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Old 05-26-2008, 12:28 PM
 
12,543 posts, read 18,435,303 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knoxtransplant View Post
My husband and I are about to buy a 4 bedroom house in Knox county that was built in the late 1940s. It has a septic system. We're confused about whether we need to have a permit for the size of the tank vis-a-vis the # of bedrooms for this house, or if this permit is only for new construction. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks!
Permits are usually obtained for new construction or additions, etc. An existing home should be fine if you are buying it without planning on adding any bedrooms. As with anything, please consult a professional.

Congratulations on your house purchase and Welcome to the forum!
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Old 05-26-2008, 03:26 PM
 
2 posts, read 7,470 times
Reputation: 10
Default Thanks~

Hey thanks a lot. I will call a professional tomorrow to double check, as you suggest.
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Old 05-27-2008, 10:23 AM
 
Location: mid wyoming
1,919 posts, read 3,997,966 times
Reputation: 1569
I checked on building a garage out from the house. You know a real on, like to park your car in. Nothing else, I was told I needed a bathroom. and sewer. This was by the county inspector.
I stupidly told the inspectors when I built my greenhouse and produce building. That I would have electric to them. The price of permits went up immediately. And I had to have the site approved.
My neighbor has built three buildings. Anywhere he wants. He dosen't put electric or sewer. He just puts up a building. No permits or anything. He isn't using electricity. He waits about a year or maybe alittle longer. And then puts it in.
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Old 05-27-2008, 10:52 AM
 
1,775 posts, read 5,534,308 times
Reputation: 749
I just discovered this weekend in Cocke county where my property is that they only require 2 permits for building. My neighbor just finished his home and told me only one permit for septic and one permit for electric is all you need. Your home and any other buildings can be built anyway you want and once the initial inspection is done, you can connect your other buildings without permits.
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Old 05-27-2008, 08:29 PM
 
4,951 posts, read 1,724,282 times
Reputation: 1767
Quote:
Originally Posted by yarddawg View Post

Tennessee permits a number of alternative septic systems. Some no one would guess. If you have very, very, very heavy clay, no bedrock or water table issues, over five acres and meet a few set-backs from your house & neighbors, rivers, watersupplies, etc. you can have a "lagoon". Think cesspool.

EEWWWWW!!!!!! I can't even imagine, don't want to imagine. That's disgusting. Why would anyone ever do that??
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Old 06-19-2008, 10:22 PM
 
3 posts, read 15,317 times
Reputation: 10
Default need septic help

First I want to say how impressed I am by all the knowledge exposed on this thread. Lot of people here really seem to know their stuff. Which is why I am posting a few questions to see if anyone can help educate me further.

I have a 1,000 gallon septic tank which was installed about 15 years ago and just recently pumped. No idea if it was pumped prior since we are not the original owners. There is a single drain field with a diverter valve about 100' from the tank. The system has worked fine for the past few years that we have owned the home but over the past few months we noticed the drain field now has some standing water on the surface near the valve.

It had been a pretty rainy season in early spring so we thought maybe it was due to the weather and we waited for dryer weather but no improvement. Then we tried cutting the grass more often and turning the diverter valve again but this didn't seem to help either. The pumper found no problems with our tank or main line from the house to the tank, other than it was pretty full and due to be pumped. So it would seem to be a problem with the drain field. Here are my questions:

When turning the diverter valve it only seems to rotate 90 degrees. Is this normal? I assume it is only switching to one of the two runs shown on the diagram so I would have expected it to turn 180 degrees to make a full switch.

I once cut off the top few inches of the PVC cover which sits over the diverter valve with my tractor blades. This was shortly before we had the water issue. The valve still seems to turn ok and I know it must be pretty deep so I doubt the tractor did any damage, but could this have caused our problem?

The papers from the county include the orignal permit and the as-built diagram. They indicate the drain field to be at least 4' feet deep but they don't say much else about it. There don't seem to be any access ports for the drain field so we wonder how would any contractor troubleshoot the problem? Do they have to dig the whole field up just to see what is going on in there?

The pumper said they might be able to "blow the lines out" without any digging but I am not sure what that means or how much it might cost. Is this a common method of repair, and if so does it generally work?

If we call out a contractor and they are not able to fix the problem immediately, is there a risk of our property being "red tagged" such that we can't use it until the septic field is fixed? Our land is more than 10 acres with no other homes closer than 500' down the road and one home about 200' across the road so I can't see any immediate threat to anyone.

If there is a serious problem with the drain field, what would be a ballpark figure for having it replaced? It is a two bedroom system and I know you can't estimate without seeing it but are we talking $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000?

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 06-20-2008, 02:36 AM
 
322 posts, read 623,138 times
Reputation: 415
Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
First I want to say how impressed I am by all the knowledge exposed on this thread. Lot of people here really seem to know their stuff. Which is why I am posting a few questions to see if anyone can help educate me further.
But I know so much more interesting stuff than septic design, we have to talk about this? Oh well, here goes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
I have a 1,000 gallon septic tank which was installed about 15 years ago and just recently pumped. No idea if it was pumped prior since we are not the original owners. There is a single drain field with a diverter valve about 100' from the tank. The system has worked fine for the past few years that we have owned the home but over the past few months we noticed the drain field now has some standing water on the surface near the valve.
Ah, a "bull run" valve. Usually a sign of soil conditions not so good. Standing water is never good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
It had been a pretty rainy season in early spring so we thought maybe it was due to the weather and we waited for dryer weather but no improvement. Then we tried cutting the grass more often and turning the diverter valve again but this didn't seem to help either. The pumper found no problems with our tank or main line from the house to the tank, other than it was pretty full and due to be pumped. So it would seem to be a problem with the drain field. Here are my questions:

When turning the diverter valve it only seems to rotate 90 degrees. Is this normal? I assume it is only switching to one of the two runs shown on the diagram so I would have expected it to turn 180 degrees to make a full switch.
Bull runs are 'Y' shaped, 180 degrees would be very abby-normal. And yep, it's designed to switch between two drain fields. They are no longer common due largely to a reputation of the home owner never turning them until one drain field began to fail. They were mostly used in borderline soil conditions where they were meant to be turned every few months to let the fieldlines "rest" alternately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
I once cut off the top few inches of the PVC cover which sits over the diverter valve with my tractor blades. This was shortly before we had the water issue. The valve still seems to turn ok and I know it must be pretty deep so I doubt the tractor did any damage, but could this have caused our problem?
Could be. If you smacked it hard enough to take off part of the cover you may have done some damage underground. The valve could still turn nicely but no longer be connected to what it should be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
The papers from the county include the orignal permit and the as-built diagram. They indicate the drain field to be at least 4' feet deep but they don't say much else about it. There don't seem to be any access ports for the drain field so we wonder how would any contractor troubleshoot the problem? Do they have to dig the whole field up just to see what is going on in there?
OK, I'm going to guess that's "at most 4' deep". That's the deepest it could be under a standard permit. Assuming you've got a standard gravel trench system that's 4' to the bottom of the trench and 3' to the top of the rock. The first thing you need to do is contact TDEC groundwater, in most counties they have an office either in the county health department or another county building. Their local representative has a 4' steel rod they can use to probe the fieldline and see if any water is getting to the gravel trench or if your pipes have come apart somewhere before there. If you have to work on the fieldline you'll need a repair permit anyway, no reputable excavation contractor would touch the job without one. They could lost their license to install.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
The pumper said they might be able to "blow the lines out" without any digging but I am not sure what that means or how much it might cost. Is this a common method of repair, and if so does it generally work?
Plumbers. I would not recommend this. If you have solids in the lines on the drainfield side of the tank it's likely caused by a problem with the tank baffles which needs to be fixed. "Blowing out" the lines might make the problem go away today but it might also cause the underlying problem to wreck expensive fieldline instead of cheap PVC. Better to isolate and deal with the actual cause.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
If we call out a contractor and they are not able to fix the problem immediately, is there a risk of our property being "red tagged" such that we can't use it until the septic field is fixed? Our land is more than 10 acres with no other homes closer than 500' down the road and one home about 200' across the road so I can't see any immediate threat to anyone.
Talk to TDEC, get a permit. As long as no one is complaining and you're trying to correct the situation you're unlikely to have problems with being "red tagged". If someone does start complaining and/or you don't seem to be taking active steps to correct the situation you can expect a "Notice of Violation" which is a lawyered up certified letter explaining when TDEC would like to see you in court if you don't meet a certain deadline for remediating the situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
If there is a serious problem with the drain field, what would be a ballpark figure for having it replaced? It is a two bedroom system and I know you can't estimate without seeing it but are we talking $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000?
Really too many variables, just can't say. The valve worries me a little since they were normally only used in not so good soil. But then again, in areas where they were used a lot sometimes they were included where they weren't really needed, habit is a powerful thing. Unlikely to be 10K unless you have to install a pump system to get to better soil far from the house. Unlikely to be less than 1K unless you can salvage at least part of your existing drainfield. Without seeing the site and evaluating the soil anything else I told you would be pulling numbers out of the air.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TN_Mike View Post
Thanks in advance for any help.
I gotta quit doing this free consulting.
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Old 06-20-2008, 03:57 AM
 
Location: Signal Mountain, Tennessee
849 posts, read 2,031,801 times
Reputation: 351
TNMike - I live in Florida in a house that is 24 years old, and thought about 7 years ago I needed to replace my field. We had never owned a house with septic, so here was our problem.

One, it's Florida and we get a lot of rain in the summer. Two, because this was our first home with septic, we didn't know anything about spreading out washing machine loads, dishwasher loads, showers, etc, and with 4 of us in the house that added up. We used our garbage disposal, alot, including the killer for our system, coffee grounds.

All of this combined made our system pool occasionally, we would have to use the "one" restroom only, etc. Once I was better educated on this and before spending about $4500, we stopped putting stuff down the disposal, we spread out the machine loads or did them on days where no rain, was forecasted, etc. I am happy to report we put that $4500 back in our pocket and have had no problems.

While this may not solve your issue, (loved yarddawg's informed response) maybe it will help someone else here on CD. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
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Old 06-22-2008, 02:34 AM
 
3 posts, read 15,317 times
Reputation: 10
Great info, thanks for the help!

So the normal process for getting someone to evaluate and repair the drain field is to first call TDEC Groundwater and get a repair permit, then call any authorized contractor of my choice?

I looked at the list of contractors on the TDEC site and it is pretty long with many companies listed in my area. How does one find a reputable, honest company with reasonable rates? I tried searching the web numerous times but companies in this industry seem to have very little info on the web so I couldn't find any reviews or ratings. I hate to just pick one at random and I don't necessarily have a lot of time to wait for multiple inspections and estimates... or do I?

If grizzly is correct then maybe I could just try something like pouring a bio cleaner in the field lines and modifying my usage patterns, then waiting a few weeks to see if it improves. I think someone in this forum or another site recommended NT-Max but I am not sure if these bio cleaners are really worth it. Some people on the web say they are like worthless snake oil and other people praise them. My pumper recommended an additive called Lenzyme which he sold me a 12 mos. supply for $70 but I just found out that I can get the same quantity for $30 or so on the web. I don't even know if it will do any good but he seemed like a decent guy so I trusted him. Now if I have to spend $1,000+ for a field repair then I would like to have a little more to go on besides blind faith...

I am a little concerned about waiting though since the tank was recently pumped and I wouldn't want to pay to have it pumped again later during repair work, and I don't want to the problem to get much worse in the interim. So what do you think, call TDEC right away or try some home remedies and call them in a few weeks?
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Old 06-22-2008, 12:30 PM
 
322 posts, read 623,138 times
Reputation: 415
Get the permit, it will give you valuable information on what is wrong. If you cracked up your solid lines when you took the valve cover off with the tractor no amount of home remedies will ever fix it. Same thing if the outlet baffle has broken off in your tank. Most pumpers don't even open the right lid to check that. Unfortunately the TDEC people legally can't recommend one licensed installer over another. But they will do a final inspection of any repair and if it doesn't suit them they have no problem putting the installer back in the ditch with a shovel to straighten it out. Once you have a permit specifying what needs to be done most installers will give you a rough estimate over the phone. Make sure that you have a clear understanding with whoever you hire about what condition you expect your property to be left in. Most will do finish work and sow grass but a standard estimate usually doesn't include this. If it comes to fieldline work it's usually better to leave the soil somewhat mounded over the lines for two or three weeks to settle before doing the finish grade work.

Water conservation can work for borderline or intermittent failures. If you do half a dozen loads of laundry on Saturday, have standing water on Sunday but it's gone by Tuesday or Wednesday then that's the kind of situation you can remedy by spacing out the laundry. To get a rough idea of whether you're chronically overloading the system check your water bill. A two bedroom septic system in Tennessee that's working to design specs should be able to handle 300 gallons per day. If you're near or exceeding that then a few low flow fixtures or high efficiency appliances might do the trick.

In most circumstances the enzyme/bio treatments are snake oil. In over 15 years of working in this area I've only run across two residential situations in which a thriving tank culture couldn't be maintained just by what was normally going into the system. In one a hobby photographer was dumping developer down the sink. The other was OCD and washed all the sinks, showers and tubs out with concentrated bleach daily. In both cases the best solution would have been to stop dumping the chemical but biotreatments seemed to help. The treatments also seemed to help somewhat in an older restaurant which was approved before a grease trap tank was mandatory before the septic tank although a retrofit grease trap was a better, permanent solution. And even those are anecdotal, I don't know of any scientifically designed unbiased study which has shown any benefit whatsoever to enzyme/biotreatments in septic systems under real-world conditions.
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