Septic tank abandonment can be cheaper than pumping out your septic system and replacing it, but the potential risks are significant. Learn more about when a DIY septic tank abandonment is worth doing to save money, versus how much an expert needs to do in order for you to avoid costly mistakes.
Abandoning A Septic Tank
Should you abandon your septic tank? This depends on a number of factors. If you are moving and your new home can be connected to a municipal sewer system, it may be a good option to abandon your septic tank. In some cases, abandoning a septic tank may be required when making changes to your property that make it impossible to keep the septic system in place, such as adding an addition to your home or paving over the area.
If you are buying a home, an abandoned septic tank can be an issue. The “buying a house with an abandoned septic tank” question is one that comes up when people are considering buying a new home. It’s important to know if the property has an abandoned septic tank before you buy it.
Connecting To A Sewer System
When connecting to municipal sewer systems, it was formerly more typical to leave a tank on your own (today, only about 20 percent of Americans continue to maintain their own sewage disposal system). But today there are standards and regulations in place for your protection—and the safety of others. Ignoring these rules may lead to penalties, legal problems, and even life-threatening health problems.
Of course, this will not deter some individuals from attempting it. If this describes you, here are four reasons why you should contact a professional for septic tank abandonment and removal.
Septic Tanks On Perilous Ground
Septic tanks that have been improperly abandoned have been known to create deadly sinkholes that may cause damage or even death. A 75-year-old man from Apple Valley, California, slipped into a sinkhole caused by an ancient septic system in 2017. Neighbors assisted him in keeping his head above the toxic water for 45 minutes until firemen were able to bring him out.
In 2016, a 13-year-old girl from Lake Elsinore, California, was almost swallowed by a 20-foot-deep sinkhole at her house, which the water department believes was caused by an antiquated septic system.
Detecting Dangers Of A Septic Tank
Septic tanks may cause a variety of problems, including sinkholes. Disease and hazardous chemicals are also a major source of concern:
- Disease-causing agents may be found in septic tanks, resulting in significant sickness. Bacterial illnesses, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Leptospirosis, and gastrointestinal sickness are all possible to acquire.
- Septic tanks frequently contain toxic and flammable gases such as methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). In 2016, a Florida family narrowly averted death when their septic tank erupted, completely destroying their house.
Placement, Placement, Placement
While you may know where the septic tank is or be able to locate it with a metal detector, finding the leach field (the human waste discharge system) is a different story. You may either map ground conductivity (which is generally different from the rest of the soil) or use Ground Penetrating Radar to locate it (GPR).
You might end up digging aimlessly in the wrong place—or being misled—if you don’t have the right instruments. Errors in metal detector readings have been known to occur in older houses where successive generations of pipes and cables were buried.
The Tale of the Septic Tank Hole
Another reason to hire professionals is to verify that the abandoned tank is correctly refilled and that no measures are overlooked.
Some DIYers, for example, may fill the tank with sand, gravel, or concrete without first poking holes in the bottom and sides. Water and moisture cannot escape without the openings, and a buildup of either might result in a hazardous and unpleasant “underground pool.”
Invest in a Septic Pump
Is your septic tank still full? That’s something more to think about if you’re doing it yourself. Pumping it yourself is laborious, risky, and unsanitary. It’s not hard to find handymen warning one another about the dangers of trying a DIY pump job on internet forums. The substance is as hazardous as garbage and has to travel to a sanitary treatment facility. You won’t be able to clean it yourself. So, it’s money well spent to get your tank pumped.
You can learn more about septic tank regulations by visiting your state or city’s Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) or view an example of typical abandonment procedures courtesy of your county’s environmental department.
The “septic tank replacement cost?” is a question that many homeowners ask. The answer to this question will depend on the size of your septic tank and its condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you build over an abandoned septic drain field?
A: Yes, but it must be inspected and treated to assure no toxic substances remain.
How do you cap a septic tank?
A: A typical septic tank can be capped by placing a cover on the top, checking to see if it is watertight, and then pouring in enough concrete mix to completely fill up the tank. It is important that you make sure there are no leaks before pouring any concrete into your system so that it doesn’t cause more problems for yourself or anyone else living nearby.
Another big ticket item that helps operate your home is a water heater, which can malfunction. Learn about how to fix it in DIY Steps to Water Heater Repair.
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