Thursday, August 15, 2013

Septic Sure is Something Else

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't give much thought to what happens to the contents of a toilet bowl when the handle is pushed down because, hey, who thinks about that stuff? Get it out of my sight so I don't have to look at it!

For the last couple of weeks, I've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about it, pondering over it. That flushing action takes the contents somewhere and it's the process of getting to that somewhere and the somewhere itself that have stolen my attention.

Crash course on our septic system is this:
  1. Flush the toilet (drain the sink, run the washing machine, etc.)
  2. Water flows down the drain into a big concrete septic tank
  3. The solids settle out toward the bottom
  4. The liquid stays on top reaching a specific level before spilling into the pump chamber
  5. Once the liquid in the pump chamber reaches a specific height, the septic pump activates and pushes the liquid in the pump chamber up to the distribution box
  6. The distribution box is essentially a junction box with branching lines of perforated PVC pipe to distribute the liquid across an area that's known as the septic field.

It seems that at any point along the way the system could utterly fail.

The tank could crack. The pipe from the septic tank to the pump chamber could leak. The pump could fail. The septic field could get clogged with sludge. So many different things could happen! And in order to investigate any issue, the smell -- oh, the smell! -- is ever-present.

At our new place we had to contend with an old pump that needed to be replaced evidenced by the fact it wasn't working the moment we moved into the house.

It was more along the lines a stream of profanity and, Oh God, never mind going to the bathroom, how do I run the washing machine? Wash dishes, even in the sink? It brings into stark reality just how much water we actually use.

Let me back up a little bit (har, har), and say that I didn't actually have to deal with any of this since I was at work for the week and my wife was left to deal with the problem, which involved many phone calls and trying to pull in favours from... well, we don't know anyone in the community so doing the old friend of a friend thing wasn't possible. She was firing blind! Contacting a pump truck (to empty the septic tank) and what we thought was a plumber but turned out to be an electrician (who "kind of does a lot of things") and getting the pump replaced was an ordeal that lasted several days.

It's mostly resolved as far as we can tell.

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