DRYWELL SAFETY CONCERNS - CONTENTS: Drywell, cesspool, soakaway pit fatality hazards: very serious safety warnings for drywells, seepage pits, cesspools. Seepage pit collapse hazards and risk of fatality. Drywell pit collapse hazards and risk of fatality, Capacity warnings for seepage pits, Capacity warnings for drywells. What care is needed for a drywell or seepage pit?
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Safety warnings about drywells and seepage pits:
This wastewater drywell article discusses special safety, collapse, and fatality hazards special to drywells (or seepage pits) and gives safety and maintenance advice.
Watch out: Safety Warning: do not walk over the top of or close to the edges of a drywell or any other onsite pit or excavation because
of the danger of fatal collapse. Keep pets and children away from such systems.
Drywell and Seepage Pit Safety and Septic System Capacity Warnings
Drywell & Seepage Pit Safety
Photo at left: view into a filled seepage pit.
Safety Warning: there is a risk of drywell collapse, risking injury and potential fatality if someone falls in to one of these
systems, particularly for older site-built systems that were often made of dry-stacked stone or concrete block,
and more-so if such systems are not protected by a very secure cover.
Believe it or not, simple wood board covers
were often used on home-made drywells. Such covers rot and ultimately collapse.
Drywell & Seepage Pit Capacity and Testing Limitations
Limited septic system capacity is implied by the presence of a drywell. Wet soil conditions or limited space
for a functioning drain field (for the septic system) often leads property owners to reduce the liquid load on
the septic system by routing gray water to a separate drywell.
Where such a system is installed owners/buyers should
be alert for these conditions and should expect to face extra costs for system maintenance and repair as well as
limited septic system capacity.
An exception to the septic system capacity warning above at a large building where a sink or laundry are added in an area distant from piping
connected to the septic system, an owner may add a remote drywell as an alternative to inconvenient and costly routing
of a drain line from the laundry to the existing septic system.
Drywells can obscure or prevent effective septic loading and dye testing: If a drywell system is installed, running water at the fixtures draining into this system
(as may be done by some septic tests) are likely to fail to perform a loading test on the septic system even if such a test was attempted.
First, the fixtures where water was run in attempt to test the septic system (tank and leach field) may not even be delivering
water to those components if instead the fixtures drain to a separate drywell.
It is critical to trace building drains as part of
a septic test or to otherwise try to determine if the test water is actually entering the septic system.
Even if we're trying to "test the drywell", if the drywell is "working" at all, it is a large empty hole in the ground. After a period of disuse it may appear
to be working during a test but fail in a day or two when the no-longer functioning hole is filled with wastewater.
Where a drywell is installed at a property and a septic inspection was attempted, more testing may be in order: in cases where only toilets empty into the septic system, it may be possible to make a more effective septic loading and dye test:
put a test water load directly into the toilet by using a garden hose.
This is not a typical/normal septic test procedure and has its own concerns
such as overloading a system of unknown design that did not anticipate such volumes and possible back-contamination of water supply via hose in toilet
(a cross connection). Whether or not such an additional test is performed, our warning about a system of limited capacity for which the owner
may face significant costs to repair or expand capacity remains in effect.
Watch out: Readers trying to diagnose and deal with sudden soil subsidence or yard collapses should see CESSPOOL SAFETY WARNINGS as those hazards can also apply to drywells and septic tanks
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(Jan 21, 2013) cameron carter said:
I would to know the law for waste water running from wash machine on top the ground
Cameron, in most jurisdictions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and parts of Asia, the discharge of graywater or any building plumbing drain water directly to the ground surface is prohibited. You don't say where you live so I'm left having to advise that you check directly with your local building department.
Interestingly, research on use of graywater shows that it can be beneficial to plants and dry soils.
See GREYWATER SYSTEMS for details.
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Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books
Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. (DF volunteers to serve as indexer if Burks/Minnis re-publish this very useful volume.) While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference for both property owners and septic system designers. We refer to it often. While Minnis says the best place to buy this book is at Amazon (our link at left), you can also see this book at Minnis' website at http://web page .pace.edu/MMinnisbook
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill.
Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers:
* Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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