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What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 03:28 PM   #1
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What Would You Do?

Last month I had my septic system pumped and before doing so I called four companies for quotes. I told them I had a 500 gallon aerobic system and was quoted $620 - $660 by three companies and $320 by the fourth. No guess as to which quote I went with, and they did the job as advertised. (BTW, I learned that the other companies are primarily system installers and subcontract the pumping to others…and this guy did only pumping, including lots of sub work for installers.)

The guy who handed me the invoice (for the quoted amount) when they were done pumping mentioned the tank said 600, not 500 gallons and they had pumped a total of 1,700 gallons from the three tanks, 200 more than a 500 gallon system would hold. I distinctly recalled opting for a 500 gallon system when we built the house 7 years ago and said something to that effect, paid his bill and forgot about it.

Today I was cleaning out some old files and came across the original paperwork for the purchase of the septic tank. Much to my surprise, it is a 600 gallon system and my recollection was wrong.

Now to my question: Would you call the septic pumper, determine the cost differential between a 500 and 600 gallon system, and write them a check? Or would you say they had the chance to charge you for the larger amount, passed on the opportunity to do so, and forget about it?

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 03:32 PM   #2
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Re: What Would You Do?

I'd probably not bother, but I would give them all my business in the future and recommend them to anyone who asked. How often do septic systems need to be pumped?
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 03:46 PM   #3
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345
How often do septic systems need to be pumped?
Depends. If you don't flush many of them down the toilet, you don't have to pump so often.

Actually, several factors including the number of people in the household, the use of a garbage disposal, and the capacity of the system determine how often. The paperwork on ours says every 4 to 6 years, and I've had it done twice since installing it 7 1/2 years ago.
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 05:29 PM   #4
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Re: What Would You Do?

Also depends on what kind of detergent you use in the dishwasher and washing machine, whether you have a water softener or not, and how big your leech field is, along with how good your drainage is.

I did mine when I moved in 3 years ago and just did it again. Boy did it need it. But we used a water softener up until last year (the salt that they flush out when they 'regenerate' does a number on decomposition in the tank), and we have a pretty small leech field and hard clay soil that doesnt absorb water very well.

My in-laws have no water softener, and about 600 feet of leech lines that run downhill into soft soil. They're on about 14 years so far without ever having pumped.

The downside to frequent pumping is the cost. Upside is your leech lines dont get clogged and need to be dug up and replaced...$2-4k or more.

$300 is cheap, around $500 is what most of the "big" outfits charge. Another hundred if they dig up the access plates for you.

$300 every 3-4 years is cheap compared to the $30-50 a month I used to pay for sewer service at the old mcmansion...
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 05:39 PM   #5
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Today I was cleaning out some old files and came across the original paperwork for the purchase of the septic tank.* Much to my surprise, it is a 600 gallon system and my recollection was wrong.
Good contractors are worth their weight in gold and should be treated as such! Around here, a small island with a very limited number of good contractors, I'd write them a very nice "Thank you, you were right and we wuz wrong" letter and tell them they did the best job you ever had.

They'll use your free testimonial to make up the difference between what you claimed and what they knew they should have charged. ("Sir, the tank says 600, but if you don't wanna pump it now that's OK, just give us a call when you're ready to pay the higher amount...") They probably appreciate the honesty and I doubt they'd be the type of jerks to invoice you for the "extra" labor. And next time you call for pumping, they'll look at their caller ID and decide that it's worth answering the phone!

I still keep in touch every few months with the electrician that connected our PV system. Once he asked me to write a letter to our state representative (to keep the solar tax credits alive), another time I filled out a website survey for him. He tells me what problems they're seeing with older systems, and one day I'm going to need to sweet-talk an electrician into routing conduit under a lava-rock wall to a sub-panel in our storage shed playhouse workshop...
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 05:55 PM   #6
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Also depends on what kind of detergent you use in the dishwasher and washing machine, whether you have a water softener or not, and how big your leech field is, along with how good your drainage is.
No leach field, drainage is n/a - it's an aerobic system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
But we used a water softener up until last year (the salt that they flush out when they 'regenerate' does a number on decomposition in the tank),
Our well water from a limestone aquifer is so hard...(insert your own joke here ). No way can we do without a water softener.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny

$300 is cheap, around $500 is what most of the "big" outfits charge. Another hundred if they dig up the access plates for you.
I was charged $25 to dig up the access plate. And I swear the guy had a green card.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny

$300 every 3-4 years is cheap compared to the $30-50 a month I used to pay for sewer service at the old mcmansion...
Yep. But would you pay the guy the difference for the larger tank?

I've already called them and put a check in the mail. The reaction I got was almost worth the additional $65. Said they had been in the business for almost 30 years and no one had ever done this. That's why I'm asking the question: am I 'doing the right thing' or just being stupid?

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 06:00 PM   #7
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Re: What Would You Do?

Depends. Do you feel good about having done it? I imagine so. In which case, you did the right thing.

$80 an hour for labor to dig says the three companies I called. They estimated the dig up and fill in at a hundred bucks. And no guarantee they had any documentation at all! But that was to find the tank (although I know where it is), dig both access plates up and the distribution box. Two feet of rock hard clay per access port.

I'm surprised an aerobic system works with a water softener.
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 06:15 PM   #8
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
That's why I'm asking the question:* am I 'doing the right thing'* or just being stupid?
Next time you call them for pumping service, their response will confirm that you did the right thing...
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 06:28 PM   #9
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Re: What Would You Do?

Congratulations on doing the right thing which, IMHO, is never stupid. You get to feel good about yourself, and THAT's what's priceless here.

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 06:36 PM   #10
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
No leach field, drainage is n/a - it's an aerobic system.
RE Wahoo, could you explain how this works? I assume it will work even in tight clay soils?

Ha
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 07:13 PM   #11
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HaHa
RE Wahoo, could you explain how this works? I assume it will work even in tight clay soils?
Where is Unclemick when you need him…

Yes, it will work in any type of soil, even no soil which closely describes my situation (solid limestone rock with a very spotty, thin layer of soil.)

An aerobic septic system is similar to the systems municipalities use to process sewage. The design varies somewhat but mine has three buried tanks hooked up in a series. The first tank is like a traditional septic tank but instead of routing effluent out to a leach field, it is routed to a second tank where air is pumped to the bottom to bubble oxygen throughout the tank. This speeds the bacterial action and breakdown of the sewage into “relatively clean” water. As the water flows from the aerobic tank to a third storage tank, it passes over chlorine tablets for further disinfecting. The third tank stores the “clean” water until a timer (set for 2 AM in my case) pumps the water to a series of lawn sprinklers on my back 40.

Erma Bombeck was correct…the grass is always greener over the septic tank.


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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 07:16 PM   #12
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Where is Unclemick when you need him…

Yes, it will work in any type of soil, even no soil which closely describes my situation (solid limestone rock with a very spotty, thin layer of soil.)

An aerobic septic system is similar to the systems municipalities use to process sewage.* The design varies somewhat but mine has three buried tanks hooked up in a series.* The first tank is like a traditional septic tank but instead of routing effluent out to a leach field, it is routed to a second tank where air is pumped to the bottom to bubble oxygen throughout the tank.* This speeds the bacterial action and breakdown of the sewage into “relatively clean” water.* As the water flows from the aerobic tank to a third storage tank, it passes over chlorine tablets for further disinfecting.* The third tank stores the “clean” water until a timer (set for 2 AM in my case) pumps the water to a series of lawn sprinklers on my back 40.*

Erma Bombeck was correct…the grass is always greener over the septic tank.
One more question- what happens during freezing weather?

Ha
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 07:21 PM   #13
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HaHa
One more question- what happens during freezing weather?
I live in South Texas. The tanks and sprinklers are underground and I have relatives in the North (northern TX ) who have no problem with them in temps down to the upper teens. Beyond/below that, I dunno...

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 10:04 PM   #14
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Re: What Would You Do?

An additional way to handle the wastewater is drip irrigation, which is used in the northern climates and dont have to worry about freezing. 300-600 bucks is outrageous to pump out a septic tank. It costs 60-80 bucks in wisconsin. Rew, maybe you could go down to home depot and invest in a solids pump
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 10:18 PM   #15
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddy the Turbo Beagle
300-600 bucks is outrageous to pump out a septic tank. It costs 60-80 bucks in wisconsin.
Crap isn't cheap in these parts.

As I understand it, a significant part of the cost is disposal, not just pumping out the tanks. They sucked out 1,700 gallons (pumped out all three 600 gallon tanks) and drove off in a truck with a big "Got Poop?" sign painted on the back. :P Headed for the nearest disposal station, the San Antonio municipal waste treatment plant.

At 60-80 bucks, what do you do with that "stuff" in wisconsin?

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 10:20 PM   #16
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!

At 60-80 bucks, what do you do with that "stuff" in wisconsin?
That was probably not a good thing to ask......
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 10:25 PM   #17
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cool Dood
That was probably not a good thing to ask......
You just don't want to know what goes into that cold-weather concrete plant.

"Aggregate" indeed.
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-10-2006, 10:27 PM   #18
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Re: What Would You Do?

Man, this cheese really stinks!

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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-11-2006, 01:14 AM   #19
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Man, this cheese really stinks!
My grandfather used to joke that he could never remember if Limburger cheese was made by putting milk in the outhouse or out in the milkhouse...
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Re: What Would You Do?
Old 05-11-2006, 09:26 AM   #20
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Re: What Would You Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Depends.* If you don't flush many of them down the toilet, you don't have to pump so often.
Yes, I did pick up on the "Depends" thing---But, I had to check with an "older"* neighbor to be sure I understood
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