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Country Discussion Topics
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How long does it take a Septic Tank to drain?
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Tina Strong    Posted 09-11-2003 at 17:33:47       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hello,

We have lived in our house for a year. I was wondering how long does a Septic tank take to drain?

I am currently splitting my laundry into two days ... but I am curious how long it actually DOES take to drain.

Should I leave two or three days between each five loads? Or is overnight sufficent?
Any comments are appreciated!

If you go to my website please click on the blue links at the top of the page under 'Hootie's Place' to see my CRAZY dog , family, friends and my Aunts Hot Air Balloon!


Ladyhawk    Posted 09-12-2003 at 19:44:25       [Reply]  [No Email]
I have to ask you what size of tank do you have? I have a 1500 gallon with 2 compartments and 3 leachlines. I have 2 boys and a husband. I do loads and loads with no problem. Septic don't drain. they going the tank and leach out into the ground from the leach lines. For a family of 4 it should be pumped out every 8 years so the leach lines don't get solidified. Use a laundry soap phosphorate free and u should not have problems. If you need assistance call the county planning dept. and see the permits from the time they built the house. That should tell you about your tank. Also call a local business that pumps out septic systems. They can come out and look at your system and best advise you.


Jimbob    Posted 09-12-2003 at 11:35:25       [Reply]  [No Email]
Three things come to mind.
1-Your septic needs pumping.
2-The ground is saturated with rain water.
3-The septic is an old undersized system.

Be careful of your county. Any proper size problems even in rural MI far from a tiny city will force you to install a new system- ouch!

I would drain the washer water called gray water somewhere else besides the septic tank.

Hope you have something better than a 20-30 ft water well located at least 50 to 75 feet away from the septic & associated field system.


rhouston    Posted 09-12-2003 at 09:45:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
My system is a gravity system and is only five years old. I have never been able to put enough water into it to make it overflow. Even with all the rain this summer and a wife who runs a load or three of laundry nearly every day. If your lucky you have a pipe sticking up in your yard that will overflow before it backs up into the house. That way you know if you've ovewhelmed it before it backsup into the house. I did know one person who had to watch the amount of water put into the septic during wet springs. They lived in a low lying area with beautiful clay soil (read "it doesn't drain well")

Use the washer as you see fit unless problems arise.


Red Dave    Posted 09-12-2003 at 05:52:52       [Reply]  [No Email]
You shouldn't have to wait at all, if the system is working properly.


Hal/WA    Posted 09-11-2003 at 21:58:18       [Reply]  [No Email]
I agree with what the others wrote, assuming your system is conventional and runs by gravity. In some areas, all or most of the septic systems that have been put in for 15 or 20 years have involved pressure mounds, which is a built up gravel and soil area that is above the surrounding ground level, with a network of drain pipes in this mound. These systems and other systems that have the drain field higher than the septic tank use a septic tank with 2 or more chambers and a sump pump in the last chamber that pumps the effluent up from the septic tank to the drain field. If you have a system with a sump pump, the pump should cycle on as the pump empties the sump chamber and should turn off when the sump chamber is nearly empty. As sewage is put into the main chamber of the septic tank, effluent makes its way by gravity to the sump tank and eventually the sump pump should again turn on, empty the sump and then turn off. How long it takes between when the pump turns on and turns off depends on the capacity of the pump, but I would be concerned about a pump that took more than about 10 minutes to cycle on and off.

These systems with pumps work OK when they are functioning as designed, but can be a real pain when something goes wrong, like the electricity going off. Or the float switch that turns the pump on and off can hang up and not allow the pump to cycle properly. Or the check valve in the effluent pipe can malfunction, allowing much of the effluent to run back into the sump, causing the system to cycle much more often than it should.

My best friend bought a house with one of these systems using a pump and has had considerable sewage come out of his basement toilet twice. He is on his third sump pump in 20 years and also has rewired the system so he can throw a switch in his house to turn the pump on if he sees that there is going to be a problem (the toilet doesn't drain properly and fills up from below). He loves the house, but hates that goofy system.

Hopefully your system is a conventional gravity system. They usually work completely reliably for many years without almost any problems and are, in my opinion, much better than the ones that require a pump. If so, I would suggest using it as you please and run as many loads of laundry as you need to. Unless the drainfield is really old, or was not done properly, you probably have much more drainfield capacity than you would ever need. On the other hand, if you send a lot of water through your system over a short time period and you find (or smell) it bubbling to the surface, you will have to send less water through the system at one time.

If you bought your house a year ago, the previous owner was probably required to have the septic tank pumped and inspected by the lending institution. This should be mentioned in the paperwork from your lender. If this was not done at that time and the system is more than a few years old, it probably is a great idea to have the septic tank pumped out to make sure that the accumulated ash in the bottom of the tank is not so deep that it could contaminate your drainfield. If the ash fills up your drainfield, the effluent will bubble to the surface and you get to build a new drainfield. Costly and really unnecessary if you maintain your system halfway properly. I try to have my septic tank pumped about every 5 or 6 years. It sometimes is difficult to find the septic tank, but there should be a map on file with your local health department or with building codes. Another way to find the tank is to wait until the first snow comes--it will melt above the tank but accumulate around it.

Good luck. I suspect that you are worrying too much.


RayP(MI)    Posted 09-11-2003 at 18:14:17       [Reply]  [No Email]
Actually, the more the better - as long as your drain field doesn't back up. The septic will operate better with plenty of water. The small amounts of bleach and detergent that make it to your septic shouldn't be a problem, unless you go way overboard in usage. Same goes for your kitchen drain. Septics should be pumped periodically, however, to remove the non-biodegradable materials. (Frequency depends on size of tank, family size, water usage, etc.) Wash the dirt off veggies, and throw it in the yard - not down the drain, etc. Contact your county extension office for information on septic tanks.


Willy-N    Posted 09-11-2003 at 17:58:28       [Reply]  [No Email]
To make it clearer the Tank is allways full of liquid. That is nessasary to make it work right. When it fills to the top with sludge you need to pump it. As water goes in the tank it comes out the other end. The Leach Feild is what you may over use. If it appears to be getting wet on the ground slow down on the useage if not you are OK. Mark H.


TomH    Posted 09-11-2003 at 17:50:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
It should be able to keep up with a washer without problems. The tank should have quite a few gallons of reserve space and the drain field should be able to take water pretty fast anyway. If you see water puddling in the drain field or the drains in your house are slow/backed up you have bigger problems. If this is a new house I wouldn't worry about it at all, if the house/septic are old and the tank hasn't been pumped in a few years it wouldn't hurt to have it cleaned.


Sid    Posted 09-11-2003 at 17:49:29       [Reply]  [No Email]
A septic tank is always draining. They are designed in two compartments. The solids settle in the first compartment and are broken down by bacterial action. The liquids flow through the second compartment some bacterial actio takes place her as well, When a septic tank is working properly it is always full so when waste come into one end and equal volume of water goes out the other end into the drain field . A properly built septic and drainfield simply help nature break down waste. It is possible to overload a septic system but I would say you probably should not have any problems with a load or two every day or four or five loads evry three or four days. Please realize I am talking in general terms and taking into consideration that it was put in right when it was built.


Ron,Ar    Posted 09-11-2003 at 17:47:46       [Reply]  [No Email]
I don't know where you live. I know some folks out in the country run their washing machine water into a seperate drain line to keep the detergents and bleaches out of the septic tank. I think you may afoul of certain state or local regulations if not allowed where you live.


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