| Jun 15, 2006

Feature Article - June 15, 2006

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Feature Article - June 15, 2006

What to do when yourWaste Water (septic) system fails

by Rich Phillips,GreaterBobs and CrowLakeAssociation

Over the years, I have heard a number of persons say “I haven’t had my septic system pumped in 20 years and it is working perfectly”. One part of the statement is possibly true. It may very well be 20 years since their septic system has been pumped. It is most likely not working perfectly, unless they use their cottage only one or two weekends a season. On average, septic systems require a pump-out every 2 to 5 years. Solid material should never exceed the depth of one third of the tank. Of course, the required frequency of pumping depends on use, but the fact that your system seems to be working properly may be providing a false sense of security. Poor maintenance of the septic tank may lead to failure of the leaching bed followed by surface leakage and/or backup of the system.

When your system fails, what options are available?


A. Replacement of your septic system with a traditional systemFor a cost of $8,000 to $12,000 the full system can be replaced. Inaccessible locations may double the cost. This option may require the removal of the entire leaching bed including crushed stone, sand and tiles. This will provide a solution that will last another 20 to 30 years depending on your maintenance program and use.

B. Replacement of your system with an alternative design systemThese systems generally require a smaller bed, and may not require the removal of the defective tile bed if another location is available. Their life expectancy is similar to a traditional system and the performance may exceed that of a traditional system. Costs vary from $10,000 to $20,000 or possibly more depending on the terrain.

C. Installation of a Composting Toilet and a Gray Water PitThis relatively new technology is becoming more popular, not only in locations that cannot accommodate a traditional septic system, but as a replacement option when a traditional system fails. There are many sizes and operating systems, but generally, the composting toilet system plus a gray water pit for sink and shower water will cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

For those considering an alternative design waste water system, here are few web sites of system suppliers:

www.waterloo-biofilter.com www.ecofloontario.comwww.biomicrobics.comwww.makeway.ca

Composting toilet options can be found at:


However, to keep your current system working properly, and possibly save thousands of dollars, consider a few simple steps:

a) Have your tank pumped every 2-5 years

b) Avoid putting grease, chemicals, hair or anything that will require a long time to break down into the system

c) Protect your tile bed from tree or shrubbery roots below the surface and vehicles above

d) Reduce water use

e) Keep maintenance records and a lot plan showing the location of your tank

f) Install an effluent filter with access risers (this $300 retrofit requires periodic maintenance, but is well worth the cost)

Free Waste Water workshops are planned for June 18, 1 – 3 p.m. at Bedford Hall; July 8, 10 a.m. – noon at Kennebec Hall in Arden ; and on August 12, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Farrell Hall, in Perth For more information, contact Marilyn at 613-273-4511,

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