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Offline La Vigna

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Septic Tank
« on: March 07, 2015, 09:29:01 AM »
Got a little worried this Thursday when our kitchen sink started to drain slowly and thought maybe our septic tank was blocked or something. Contacted our geometra who rang the firm that empty the tanks (not had ours done yet). However they said it was most likely the heavy rain interfering with the soak away and to leave it and see when the rain stopped. Sure enough by Friday afternoon and no rain all day, the problem stopped and all running away easily. We had an Imhoff installed 3 years ago with a deep soakaway dug across our land and to date have had no problems or smells. Should we have it emptied as I understand if you let too much sludge build up it can cause problems? I have read an old thread on italymag with some high quotes for doing this.


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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2015, 09:49:56 AM »
Don't think we kept the details, but sure we were quoted €300, but have heard of much larger quotes. Think about all that money you pay in the UK for waste and likely there is not too much difference, although the initial installation cost here may make it dear to start with.

Offline Allan Mason

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2015, 10:23:48 AM »
Did you not get some sort of advice on maintenance when your Imhoff was installed, Vigna?

I'd find it very worrying if a sink drain was slow due the pipes backing up all the way from the septic tank. Unless the bottom of the basin is almost level with the entry point of the septic tank, I'd suggest a close look at the drain pipes between sink and the point where they connect to a larger drain.

I have no idea how long it had been since the septic tank had been pumped out when I bought our Abruzzo house, but I had a feeling it was at least a few years. We then used our septic tank for seven years without having it de-sludged. ("We" being a family of two adults and one young child, with one or more guests staying with us for perhaps an average of 10% of the time.)

As far as I could see, the tank at the end of that period was working just as well and was no more disgusting than it was when I bought the house. (In fact, the same feminine hygiene products were still floating on top in 2014 just as they had been when I first lifted off the cover in 2007!  ::) )

The only time we had problems over the years was in particularly soggy periods and when we had guests who spent at least half an hour in the shower every morning and evening.

Although the companies that make a living pumping out septic tanks will tell you that you should have the tank cleared every year, logic says that virtually everything that goes into the tank should be digestible by the microorganisms living there. We never used powdered laundry detergents (they contain inorganic solids that can't be digested by bacteria and can block drain fields) and we definitely never used moist toilet paper (who needs to, when you have a bidet?) or flushed anything other than toilet paper and waste. Also, we're not clean freaks and nor are we keen on sweaty exercise, so it was normally only in the hottest, driest weather than we had daily showers and we virtually never used the bath. I suspect all those factors helped keep our system working.

Having said all that, I never tried to measure the level of solids in the bottom of the tank and I would not be astonished if there was a substantial amount of sludge there. Given that it has probably been about a decade since the tank was cleared, it would be astonishing if a fair amount of crud hadn't accumulated.

We did ask around a couple of time about how we could get the tank cleared, but we got nowhere with that. I was left wondering if, in rural areas, septic tanks get pumped out surreptitiously and the contents disposed of while the Guardia Forestale are busy elsewhere.


Offline Relaxed

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2015, 10:48:32 AM »
I agree completely with most of what Allan has said, and also with what you have been told by your geometra.

The idea of a septic tank is that it encourages the break down of solids, and it does this best if all it has to deal with are solids (WC discharge). Ideally nothing else should go down the septic tank - no shower, washing machine, dishwasher or other waste water. If you have a good recent installation this is how it should be arranged. (If a house which already has a drainage system is provided with a new septic tank it's often not possible to keep the systems separate, but that is the ideal.)

The septic tank discharge goes into a soakaway, as you have described - but so does all of the other waste water. In a very wet period the soakaway may not be able to keep up with the waste water plus the rain water, and you could well arrive at the situation you experienced - which should have nothing to do with the septic tank.

One advantage of having this separate system (WC and other wastes separate) is that you don't need to be so pedantic about which cleaning products you use (other than in the loo) because they don't get anywhere near the septic tank and so can't harm its biological function. (Some cleaning products, and of course grease, can fur up the pipework en route to the soakaway, but they don't interfere with the digestion of the solids.)

If you continue to have problems the first place I would look is the pipework leading to the soakaway, and after that possibly consider whether it is worth extending the soakaway. Whether that is worth doing really depends on topography, how deep your soakaway is, and how clayey your soil is. If you have a decent slope - not uncommon in Italy - it's quite rare to have long lasting difficulties with soakaways: (in Lincolnshire however they are a nightmare!)

Offline La Vigna

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2015, 12:33:39 PM »
Allan, yes we were told we should have it de sludged annually (the Internet advice does seem to bear out having it periodically done) so we reckoned on doing it every 3 years as we are here about a third of the time. We are really careful about what we put into the system in regards to products. Our rainwater from the gutters do not go into it as that all goes to soakaways. The problem we had this week I think was the exceptional amount of rain in a short period of time caused the soakaway to fill so didn't allow much more in from the Imhoff. Our land is relatively flat so that may be the reason, who knows! In any event we have had no more rain since Thursday and the sink was flowing as it normally does by Friday afternoon. OH lifted the access cover on Thursday and there was a fair amount of water above what looks like a sealed unit and today all that has disappeared. To date no nasty odours at any time. When we leave the house for the UK I always put a sachet of WCNET which promotes decomposition. I have to own up to having a daily shower though! ;)

Offline 2Heads

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2015, 01:58:27 PM »
We have a septic tank in the UK which backed up badly just after we bought the house so I did quite a bit of research. The problem you experienced Vigna seems to happen where the water table is quite near the surface although I would have thought this is much more rare in Italy than in Dorset!! Opinions on pumping out vary widely and often relate to the size of the tank, number of users etc.What you do or don't put in is obviously very important - avoiding things like ammonia based products and 'kills 99% of known germs' is less than helpful with a septic tank.
We don't use WCNET but a local remedy which is to buy buttermilk, leave it out of the fridge for a few days to 'get going' and then flush it down a loo - works a treat. No-one in our village is on mains drainage and they all get someone to pop in every week or so if they are away for a long time and simply do a single flush to make sure that the inlet to the tank doesn't have a drying out residue in it.
Nothing like a good poo discussion on the forum eh!  ;D

Offline itsme

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2015, 12:22:31 AM »
You don't need to believe everything you read on the internet; I guess that includes this post! Anyway for what its worth in the UK we have the most basic sceptic tank, 100 gallons, and we have it emptied maybe every five years, or more factually, when I think about it which could be much longer. Most of the stuff the tanker pumps out is water and the pumping man (what a great job he has) always says there isn't much residue that actually needs removing. On top of this we have been using bleach, Harpic and other noxious substances in the normal way for twenty years - the bacteria survive! The only time we have had slow drainage is when a pipe was blocked. On a flat plot ensuring no slow draining would need your tank to be buried deep to provide a good fall that ensured everything fell into the tank and wasn't tempted to hang about in the pipes.

In Italy I have found geometras haven't really got a clue about sceptic tanks and feed you a load of nonsense; two different geometras even told us you couldn't legally separate black and grey water - how can that be true? So I doubt our Italian installation will be as trouble free!

Offline dolcevita

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Re: Septic Tank
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2015, 04:01:40 PM »
I probably should not admit to this but we have not had ours pumped out for 20 years! No smells but we only use tiny amounts of bleach ( use vinegar and ecover washing up liquid normally) to clean our loo.
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