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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    32

    Lightbulb Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    Is there any valid reason whatsoever that anyone would install a brick septic tank in the first place, unless it is pre-1950 or so?

    Also, is there any valid reason someone would opt to not replace a brick septic tank when re-doing all the lateral lines and distribution boxes?

    I have a customer who has contacted the prior owner of the property who claimed to have put in the system in 1999. Checking the permit record revealed that the "existing septic tank" was used, and the owner stated it was "brick". Permit records show the drawing and specifications for the lateral lines, which look okay. My concern is that the service life of any brick septic tank would be very short, in the 7-10 year range maximum, and surely the "brick septic" tank was installed ages ago... the building was built in 1925 and originally had outhouses. Unknown on the original septic installation date. My concern is that the existing tank could be leaking profusely into the soil, and it is located right behind the basement wall. There has been water leaking and a strange buildup of mud and black colored stuff. No smell, no oil, just coloration. Maybe from the cistern which is also right behind the basement wall...

    I told them to replace the septic tank with a modern solution and have a contractor mark off and verify the existence of the laterals illustrated on the drawing.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    1,096

    Default Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    If the tank is leaking slightly and is otherwise sound then it's not doing much of anything the drain lines are doing so for that alone I would not be concerned. Where it's happening could be a problem though! Because of the likelihood of the tank being shot I would plan for the possibility of replacing it then call a septic contractor out to inspect, assess, and replace it as needed. They'd probably be a good choice for inspecting the cistern you mentioned as well, have them check it while they are there. If it's not needed or used it should be filled in with gravel to prevent future cave-in issues- doing all of this together will save you from having to re-do the lawn twice instead of just once.

    Prior to code requirements many brick or block septic tanks were built and many of them are just as serviceable today as when new. The brick ones are more likely to give problems as little lateral movement will destabilize the sides quickly, while the wider block needs a lot more movement to be affected similarly. Still, if any movement has occurred it indicates that replacement with a cast concrete unit is wise no matter the location of the tank. Whenever you're doing this much work on a septic system, I recommend to inspect the drain-field and house drains to the tank, and do any work they may need while you're at it so that the whole system will be up to par when you're done.

    And remember the wise words of Erma Bombeck: "The grass is always greener over the septic tank."

    Phil

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Montreal Canada
    Posts
    93

    Default Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    up north we call these things cesspools. They have been banned for many years , all they do is leach sewage into the ground. A true septic tank hold the sewage in supension until it breaks down to liquid by going through many baffles ect and then goes to a weeping field where it is absorbed in the ground. I would get a real pro in to check it out and give you a price to remove the tank and any contaninated ground and install a new septic tank. Be very carefull there could be all sorts of regulations that apply. You do not want some inspector coming back after the home owner who then would hold you responsible. I do not know the code in the us but this is what would happen in canada.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    Yep, good word for it. Cesspool. Certainly I am suggesting the replacement of the tank. I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to buy a property with a brick septic.

    The yayhoo at the county environmental office had a typical "Cain't do nuthin' about that" type of response. When asked why the permit in 1999 for installing the lateral lines and/or septic tank allowed for a brick tank . . . said something like 'oh, the rules were different back then'.... geez, I doubt it. Sounds like the prior owner used an existing, ancient brick tank that probably never had any lateral lines in the first place, and really WAS a cesspool!!!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    It should be easy to tell if it is a cesspool, there won't be any baffles. This is really problematic for the laterals because it will allow sewage to fill them. You may have to replace tha laterals also.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,096

    Default Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    As with asbestos and vermiculite, there's much over-concern about human waste and it's affects on the environment.

    Human waste is as good as similar waste when used as a fertilizer (manure) but it may never be used to fertilize edible plants as there are some differences, just not ones that have much effect unless it's a high concentration being considered, direct contact may be made, or the affected plants may be eaten. Google "humanure" to see whereof I speak.

    And do note that I said "slight leakage"- anything significant will need immediate attention. Slight leakage away from humans is basically harmless. "Cesspools" were designed with openings to leach the liquids out and have no baffles or drainfields, unlike septic tanks which are supposed to contain the liquids and disperse them over a larger area more slowly. Cesspools over-saturate the surrounding area and do not allow much of the microbal action which makes septic tanks work which is why they are no longer recommended. Cesspools are dangerous, but slightly leaking septic tanks may not be.

    It's out of print and somewhat dated, but one of the best reference books on the matter is "Wells and Septic Systems" by Max and Charlotte Alth. Used copies are easy to find and cheap. What you learn from that book will pay for it's cost many times over in making these systems work better and longer for you.

    Phil

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    32

    Exclamation Re: Brick septic tank - is thing thing on?

    Cesspools are indeed dangerous. But I can't imagine putting up with any leaking septic tank either, especially when it is right next to the basement outer wall. I think in this client's case, the cistern is leaking and probably the septic as well. A cleanout contractor is going to dig up the lid and pump it out, and at that time I requested him/her to make photographs to document the system. Thanks for the baffles reference. No baffles = cesspool. Makes sense. I'll note that.

    My plan of action is to fill the cistern. I see no reason why one could not bash in the 3' wall of blocks that are above ground, into the empty cistern (once the water is pumped out) and add the low PSI concrete to fill it entirely. No more cistern. No more leaks. And what a great foundation on which to pour a finish of concrete for a patio while the concrete contractor is out. That would really make a problem into a plus. Can one pour higher PSI onto the low-PSI? Since it would only be used as a patio, seems like low PSI would be not too much less than normal.?

    J

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