Upon excavating, we found that the drain line between the distribution box and the unused dry well was a “thin wall” SCH35 SDR plastic drain pipe. Over the years, this pipe had crushed flat and dropped into a considerable dip preventing drainage. This problem happened right at the dry well’s edge and probably resulted from improperly compacted backfill during construction. When soil settles underground, it can create a void. Because SCH 35 SDR pipe does not have as much structural rigidity as SCH 40 PVC, for instance, the weight of the soil above pushed the pipe down into the void below, rendering the line unusable.

Our Solution

We decided to install a new PVC line from the distribution box to this dry well to eliminate any future crushing of the SCH 35 pipe along this run. We also installed levelers in the outlet pipes of the distribution box to “rest” the overworked dry well and prioritize the unused dry well for the next few years. This would give the soil around the overworked dry well time to restore its drainage capacity.

If you are experiencing issues with your septic system, there are many possible causes. You should always consult a qualified and prepared septic contractor before investing money into fixing your problem. We bring out all of our equipment to every septic repair job in case hidden issues pop up, and we get every septic system we work on operational before we leave. Call us if you have questions about your septic system or want to get the ball rolling on a septic repair. We’re here to help!

Key Take-A-Ways

Are there different types of plastic drain pipes?

Yes, there are many different types and grades of plastic drain pipes. When used and installed correctly, every kind of pipe is good for its intended purpose. However, not all pipes are interchangeable between plumbing applications. Underground plumbing requires a strong and durable piping material, which means heavier-duty – and more expensive – piping materials.  

How do I know which part of my septic system is broken?

Each broken part of a septic system will demonstrate a unique set of symptoms that another part will not. A trained septic installer can distinguish what is going on by asking questions and performing a site visit. Sometimes an investigation is possible with just a visual analysis of accessible components, but this work often requires camera inspection and excavation.  

Septic pumping is also helpful in certain situations. This service’s benefit is two-fold. Pumping down the tank and/or drainage area helps determine which component is failing and gives the homeowner more time to schedule a repair. A plumbing problem does not have to be an emergency with emergency pricing. We provide our customers with as much time as possible so that inconvenient plumbing problems fit around their lives and schedule.      

How long does it take to “rest” a drainage area before it is used again?

The answer to this question depends a lot on external factors. First and foremost, what is the permeability of the surrounding soil? The more porous the surrounding soil, the faster the dirt will drain and be usable again. There is also the biological saturation of the ground to consider. If the septic system has been acting up for a long time, there may be a significant concentration of solids in the ground, and these will take a long time to break down using natural processes.  

The sooner you realize your problem and fix it, the better. It may take several years or longer for a rested portion of a drainage area to become usable again. Although inconvenient, limping along a septic system can often be worth it due to the high cost of a septic system replacement.   

Should I repair my septic system or get a new septic system?

If the overall condition of your septic system is salvageable, then repair is almost always the best option. Septic repairs start at around $3-4,000, while an entirely new septic system can run upwards of $10-20,000. Maintaining the septic system you have to help it last as long as possible is a good choice.

Do you think your septic system would benefit from a repair or diagnostic investigation? You can get in touch with us here:    

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