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Peat Moss Septic System, and Cost
Old 06-05-2018, 08:02 AM   #1
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Peat Moss Septic System, and Cost

I started a thread a while back about having moved full-time into the lake house we've had for 14 years. Now that we live here, and will be doing laundry etc. and going through quite a bit more water, the idea of having our 2000gallon septic holding tank emptied at $200 a pop is looking like something to be re-evaluated.

Here's the scoop: our property is nice, but very small, and wedged tightly between a small road and the lake, hence, no room for a traditional septic system. Obviously, no municipal water or sewer lines available.

When I bought the place in 2003, the existing "system" was just a 2000 gallon holding tank, with an alarm that buzzes when there is 200 gallons left before being full. When it buzzes we call the pump guy, and he pumps us out, and sends me a bill for $200...

Because of our confined space, according to the pump guy (who also installs septic systems) the only type of system I could consider is a peat moss filtration system, which he says will cost $30K....ouch.

I know the $200 price is going to do nothing but go up, and that when the day comes that I have to sell this place, a decent septic system will be much more attractive than a holding tank to a potential buyer.

Anyone out there have experiences/knowledge of these peat systems. I haven't ruled out having it done, but I don't want to spend 30K for a steady supply of other issues.

Thanks,
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Old 06-05-2018, 08:25 AM   #2
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I think that maybe the "cons" would outweigh the "pros"...........

Here is a link to an article with the "cons" explained.
https://www.hunker.com/13402110/cons...-septic-system
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Old 06-05-2018, 09:13 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by HadEnuff View Post
I started a thread a while back about having moved full-time into the lake house we've had for 14 years. Now that we live here, and will be doing laundry etc. and going through quite a bit more water, the idea of having our 2000gallon septic holding tank emptied at $200 a pop is looking like something to be re-evaluated.

Here's the scoop: our property is nice, but very small, and wedged tightly between a small road and the lake, hence, no room for a traditional septic system. Obviously, no municipal water or sewer lines available.

When I bought the place in 2003, the existing "system" was just a 2000 gallon holding tank, with an alarm that buzzes when there is 200 gallons left before being full. When it buzzes we call the pump guy, and he pumps us out, and sends me a bill for $200...

Because of our confined space, according to the pump guy (who also installs septic systems) the only type of system I could consider is a peat moss filtration system, which he says will cost $30K....ouch.

I know the $200 price is going to do nothing but go up, and that when the day comes that I have to sell this place, a decent septic system will be much more attractive than a holding tank to a potential buyer.

Anyone out there have experiences/knowledge of these peat systems. I haven't ruled out having it done, but I don't want to spend 30K for a steady supply of other issues.

Thanks,
I don't know if these peat systems are used here in coastal NW US, but I had a septic system when I lived on an island in the Sound. I was so glad to say goodbye to that albatross when I moved back to the city!

Whatever you expect the long term cost to be if you buy a septic system, it will always cost much more, and health departments love to steepen the requirements on them. People cannot walk away and still have a marketable property, so they will need to make "improvements" as they are mandated. Also, systems fail. A holding tank may also fail by leaking, but this is not very common. Also, a backhoe and a few hours makes everything beautiful again.

I would spend some money on cutting your water usage. This is guaranteed to work. With more efficient washers, shorter showers, etc. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html Look at the periodic fees for pumping as rent for a non-appreciating, failure prone tool that it is better to let someone else own. Also, as far as the fees increasing, don't worry too much. There is always a good supply of pumpers since it is easy entry and tolerates socially challenged personnel. Getting a tank pumped is a very low stress and inexpensive endeavor compared to dealing with a dying treatment system.



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Old 06-05-2018, 09:31 AM   #4
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Under your current use how often do you need to get it pumped out? Using the 4% rule, $5,000 would generate inflation adjusted $200/yr for 30+ years.

Could you change your sewer plumbing so all black water (toilets) goes into the holding tank and gray water (sinks, showers, etc.) goes into a drywell or small leachfield? That is fairly common around here, particularly for some older properties.

We have an "engineered" leachfield that is efficient enough that the state allows the leachfield to be sized at 50% of a conventional leach field... ours is ~ 12' x 25' but I suspect that if it was only handling gray water that it could be much smaller.

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Old 06-05-2018, 09:41 AM   #5
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Small lot right next to a lake--red flags. If you haven't done it already, I'd sure check with the governing authority to see what is legal WRT a septic system/leach field. What the neighbors are doing/have done may not be a good guide to what is allowed now. After that, if there no showstoppers, get a perk test to see what is possible. An unapproved system or a "novel" one may be a bigger challenge to resale than what you have now.

Decreasing water use and separating black from grey water sound like they may be the most practical approaches. Some of the modern toilets use very little water, 2000 gallons could get you through years of use, especially if this place isn't used full time.
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Old 06-05-2018, 10:09 AM   #6
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I found her on Ytube- she lives off-grid in a tiny house. She has videos and articles about the house utility systems she uses including the composting toilet: Fy Nyth...: House Systems & Utilities
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Old 06-05-2018, 10:42 AM   #7
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Another idea. Around here a number of places pump effluent to a leachfield on an adjoining property.. they either own the property or have bought an easment to have a leachfield from an adjoining landowner... in those cases often a forgotton corner of their property that they don't use and never will so it is a win-win.
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Old 06-05-2018, 11:00 AM   #8
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Small lot right next to a lake--red flags. If you haven't done it already, I'd sure check with the governing authority to see what is legal WRT a septic system/leach field. What the neighbors are doing/have done may not be a good guide to what is allowed now. After that, if there no showstoppers, get a perk test to see what is possible. An unapproved system or a "novel" one may be a bigger challenge to resale than what you have now.

Decreasing water use and separating black from grey water sound like they may be the most practical approaches. Some of the modern toilets use very little water, 2000 gallons could get you through years of use, especially if this place isn't used full time.
This. Don't pay for anything that doesn't get a permit.
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Old 06-05-2018, 12:16 PM   #9
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I also suggest investigating your options more.

When we built our lake house, our septic tank was installed 15 feet from the corner of our house. Since this is within 50 feet of the lake, the conventional septic system was and is illegal.

My cousin built a house next door, and her black/grey water went to two sewage pumps and a new generation septic tank placed on a very small spot above the house. Check into placing a couple of pumps and a sewage system up the hill.

We never told our new next door neighbors that our septic tank is on their lot. And they just planted a shrub on top of our septic tank. One day, the shrub may be dug up if we have to pump out the tank.
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Old 06-05-2018, 12:34 PM   #10
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I don't know if these peat systems are used here in coastal NW US, but I had a septic system when I lived on an island in the Sound. I was so glad to say goodbye to that albatross when I moved back to the city!

Whatever you expect the long term cost to be if you buy a septic system, it will always cost much more, and health departments love to steepen the requirements on them. People cannot walk away and still have a marketable property, so they will need to make "improvements" as they are mandated. Also, systems fail. A holding tank may also fail by leaking, but this is not very common. Also, a backhoe and a few hours makes everything beautiful again.

I would spend some money on cutting your water usage. This is guaranteed to work. With more efficient washers, shorter showers, etc. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html Look at the periodic fees for pumping as rent for a non-appreciating, failure prone tool that it is better to let someone else own. Also, as far as the fees increasing, don't worry too much. There is always a good supply of pumpers since it is easy entry and tolerates socially challenged personnel. Getting a tank pumped is a very low stress and inexpensive endeavor compared to dealing with a dying treatment system.



Ha
I hear ya! All of your points are well taken, which is why we hadn't done anything to date. I appreciate your input.
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Old 06-05-2018, 12:40 PM   #11
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Under your current use how often do you need to get it pumped out? Using the 4% rule, $5,000 would generate inflation adjusted $200/yr for 30+ years.

Could you change your sewer plumbing so all black water (toilets) goes into the holding tank and gray water (sinks, showers, etc.) goes into a drywell or small leachfield? That is fairly common around here, particularly for some older properties.

We have an "engineered" leachfield that is efficient enough that the state allows the leachfield to be sized at 50% of a conventional leach field... ours is ~ 12' x 25' but I suspect that if it was only handling gray water that it could be much smaller.

Enviro-Septic« | Presby Environmental
We have just moved in full-time, so we are in the process of finding out what our usage will be. We will be doing laundry here for the first time, in the near future. We bought an HE front-loader, but they still use a good bit of water.

I am already pretty miserly with the water usage. DW, is pretty good. It's difficult to convey to guests our mindset, as they typically come from the city where they never give water usage a thought.

I have thought of the gray water/ black water separator idea, and I'll look into it further. Indeed, if all I put into the holding tank was black water, it would take months to fill up. But, as I recall, that process isn't cheap either.
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Old 06-05-2018, 12:47 PM   #12
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We never told our new next door neighbors that our septic tank is on their lot. And they just planted a shrub on top of our septic tank. One day, the shrub may be dug up if we have to pump out the tank.
I hope you have some documented legal rights to have your septic system on their property. Otherwise, that sounds like a problem to me.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:08 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
... check with the governing authority to see what is legal WRT a septic system/leach field. What the neighbors are doing/have done may not be a good guide to what is allowed now. ... An unapproved system or a "novel" one may be a bigger challenge to resale than what you have now. ...
This.

In our area, the regulators have absolutely no sense of humor regarding variances from their very strict rules when a lake is involved. If you or your peat guy get creative, you might find yourself with an administrative order to dig the thing up or fill it in.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:26 PM   #14
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I live part time on a lake with a gravity septic system, circa 70's. My approach, 'if it's yellow let it mellow', and so on. No laundry facilities (but amazingly cute laundromat near by). I looked into alternative systems, such as composting toilet, and in spite of presence on the county web site encouraging alternative methods, whisper from the regulator -they don't really allow them-. If you want to increase your processing capabilities, look into adding another holding tank?

Especially if you are on well water, hand over that $200 check to the septic guy pumping your tank with a thank you and smile.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:27 PM   #15
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Sorry do not know anything about a PeatMoss filtration system. What I will say is that the $30,000 price sounds like it is easily competitive with the cost to put in a traditional septic system.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:48 PM   #16
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I found her on Ytube- she lives off-grid in a tiny house. She has videos and articles about the house utility systems she uses including the composting toilet: Fy Nyth...: House Systems & Utilities
Composting toilets are not allowed in my county.
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Old 06-05-2018, 02:44 PM   #17
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Especially if you are on well water, hand over that $200 check to the septic guy pumping your tank with a thank you and smile.
Amen! The only good sewage is sewage heading somewhere else, by a city or county maintained pipe or friendly pumper whose breath it seems would do well to only smell slightly of alcohol. If if I spent my days driving around putting a hose into septic tanks and filling up my truck tank my alcohol breath might knock anyone who came close down. Talk about a real reason to dream of ER!


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Old 06-05-2018, 02:48 PM   #18
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I live part time on a lake with a gravity septic system, circa 70's. My approach, 'if it's yellow let it mellow', and so on. No laundry facilities (but amazingly cute laundromat near by). I looked into alternative systems, such as composting toilet, and in spite of presence on the county web site encouraging alternative methods, whisper from the regulator -they don't really allow them-. If you want to increase your processing capabilities, look into adding another holding tank?

Especially if you are on well water, hand over that $200 check to the septic guy pumping your tank with a thank you and smile.
Oh, you got that right! I always pay him promptly, and with a note of gratitude. One guy I definitely do not want to irritate.
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Old 06-05-2018, 02:55 PM   #19
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My rule is the old one about if it's brown, flush it down etc. with a modification...

if it gags you twice, you may flush.

ah well...closing on the other house tomorrow (fingers crossed), so at least we'll have some extra cash for the pump guy.
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Old 06-05-2018, 03:31 PM   #20
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.... We never told our new next door neighbors that our septic tank is on their lot. And they just planted a shrub on top of our septic tank. One day, the shrub may be dug up if we have to pump out the tank.
Do you have an easement for your septic tank on their lot? Is your leach field also on their lot?
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