Septic pump questions & answers:
Here we answer frequently-asked questions about all types of septic system pumps.
This article series explains the differences between Septic System Pumps and Sump Pumps , Sewage Ejector Pumps, Septic Grinder Pumps, Sewage Pumping Stations, & Septic Pump Alarms. We also include definitions of types of septic system pumps; Warning of items that will clog septic pumps and grinder pumps & Warning about trip and fall and health hazards of exposed sewage ejector pumps
Advice is given for septic tank effluent or sewage pump selection and use.
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Recent questions & answers about septic pump types, applications, sources, repairs, posted originally at SEPTIC SYSTEM PUMPS - topic home.
On 2017-02-15 by (mod) - cause of septic pump motor running backwards
A lightning strike or a failed start capacitor can cause a motor to run backwards - search InspectApedia for MOTOR RUNS BACKWARDS for details.
On 2017-02-12 by abe
why is my sewer pump going backwards all of a sudden. was working fine.
On 2017-01-17 by (mod) - ejector pump to sewer doesn't mean there was never a septic tank at a property
Jan: you are describing an ejector pump that lifts waste to a public sewer system.
You can report, if it's true, that since you've owned the home it has always been connected to a public sewer.
However the buyer wants to know, and you want to know for safety and liability reasons, if your home ever had a septic tank or cesspool. That may be determined by age of the home, location, local building department records.
Also see SEPTIC or SEWER CONNECTION?
On 2017-01-17 by Jan
I am completing forms, getting ready to sell my house. It asked:
Has any septic tank or cesspool on the property ever been professionally serviced? Please clarify if there is a "cesspool" as part of my sump pump system. I have a sump pump in my basement because of the low elevation relative to the public sewer line that runs in front of my house.
On 2016-11-23 by (mod) - where is the septic pump float
perhaps, but float and pump controls vary, I can't know from just a brief e-text.
On 2016-11-23 by angela
I don’t see the floater or the sump pump. Could it have fallen into the tank
On 2016-11-11 by (mod) - test button on pumping station
Start by confirming that the pump and controls have power.
Then let me know the brand and model of the equipment so that you or I can find the septic pump control instruction manual, since switches and controls and features vary by manufacturere and model.
On 2016-11-11 by Shelly Plemons
When I push the test button on my septic tank pumping station the light does not come on nor does the quick alarm sound go off.
I am assuming this means that there is a problem with the pump not getting power. Any advice on how to go about testing to try to figure out what would cause this?
On 2016-08-23 by (mod) - how powerful a septic pump is required
I don't have the whole picture anon. But if your more distant bath is draining by gravity into the sewage ejector pump then the pump is working the same and doing the same for all fixtures that it serves: it doesn't know where the waste is originating.
So if the remote bath doesn't drain I suspect that the problem is in the piping between bath and pump or the slope is inadequate or the pipe's clogged.
On 2016-08-23 by Anonymous
Dose my pump for septic have to be more powerful if my one bathroom is on the other side of the house...the pump works great for my washer from my other bathroom and kitchen ..but it won't won't drain from the far bathroom
On 2015-07-25 by (mod) - which is preferred: septic pump or gravity disposal
I always prefer a gravity flow for waste or other water disposal as it means the system will continue to work when there is a loss of power.
Be sure to include appropriate check valves in either design to prevent sewage backflow into the building.
On 2015-07-25 by Gavin PG
I am faced with a dilemma on my new building.
I need to tap into a sewer line and I have two options.
120 ft gravity flow - cost $7500.00
80ft, level, flow using a sewage pump(grinder?) - cost $3700.00 plus the grinder.
Is it woth saving money at the expense of a pump, or am I better off paying the extra money now with no future pump issues.
Below the frost line
On 2015-07-20 by jason crowley
I am putting a bathroom in our basement and i need to pump waste to my septic tank from the basement up a hill to the tank is a solid waste pump all i need and how deep do i put the pipes under ground?
On 2015-06-04 by gerry
if someone has done this before could contact bv44com at shaw dot ca
On 2015-06-04 by gerry
To set up a grinder pump to remove large toilet items when flushed could you adapt one to a toilet (avoid buying an expensive unit from saniflo or liberty
What can be poured into the comode, to go through the ejector pump or grinder pump, to eliminate smell? This is in a basement and pumps up to the tank system. - Don Votaw
Don, Cloroben and other manufacturers produce drain cleaning liquids that are enzymes that should not harm a septic system. But I'd expect the smell to return as the system is used. Better to find the exact odor source and fix that - assuring good plumbing venting, no leaks at toilets or equipment, etc.
Having a problem with grinding pump constantly getting bound with string, butts etc. Is there a pump that can handle grinding most material, or would we be better off with just a pump We only have a 1" discharge line. - Anon
Anon: in the text above and also at TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST we advise against ever flushing cigarette butts, dental floss, or string down building drains, precisely because, as you report, they can clog and even burn up sewage pumps by entering and binding the impeller assembly.
There may be large capacity commercial grinder pumps that can better handle these problems than a residential sewage pump, but to me that seems a big expense that should not be necessary when cooperation by the building occupants can avoid these costs.
At the bottom of this page in our references section you'll see contact information for Grundfos, one of the larger manufacturers of grinder pumps. Give them a call to ask if they have a residential-sized unit that can tolerate some of the abuses that your system suffers.
Keep us posted, what you learn will help other readers.
I've been looking for hours (really) to find a wire diagram of the pump to alarm. I've tried msn, I've tried Google and some sites say they do have it...but when you go there, they don't. How hard can this be? I've tried to find a video, a drawing and just electrical to no avail. - Stumpman
Stumpman, The wiring diagram for septic pump alarms are surely included with the alarm itself. Basically, when the pump fails to run when it should, the rising effluent level in the pump trips an alarm sound and light. If you give me the brand of your septic alarm device I'll research this and get details for you.
If the float goes, and needs replacing, does the pump require replacing too? I have a yes from one company and a no from another - thanks. - AssocHomeowner
The float switch assembly on at least some sewage ejector pumps is a replaceable part. Check the installation manual for your sewage grinder pump and you'll see part numbers to order an exact replacement, though generic switches are also available. If you can't find that information, tell us the brand of your pump and we'll research it for you.
Watch out: there may be some pump models whose water-tight assembly does not encourage replacement of the float switch. The problem is that the electrical components have to be absolutely water-tight to avoid electrocution hazards.
But even in the case of an integral float switch that cannot be repaired without breaking the water-tight seal on the pump assembly, it may be possible to simply tie off the old floats to keep them out of the way (avoiding fouling or tangling the replacement floats), followed by installation of an independent float switch control assembly.
Independent float switches include a submersible float switch that is inserted into the pumping chamber, along with an electrical connector that plugs in above ground between the existing pump electrical power connection and the power source. So no electrical connections are exposed to wet conditions.
In my basement bathroom my sewage injector pumps come on every 15-30 minutes. I have a check valve on the discharge side. Is the check valve leaking back? causing the injector pump to come ? The pump is less than a year old. - Tyuan Rice
Indeed it's not unusual for a check valve on a sewage ejector pump to become sticky or clogged, allowing sewage to drain back into the pump and thus causing the pump to come on more frequently than desired.
Worse, depending on piping arrangement in the building, other wastewater from other fixtures higher in the building may drain backwards into and even clog the check valve.
So if your sewage ejector pump is cycling even when the fixtures that drain directly into that pump system are not in use, I suspect in-drainage from other parts of the building.
Septic pumps, sewage pumps, or sewage ejector pumps, which we discuss in detail beginning at SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS, are designed to remove sewage from a building where plumbing fixtures and their drains are lower than the building sewer line and/or septic tank.
How often do you recommend pumping out the tank where an effluent pump is located?
Our neighborhood has a shared leach field. Each house has a septic tank, and the gray water goes to pump stations and from there to the leach field. We're creating an association and any advice as to maintenance schedules, etc. is greatly appreciated. Thank you! - Deb Loomis
For septic *tank* pumping frequency, take a look at the suggestions at SEPTIC TANK PUMPING SCHEDULE (article links listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of SEPTIC SYSTEM PUMPS ).
If the septic tanks are working properly, that is they are being pumped on schedule and checked for damage such as lost or broken baffles, the rate of accumulation of solids, scum, and sludge in the effluent pumping chamber is much less.
I have not found a design specification for that condition but my experience suggests that you have the effluent pumping chamber pumped after the first year of use so that you can obtain data on the rate of accumulation of scum and sludge in the tank.
Most likely that will indicate that you will be able to extend the effluent holding tank pumping frequency to a longer interval.
But in sum, I'd base it on experience not on a table, and I'd be sure that someone is monitoring the maintenance of the individual feeding-septic tanks. One broken septic tank baffle could send a large volume of solids into the pumping chamber and thence it would damage the drainfield.
We are installing a simplex sewage ejection station in a new house. The town has asked us to install a 1000 gal septic tank before the lift station. Is this a recommended step? It seems redundant and unnecessary. - Nick P.
The requirement for a septic tank before the lift station may have arisen from one of these concerns:
A concern that there was a need for separation of solids from effluent - not something that makes sense if we're talking about a grinder pump lifting to a public sewer.
A concern that the design needed a buffer or holding tank to permit accumulation of septage to permit the residents to continue to use toilets and plumbing systems for some period in event of a power failure.
You need to discuss their reasoning with your town officials - find out what the worry is. If it's the need for a buffering tank, the solution where a grinder pump is installed probably lies in the specification of the size of the main pumping chamber, not the requirement to install a septic tank ahead of the pumping lift station.
After all, once installed, the septic tank will remain always full anyway. It wouldn't do a thing for you except add maintenance costs.
We used to have a natural gravity flow to the septic system until we added a bathroom in the basement which required a septic pump (but everyone around here always call it a sump pump).
Want to go back to the gravity flow method and would like to know if there is a way to also keep the pump system that could be only turned on when/if needed. Is it possible to incorporate a dual system? - T. Head
Most often the addition of a sewage ejector pump to allow installation of a basement bath becomes necessary because the bathroom floor is lower than the existing sewer line. The pump has to lift only the waste from the new bathroom - up to the existing sewer line where it then flows by gravity out to the existing septic tank or sewer system.
You don't want to put a manual switch on your basement bath's sewage pump - the pump will run only when that bathroom is used.
By the way, while people may speak carelessly about what these pumps are called, the proper term is sewage pump, sewerage pump, sewage ejector pump, or grinder pump. These pumps all include a grinder that macerates solid waste so that it can flow up through smaller-diameter piping to a point where it empties into the main building drain.
A sump pump is designed only to pump water, such as ground water, or graywater from a laundry sink. If your plumber installs a sump pump into a pit handling solid waste, it won't last long at all - it's the wrong pump.
Hello and thank you for your help. We have a lift station with a lead and lag pump. Pump one is short cycling and I don't know why! We have a new Warrick 67 intrinsic safe 2 pump controller. The controller test out fine how ever when we leave both pumps in auto when pump it's pump ones turn it short cycles. Why? We also think we have a float issue and we are in the process of getting a new one for the well.
Originally I got a call saying the pump went air borne because pump one never shut off. We put a temp float in and new controller which was bad and still not fixed. Where do I go from here. We even verified the float wires all the way back to the controller. Please help direct my next move. Thank you very much. Dan :-) 8/7/12
I am guessing that your control panel is http://www.gemssensors.com/Products/Level/Warrick/Kits-panels-alarms/Control-Panels/CP-67
With a duplex pump system. And chances are you already have the manual.
What I can't accurately guess is if we're looking at
At this point I'd call Warrick for smarter help than I can offer. Warrick can be called directly at 1-800-378-1600 - and as they know their controls best, that may be the smartest move.
Outside the US: 860-747-3000
Their website is www.warrick.com or apparently also Gems Sensors Inc. One Cowles Road Plainville, CT 06062 (860)793-4579 FAX(860)793-4580
As the Warrick site auto-forwards to www.gemssensors.com
(May 20, 2014) Tara said:
I'm really glad there are people that do this for me. I don't think I could do that on my own. Thanks for the great article!
thanks so much Tara. If questions arise, just ask. Your questions help us learn where to research or write further.
(July 30, 2014) jim groger said:
Ive got an norweco/singalair aerobic system at my home and have a final tank effluent pump that's bad. it pumps effluent water up hill to a dechlorant station about 50 yards. the pump has a 2" pvc pipe coming out to distribution. its 115 volt pump. the pump is controlled by a pump control system with a low and high water control norweco/singalair system.
i need to now exactly what pump I need. what horse power and volume.whats the best pump for my system.
its got a single cable coming out of the pump going under ground back to the control unit under the house.im putting a new waterproof outside electrical control box outside to tie in all the electrical components from the lo and high water switches and pump into the box and can tie the connection from the effluent pump to the underground connection in that box.i just need to know what pump I need to buy?
For the most-expert help with a Norweco - Singulair areobic septic system I'd give the company a call directly.
Norwalk Wastewater Equipment Company, Inc.
220 Republic Street Norwalk, Ohio U.S.A. 44857-1156
1-800-NORWECO Phone: (419) 668-4471 Fax: (419) 663-5440
(Oct 11, 2014) chris said:
i have an alarm sounding. had the septic pumped and all was well with system. alarm still going off. we took off lid to pump tank and can see top of pump so it is not full.
alarm sometimes goes off sporacticlly and then shuts off. can it be a short in the alarm? can i unplug the alarm without turning off the pump and system? email@example.com thank you
Diagnostic and repair help is at SEPTIC PUMP ALARM SYSTEMS
(Dec 22, 2014) CSC Condo said:
Does an ejector pump serve any unit in a building besides the below grade unit? Thank you - our Association is trying to figure this out!
Possibly yes. An ejector pump will grind and pump whatever is drained into its reservoir. It's technically possible to drain an upper floor fixture into an ejector pump installed below grade.
(Dec 22, 2014) CSC Condo said:
Thank you Dan Joe! Good to know it is possible...but is it likely? (we are an 8 unit building, with two lower units, both with Ejector Pumps, and Sump Pumps) My inspector said the Ejector Pump only served my unit....... I appreciate your quick response!
(Jan 5, 2015) Vicki said:
We have a basement bath (shower, toilet, sink) and an ejector pit to pump the waste into the sewer line. Both were installed approximately 7 years ago when we added on to our house. Unfortunately, we have burned out 3-4 pumps since completing our addition, usually right after an overnight guest has been using the bathroom.
Use at other times is infrequent and limited to the toilet and sink. Most guests stay for a week or less and with the exception of one guest, I know that nothing unusual is being put down the toilet but still the pump burns out. The last time was just after Christmas and we ended up with a basement flooded with contaminated water!
We have now replaced the pump (again) so we are good until the next guest comes to stay but this is getting old.
What is causing this and, more importantly, what can we do to solve the problem? One plumber told us that there isn't a long enough run between the shower/toilet and the ejector pit but I don't know why this should make a difference or what we could do to fix it. The only other thing going into the ejector pit is waste from a sink in an adjacent sewing room but again, the flow is minimal.
An ejector pump should last for some years.
1. are we sure you're buying and installing the right kind of pump: a sewage grinder pump not a sump pump?
2. is the pump running abnormally long when it cycles, suggesting a blockage or drain line problem
3. what is the lift requirement in height and how does that compare with the pump specs?
4. is there a check valve that's not working, causing the pump to cycle repeatedly when it should not have to do so?
5 Is the pump protected from clogs from stuff that shouldn't be flushed down drains such as dental floss, tampons, etc?
I have a friend who lives on a rural property, serviced by well & septic. He is receiving chemotherapy for prostate cancer. It was his oncologist( who also lives on a property with well & septic) that suggested he rent a Portopottie to use while he was being treated.
Doc said my friend's human waste could contain enough residual of the chemo to upset or kill off the bacteria in the septic system. Doc also said the same thing could be true of people on extended course of certain strong antibiotics.
It makes sense, but has anyone else ever heard of it before?Does Doc know septics or should he stick to medicine?
we discuss flushing drugs, particularly antibiotics, into septic systems at CHEMICALS to KEEP OUT OF SEPTICS
and at DRUGS INTO the SEPTIC TANK?
However I'm not sure that a single individual's drugs are enough to kill off septic tank bacteria and I've not found any authoritative research that supports the argument for individuals. Where such problems were reported they involved multi-occupant nursing homes and hospitals.
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