Septic Pipe (aka, it’s been a rough week)

Still love the house, but it’s been responsible for an awful lot of stress and financial pain the past week+.

Roughly 9 days ago I walked downstairs and heard gushing water. The drain pipes are mostly exposed at the moment so they tend to be loud, but even so this sounded particularly “exposed”. I mentioned it to Elliot, and he quickly realized that we in fact had a new indoor waterfall – – a lovely cocktail of laundry-water, toilet water, and dish water was surging out of an uncapped drain pipe in the (one-day-will-be-a) kitchen and rushing down through the floor into the basement.

As mentioned before, Elliot and I investigated. This included draining the gross poop-pipe leading from the house out through the foundation, across the yard, and into the septic tank (thanks for taking the lead on that, Elliot!)

We couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, but it was fun* trying to figure it out, and we did get to experience a few reflective mirages along the way.

I’m glad I have a mad scientist for a brother. Makes disasters more enjoyable.

That being said, it doesn’t fix a backed-up septic line.

Nothing of interest, but our temporary draining of the water backlog filled back up and out of the uncapped pipe. That’s when we nixed the the use of any attic water.***

The folks at ProSeptic came out and diagnosed it as a saggy pipe – apparently called a Sewer Line Belly, and essentially means that sediment** sinks in the saggy bit and builds up. And up. And up. And up. Until nothing else can make it through: cue new kitchen waterfall of backed up wastewater.

DAY 5****
They offered me two options to get it functional:

  1. Flush it out with high pressure cleaning, cost $400. Pros: this was faster – next day, in fact, and was by far the cheaper option. Cons: I’d be paying $400 to treat the symptom and not the problem itself, and their post-cleaning-care-advise was to double-flush every time we use the toilet to help the “sediment” get past the belly.*^ Bonus con: it runs the risk of actually breaking the line itself – especially in an older pipe (which ours inevitably is).
  2. Replace the pipe from just outside the house all the way to the septic tank, cost $1500. Cons: they couldn’t get to it until Tuesday (aka, Day 9), and it’s significantly more expensive than the flush option. Pros: It actually fixes the problem.

Obviously I went with option number 2. Aside from the waste of resources angle of option number 1, the math insisted: $400 today + $1500 (or more – thanks inflation) down the road = at least $1900. My decision had the unfortunate effect of prohibiting any showers for anyone for the next ~5 days.

To make life interesting, the downstairs half-bath (aka, the only toilet able to drain) started leaking around the base. This became a pretty top priority in my life. Turns out, Elliot installed the wax ring, so I dashed over to Kent Ace Hardware to pick up (I got a spare, in case he screwed it up again 😉 ). Teamwork won the day, and Sergiu and Elliot got the only functional toilet in the house back up and running.

With work impending, my need for a shower reached new levels of urgency. Thankfully, Wassaic is one of the most wonderful places I’ve been and one of our amazingly wonderful neighbors allowed me to use their shower. It was incredible – clean!! I’d almost forgotten what that felt like.

While the rest of us ran around running errands, Sergiu removed the half-alive tree-stump that had been sitting directly overtop of the bad pipe. Brilliant placement, right? Using nothing but a hand saw, a hand axe, and his brute neanderthal strength Sergiu got the stump out. He’s still a bit bitter that no one was there to actually document it.

DAY 10
ProSeptic people came, they dug, they replaced. Hallelujah.

Oberon (the two year old who terrorizes our attic) was so excited to see the ‘digger’ that was tearing up our yard. He’s been going through a big utility vehicle phase*^^ – diggers, bulldozers, garbage trucks, fire trucks, ambulances – anything gigantic whose purpose is more than transporting people from A to B. He sat and watched the septic people at work intently, until they were done digging. Then he didn’t care anymore.

They got the pipe out and two things were immediately clear: First, they shouldn’t quit their jobs and open a landscaping business.

And second, (more importantly) I was right,*^^^ completely and unequivocally, to choose option 2.

The faulty pipe was a hodge-podge mess of clay, cast-iron, and plastic all on the verge of bursting. Apparently it was a ticking time bomb, ready to crack open or explode at any minute. The new all-pvc pipe (properly fitted and hooked up) should be a bit safer.

With the new pipe in place, everyone (finally) got to bathe; Sergiu got to do a lot of particularly dirty dishes and laundry that should have been done 10 days ago; and, I got to have a huge, heaping serving of mashed potatoes.**^ Happy, happy house.

* Fun in retrospect; gross/stressful/smelly in the moment.
** This is a nice term. You know what I mean by sediment.
*** Bizarrely (and luckily) the downstairs toilet is on a completely separate septic pipeline.
**** Nothing interesting happened on Day 4.
*^ This is a problem for me, both from an energy and water waste standpoint, as well as a money-waste standpoint.
*^^ Clearly not my son.
*^^^ As per usual, of course.
**^ Or, as I like to call it, pure ambrosia.

2 thoughts on “Septic Pipe (aka, it’s been a rough week)

  1. First, it’s always pleasing to have fresh plumbing, even if the cost is not a source of happiness.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly: That stump-thing that Sergiu wrenched from the earth with his swarthy hands? It sort of looks like an ancient Druid totem, one that should have remained in the forest and never disturbed. (Tilt your head just a little bit? Do you detect a possible wood carving in the image of at least a mid-level deity of some kind? Thought so.) Have there been any odd incidents of late that might speak of dissatisfied spirits of yore? 😉


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