Our January ended with a huge Ta-Duh. Just not the way we planned it. Since the construction of our house, tradition dictated cleaning the septic tank every four years.
We adopted the schedule when we purchased the house and cleaned the tank two years later.
The gentleman who pumped it said, “You don’t need to empty it that often because the tank is only half full and it’s a waste of your money.”
He said, “Based on your usage you should only pump every eight years or so.”
We work from our home and use it more than the previous owner. So we added one year to the schedule, better safe than sorry.
Last year we earned our first sluggish drain, the bathroom sink, which Richard cleared using my hair comb. As a result I buzzed off my hair and purchased a specialized tool to clean the drains.
This year the house worked at getting our attention. Starting with the dishwasher overflowing through the garbage disposal into the kitchen sink each time it ran. The drain in the shower, for the first time since we moved in, became sluggish. The new drain tool’s magic failed on the shower. The toilets burped randomly a few moments after flushing.
For some reason, I never mentioned it to Richard, except for the comment about the toilet burping after a high fiber diet.
On January 27, at an unmentionable hour of the morning, I flushed the toilet in the guest bathroom when it performed the exact opposite of a flush. I stopped it prior to the bowl overflowing.
Richard said, “Fannie pour boiling hot water into the toilet to see if it takes care of the issue.”
It worked. The toilet burped and returned to the normal flow of things.
Meanwhile in the master bathroom, which is closer to the septic tank, Richard finished his morning constitutional and flushed the toilet. The seal blew out from the base of the toilet and water erupted streaming in all directions followed by a fountain of unmentionables overflowing from the toilet bowl.
Richard yelled, “Fannie, HELP! I need the largest towels you can find and make it quick!”
We stopped the water and I called the company who handles our septic system.
With the last servicing of our septic system we installed risers over both access points to the tank. Let’s face it, who wants to dig holes?
The woman who answered the phone said, “Check the level of your septic tank and make certain your baffle isn’t clogged or covered by a full tank.”
It turns out a clogged baffle forces sewage back up into your residence in just such a spectacular manner.
I asked, “What’s a baffle and where do I look for it?”
She said, “Open the lid to your tank and check the level of effluent, if you can see a pipe coming into it you are okay, otherwise call me back.”
Richard and I went in search of the baffle.
Four and one-half years elapsed since the last tank cleaning. We expected to find it half to three-quarters full.
Richard opened the cover to the tank. I leaned over looking into the bowels of the beast and discovered a tank filled to the brim, no baffle in sight. With watering eyes, Richard covered the tank while I called The Septic Service.
The woman who answered the phone said, “We can be there sometime between 1 and 5 p.m. this afternoon. Whatever you do, do not to use your facilities prior to our arrival based on the information you just gave us.”
During our wait, the call of nature required the delicate use of the great outdoors in freezing winter temperatures.
With no fencing and a slender greenbelt devoid of leaves surrounding our property, in essence they instructed us to flash a mid-day moon to all our neighbors, many of whom keep an eye on us because they never know what we are going to do next.
We soon tired of dancing because we consumed too much of our favorite morning beverages before we found out we lost our privileges. Let’s just say we crossed more than our fingers.
We got the call around 11 a.m. They would arrive within the hour.
The Sanitation Man arrived with an enormous tanker truck. It took one hour to drain all 1,125 gallons.
Now for the big test, flushing a toilet. I flushed the guest bathroom toilet. It worked. I ran outside to see if they witnessed the results on their end. Nothing happened. Puzzled, I ventured into the master bath and repeated the procedure. Again the toilet worked, but nothing arrived in the tank.
The other boot dropped. Our baffle’s location, outside the tank. We grabbed a couple of shovels and Richard and I dug while the Sanitation Man policed his work area.
After 15 minutes of random digging, brown water flowed from the ground, similar to the Texas Tea from the opening sequence of the Beverly Hillbillies. We dug 22 inches to find the baffle’s cement cap and once removed we discovered our own very special artesian well.
The Sanitation Man pumped rushing water out of the hole. When the flow subsided we found the baffle clogged with lard.
The Sanitation Man grabbed a golf club from his truck.
He said, “This is the best part of the job”.
With the aid of a three-iron, he beat the living daylights out of the clog.
After about two minutes the clog cleared and mucky water flowed in earnest. It drained within five minutes.
The Sanitation Man said, “You need to build your own riser for the baffle to prevent this from happening again. Clean it every two years using a pressure washer just to be on the safe side.”
He added, “Stop by Goodwill and get your own specialized clog-busting tool. The three-iron is my personal favorite, but any of the irons or even a putter will work and they’re cheap”.
We placed a tarp over the hole to make sure no one fell in.
The next morning gave us another unexpected surprise. Richard showered first. When he opened the door to the shower, the desiccated remains of the previous day lay out in full glory. Now we knew where the toilets flushed.
Clorox is our friend. We used a full gallon cleaning the affected areas. Not stopping there, Richard determined the shower should be clean enough for Inspector 12.
After a thorough chlorine wash and rinse, Richard sprinkled Tide with bleach over the stall floor and let it ruminate with the floor tiles. After several hours in contemplation, the tiles, not Richard, he rinsed the floor and scrubbed it again followed by a dose of CLR, more scrubbing and a final rinse. When finished, not even the mold had a lifeline.
Richard spent Saturday trying to find the supplies to build the perfect riser. A 12-inch round pipe with a cap. To complete the ensemble, dry cement poured around the outside of the new riser. The cement would wick the rest of the moisture from the ground removing the drainage from our impromptu artesian well all while hardening in place.
None of the local hardware store carried our size piping any longer. The largest they could offer, nine inches. We needed to create our own.
What were we thinking? It took about 24-hours before we realized we should go to the source, The Septic Service, and purchase a riser from them.
Our combined work schedules delayed the installation of the riser until Valentine’s Day weekend. What could be more romantic than installing a riser for the septic system with the one you love?
Once we finished, Richard surprised me with roses and High Tea at the local tea shop. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, I suspect not.