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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Oh Poop

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Oh Poop

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alex eek
I never thought I could use an icon with that poop emoji that people have a bizarre attachment to.

Friday night at about 1 AM, Bobby and I were rudely awakened by a screeching-blaring sound coming from the direction of our storage freezer and washer/dryer, which are tucked behind a curtain in the kitchen. We initially thought the sound was coming from the freezer, but after dragging the freezer out into the kitchen, we discovered it was the septic tank alarm. Uh oh! It was screaming its little head off and the warning light was lit up red.

I've lived in a home with a septic tank for all of my life except for the three years that I lived in an apartment in Ellicott City and had sewer like normal people. But we were both at a loss as to what the alarm means. Bobby got it shut off and we returned to bed, where he perused his iPad to discover the myriad things both silly and serious it could be, and first thing in the morning, he called the septic guy who did the inspection. He came out for an emergency call but couldn't tell us much on the spot except that we weren't in immediate danger of coming home to a bathtub full of poop.

The septic guy came back today, and we have a better idea of what is wrong without having a full notion yet of what it will cost to fix. The electrical box was foolishly placed in the tank itself--apparently a common practice when our house was built ... erm, delivered (since we live in a single-wide! *banjos!*)--and not surprisingly got wet and all the wires burned up. Which is scary but also kind of cool: We likely had an underground poop fire in our yard! If there was a way to make the concept of Silent Hill more horrifying, there it is. Anyway, since there is no wiring, then the pump is not working. What we're still not sure about is if and how damaged the pump is and what it will cost to fix/replace if it is. If the pump is fine, the repair will be a few hundred dollars. If the pump needs to be replaced, it will be a few thousand. Eep.

It stinks (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE) but it could have been worse. It could have happened over Thanksgiving weekend when we had a house full of people. It could have happened in the middle of winter. The alarm might not have worked and we would have literally had poop coming out in our backyard, which is full of poop enough thanks to the Goldens. (More good news from Brian the Poop Guy: If our tank were to overflow, it would go into the backyard before it backed up into the house. Yay?) We can weather the cost, even if it means we'll be eating home a lot more in the weeks to come. Until everything is sorted, we have to be careful with our water usage. The septic guy is coming back tomorrow with the plumber and electrician: a whole poop-tank team! Now let's hope we don't get any crappy news ...

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • OMG! That is terrifying! I hope it is the lesser of the two problems and does not cost an arm and a leg.

    I have never lived with a septic tank. I find them mysterious and rather scary.

    I never even heard of one--city dweller that I am (even our little town had a proper city sewage system!)--until my sister-in-law got married in my father-in-law's backyard in beautiful Westchester County, New York. (I bet you can already guess what is coming?) It was a backyard wedding, but a lavish one, quite elegant, expensive, with those huge elaborate party tents, a big dance floor, over a couple of hundred people, extravagant food and drinks, live music, etc. Another bar and sitting area alongside the swimming pool, etc., etc.

    I wondered that they were not more worried about rain! The morning of the wedding we woke up to find the front yard smelling strongly of poop! The problem was with the septic tank. Thank god, one could not smell it in the back of the house. We arranged to re-route all the guests as they arrived straight to the back without passing the front of the house!

    It was a close call. We just let people continue to flush all day long and into the night with our fingers crossed. The plumber said 'Go for it!' There was nothing else we could do! He said we could probably count on one more day of at least partial function. And if it leaked more than it already had it would flow downhill in front toward a gully still on their property and away from the backyard and the house.

    That is the thing, which I know you know already about owning a house, the maintenance questions are ongoing! Best of luck! Hope the repair and any cleanup is easy!
    • I'm the exact opposite re: septic tanks. Because I've lived with one for 32 of my 35 years on earth, then they're just normal to me. I'm used to, for example, not having a flush toilet when the power goes out. (Actually, that's the well, but they usually go hand in hand.) And being super careful about bleach and grease.

      Our septic tank in Manchester always got a clean bill of health. We knew there were some minor problems with this one--that was one of the reasons we were able to talk the sellers down a little on the price--but we didn't expect THIS!

      OMG, that wedding story is horrifying! In my 32 years living with a septic tank, this is the first problem we've ever had. The timing there is terrible.
      • I seem to recall there was some ignorance involved in the system failure. Because my ex-'s parents did not know a thing about septic tanks and it had not been maintained properly the few years they had owned the property. Well, they learned. If we had something like this in our life and it failed, we could consider shooting ourselves or moving and hoping no one could find us! As it is, we just flush away assuming everything is gonna be all right!

        I thought about the winter for you! Actually very glad you had the problem now, instead of in the winter when everything is harder to do.
  • This is the point at which I trot out the tale told to me by a college friend, which I feel like I have already told you, because it seems like the kind of story I would tell you:

    Her father was an alderman (or some such position) in a really PODUNK part of western Massachusetts in the 1980s. As such, he wore many hats, including checking on illegal building activity, noise complaints, etc. At some point, he was called out on a smell complaint-- some folks could smell what was obviously some sort of septic tank issue, checked that it wasn't their own, and surmised it was a problem with their neighbor, who lived about a mile away (upwind, one presumes).

    Mr. F. went to check it out...found the requisite New England shanty with a car up on cinderblocks and the whole nine yards, and discovered that the dwelling's septic tank had totally filled, and rather than, you know, CALL SOMEONE OUT TO EMPTY IT, the resident had just run about 100 yards of PVC pipe from the tank out toward the edge of their property line. And since the land wasn't graded, it was basically a tube filled with poop which, over time, filled up until it did, eventually, start emptying out at the back of their lot.

    Mr. F. explained-- and one imagines the restraint involved in not just screaming "WTF is wrong with you people?!"-- that this was in violation of all sorts of health and building codes (to say nothing of a violation of basic human decency), and gave them X days to correct the multitudinous problems. Oh, and get rid of all that crap in your front yard while you're at it, because that old, dead car on blocks is leaking oil into the ground and this is also a problem.

    X days later, he returns, and is pleasantly surprised to find that the yard is a little cleaner, and the junker is no longer rusting away out front.

    That's because the resident had BURIED the car at the absolute limit of the property line and extended the original PVC pipe run so that the raw sewage was now filling up the old buried car. So, um, points for creativity, I guess? :D
    • Wow, I'm so glad I posted this because I'm getting THE BEST poop stories just two comments in! You've never told me that story, although I agree that it is one that I needed to hear.

      Having lived in the country most of my life, I've heard of all kinds of half-assed rigging of things that one should pay to have properly fixed. Bobby hauled a large dumpster worth of trash out of the woods when we moved here--including a pool!--and the people we bought our house from in Maryland had undertaken some truly spectacularly bad DIY. But I don't think anything will ever compare to that story. As though the poop pipe wasn't bad enough, the creative incorporation of an old junked car makes it a perfect 10. Wow!
    • So, um, points for creativity, I guess? :D

      OMG! That is stunning! I agree with Dawn--a solid 10!!!
  • You poopster, you! Seriously, that alarm must have been scary. Who knew there were poop-tank teams ready to answer nature's emergency call? (Sorry)
    • There are! The guy who owns the largest septic service company in the area is like a local celebrity. We don't do sewers in Vermont! We just poop right out in the yard!

      The alarm sounded weird and not really alarm-like at all. It sounded like a big metal mosquito stuck in the compressor of the freezer. It was an odd way to be woken up.
  • since we live in a single-wide! *banjos!*

    Sorry...couldn't resist! :^D

    First 18 years of my life entailed plumbing that consisted of a well, a good-sized underground cistern, and a septic tank on the family farm. My father (former chem and bacteriology major in college) kept an eagle eye on that septic tank to make sure all the little bugs in there were happy and doing their job at decomposing poo at a good clip. That meant very limited amounts of bleach went down the drain and certainly NO TAMPONS. Ever since then, it has been public sewer systems. Not that those don't have their issues, i.e., I have our sewer line reamed of root tendrils yearly to prevent back-ups (that's happened 3 times) and learned, uh, not to flush dental floss down the toilet. :^o

    Hope your pump is OK!
    • No apologies needed! I love "Dueling Banjos." I love anything with a banjo really; on my mom's side my relatives come from Alabamie and the mountains of New York, so I come by it honestly. :D

      I have lived with those restrictions most of my life. It never occurred to me to put feminine hygiene products in the toilet or bleach down the drain because of that. In 32 years on three different septic systems, this is the first problem I've had.

      The pump had to be replaced, but thankfully, it was not a commercial-grade pump like Brian the Poop Guy feared (we share a leach field with the other three houses on our street, so the material from the tank has to be pumped quite a ways uphill), so the total was $1500, which was half of my low estimate and a third of my high.
  • Oh, the joys of septic tanks. I haven't had one for many years, but do remember them, and I have friends who still have them in the outer reaches of the metro area. I'm not really a fan of large tanks of poop in the back yard.

    The story of the buried car and PVC pipe was fabulous, as was that of the wedding being rerouted. The varied experiences shared in your comments just made my day at 4:20 am!

    I hope this can get resolved quickly and that it will come in at the few hundred rather than few thousand dollars level. I'm extremely grateful that this happened now instead of a few months from now when everything would be far beneath the snow.

    For some reason, the song "Getting to Know You" from "Anna and the King of Siam" came to mind. However, instead of being directed at a person, it's directed at getting to know your house ... getting to know all about it. LOL *Hugs* and wishes for a quick and inexpensive fix.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • Or, you know, "Getting to knowww poooo...getting to know allll abouuut pooooo..." ;D
    • I guess it all comes back to what's normal to you; I've lived with a septic tank for 32 out of 35 of my years on this earth, so it's normal to me! And a requirement to live in the kinds of places I like to live (i.e., not even the outer reaches of anything that could be classed a metro area! :) This is the first problem I've ever had.

      Thanks for the good wishes; it came in midway of what we hoped and what we feared. The total was $1500, which we can easily weather. The pump had to be replaced, but the pump was much smaller than what Brian the Poop Guy worried was going to be down there. Since we share a leach field with the other three houses on our street, he worried that we'd need a commercial pump to handle the distance and grade, and that would have been a couple thousand just for the pump. But it was just a normal residential pump. *whew* :)
      • My parents had septic tanks for both of our Aspen homes and my Godmother had one for her house in Woody Creek, but we were connected to city water and sewer in our Denver homes. Of course, I was quite young then so if there were problems, I was probably quite unaware of the impact on our lives and/or finances.

        I'm so pleased that your issue turned out to be affordable. What a relief!

        - Erulisse (one L)
  • Well reading this is something to cross off my bucket list :D I am keeping my fingers crossed for the most positive outcome.
    • I'm glad to have done that for you! :D

      The total came out at $1500, which is more than if we didn't need to replace the pump but WAAAY less than if we needed a commercial-grade pump. We're happy with the outcome. We can easily weather that cost, and now that is not something we have to worry about.
      • Hahaha, after all these years.. yeah this was a new one to me LOL

        And what a great feeling huh, not having to worry about costs :)
        • I did a quick read-up on septic tanks before posting it to make sure I was making sense to people who live outside the U.S., and it seems that, aside from rural areas, they aren't really used in Europe? Which makes sense given your population density relative to ours; they take up a lot of space and aren't ideal for dense housing.
          • We have farmers in the family and some of those live further away from the sewage systems of the municipality. So I am familair with it, my uncle farmers were always cautious that we as kids would not get nearby if they were opened up (dangerous stuff). Actually, I think we have an old farm here (in the middle of our suburb) who has one. Roughly 30 or 40 years ago this was farmland where farms were dotted across the map. Once a while it is emptied/cleaned or whatever they need to do. It is enroute to our girl's school. And it can reek!

            It is just that, well, not really coffee talk over here :D Imagine me, slowly waking up reading a good ol' LJ entry of Dawn and it is about poop (with bonus comments of others). ;)
  • My fingers are crossed for the least expensive option.
    • It wasn't the least expensive, but it was relatively inexpensive compared to what it might have cost: $1500, which covered replacing the pump and all the needed repairs to the situation of the pump and the wiring. Not bad, in all, and it's one less thing we have to worry about going wrong in the coming months/years.

      ETA ... I want to thank you too for the tip about the Young Writers' Program! My colleagues are really enthusiastic about it, and I have several kids who are interested, so it looks like something I'll be tackling this year. :D

      Edited at 2016-10-19 09:04 pm (UTC)
      • Glad to hear it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

        You're welcome. Awesome; I hope everyone has a good time with it!
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