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Author Topic: septic tank off the grid?  (Read 2191 times)

Offline jonass21

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septic tank off the grid?
« on: February 06, 2013, 10:21:27 PM »
I've been looking at some potential properties that would serve as a good family gathering/off grid location. One that has peeked our interest is definitely off grid, about 30 minutes from an interstate in the mountains. This property has a septic tank and I was wondering if that is going to cause any difficulties in getting it pumped or managed, any thoughts on having septic at an off grid location?

Offline Cedar

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 10:32:40 PM »
Test it for leaks, test the lines. See if it is a poly tank or a clamshell type concrete one. You can do this on your own, we just did. Find out when the septic was put in. Talk to the former owners as it may have been a fly-by weekend project and I know most of them that worked great great up in the bush. Contact septic companies that will pump it out for you. If it is only 30 mins from an Interstate, I would say there is a good bet someone will come out there for you.

My septic tank at my last farm was 4 hours from a major metropolitan and an hour at least between towns. It was a 1000 gallon poly tank and had a funny leech line system, but it worked awesomely. I also know people who had old cars as septic tanks up there as well as underground 'log cabins'... as well as lagoon systems. Just make sure never to use bleach or anything to kill off the good bacteria which makes your septic tank keep on 'running'.

Cedar

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Offline nutcase

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 10:35:34 PM »
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it works for you. Ditto on Cedar's post. Just think of you septic system like you do you own digestion system, be nice and it will last for a very long time before you need to have it pumped. If you do at all.

Offline OKCPrepper

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 02:52:53 AM »
If there is any way possible to separate your gray and black water systems, that would take a lot of the stress off the septic system. That can be difficult to do unless you are building something new on the property. It also depends on how many people will be contributing to the system. If it is a small number and the system checks out fine, you should be in good shape. If you have a large family or think you might have lots of friends showing up some day, you might want to look into some alternatives.

Jack did an episode with with a guy in Colorado, #859, where he talked about a composting toilet design using sawdust. That sounded like a good method of disposing of waste if the need arises. Lots of ways to deal with things, the last thing you want to do is find out in an end of the world scenario that your toilet is not functioning, especially in the mountains in the winter.

Good luck on the property hunt.

Offline jonass21

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2013, 11:06:41 AM »
Well the house was almost but never fully finished so I'll look into separating the gray water from the system. Also the place will be empty much of the time but when the family gets together there will be towards of 20 people there, mostly teens and younger. That was my big concern, but if regular maintenance will make it last then I can handle that, thanks.

Offline Cedar

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2013, 11:08:23 AM »
mostly teens and younger. That was my big concern, but if regular maintenance will make it last then I can handle that, thanks.

Ration out the toilet paper and make sure if they plug it up, they are the ones to unplug it. That is the best way to make sure they don't plug it up again.

Cedar
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Offline fishman1113

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2013, 12:26:45 PM »
Growing up we had and still do have a septic system.  We would once every couple years dig up the tank cover and empty the tank ourselves, spreading the waste on a field.  Not a very fun job but if you must, it will work.  We now have a company come out and remove the waste.  I would bet that you you will be able to find a company that will come out and service you.

Offline ttubravesrock

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2013, 12:51:57 PM »
If your septic tank is sized properly, you will NEVER have to have it pumped. Your mention of up to 20 people is a cause for concern. It would be possible to have a separate septic tank for each bathroom. Also, having a gray water system would save a lot of the strain on the septic system.

Offline bcksknr

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2013, 03:45:02 PM »
Our home and septic system is 24 years old. The system was sized for a family of four. Our kids have moved on, so the usage is about 1/2. We recently had the drain field replaced because the original failed. It wouldn't "percolate" out the liquids. Luckily the drain field vent pipe is lower than our basement floor. I knew the system had problems when we had liquid coming out of the vent pipe (thank God not out of the basement floor drain). Problems are not uncommon for a drain field this old, no matter how careful you are. We had the drain field and tank brought up to current code. Luckily we have sugar sand and not clay soil, so good drainage is possible. The new field is next to the old one and the old one is still intact. Our septic guy put in a diverter valve and said that after a few years rest we could reuse the original drain field; it would rejuvenate. We can't legally not run our grey water through the septic system. A cake of brewer's yeast each month, down the toilet, is good insurance to keep the bacteria happy. By law, we have to have the tank pumped out and certified every three years; I feel that gave our old system the lifespan that it had. I would also test various brands of toilet tissue to see which dissolve easiest in water. Some of that stuff is darn near waterproof. Try not to flush Kleenex down the toilet (definitly no feminine hygiene products). We do have an electric garbage disposer, but only use it for the inevitable bits and pieces left in the sink. Disposers aren't recommended for septic systems, but we compost and are very careful about what little gets ground up.

Offline Cedar

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2013, 04:44:39 PM »
(definitly no feminine hygiene products).

Or condoms...

Cedar
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Offline scaffdog

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2013, 09:52:01 PM »
Any tips on finding your cover if its buried?  The sellers of our property weren't very helpful(you should have seen the mess they left us) so other than knowing the direction that the drain pipe points, I have no idea about our septic system.  I flush enzymes each month, but Im pretty scared that one day we will have a disaster if we dont get it pumped out.  My other concern is twofold...We have lots of trees on the property...so Im afraid that a pump truck may not be able to make it around to the back of the house even if we found the cover, and there is also the concern of roots jacking up the tank or drain field...any suggestions?

Offline soccer grannie

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2013, 10:51:51 PM »
Any tips on finding your cover if its buried?
When we bought our land & had a septic tank installed, the Health Dept had to inspect it and the county has a survey on file that shows exactly where the septic tank and drain field are. If that's not an option, have you noticed the grass is thicker and a different color in one spot - ours is, right on top of the septic tank. As the years go on, we're slowly beginning to see a difference in the grass over the drain field. Hope this helps.

Offline fishman1113

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2013, 08:27:43 AM »
Also if you have an idea where it is you can get a long piece of rebar and pound it into the ground, lightly, until you hit it.  Good luck.

Offline bcksknr

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2013, 10:09:14 AM »
Probing with rebar works nicely. Be sure there are no utility lines in the area you are searching. A thick fiberglass rod (like for driveway reflectors?) might be safer, if the ground is soft enough.

Offline Cedar

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2013, 10:46:48 AM »
I had someone witch ours once.. she did it.. and also found an old one we did not know existed.

Cedar
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Offline hillclimber

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Re: septic tank off the grid?
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2013, 11:35:18 AM »
I put in my septic system myself. Had a state soil scientist design it based on the results of a test hole I dug for him in the area on my property that he selected.
I don't separate grey water. We don't use a dishwasher, but we do use a washing machine. I have the tank pumped every 5-7 years. Never had any troubles with the drainage bed or anything, but having the tank pumped every so often helps.
I have two wells, one is gravity feed. So, as far as being "off grid" goes, even though I have grid power, I don't need grid power for my systems to function fully. As a matter of fact, everything on my property is independent with the exception of the grid power. As time goes by, we've become less and less dependant on that too.
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