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Alternate Septic System (HELP!!!)


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By Steve in Columbus, GA on 11/29/2007


I am building a 2,800 ft² home, four beds & 2.5 baths on two acres.  When I went to get my sewage permit they said that my soil was bad.  So I had to have a soil scientist analyze different points within my lot.  The report came back with a bad perc. rate due to rocky conditions.  He gave the report to my health dept and the permit was calling for 520 lineal ft of drain field (drain field would have been somewhere around 3,000 - 4,000 ft²).  Yes you read that correctly.  Initial quotes were $9,500, $6,000 & $5,000 for gravel and pipe on a 1,500 gal tank.  I then started asking about how I could reduce the drain field size.  I was told about EZ flow product.  This reduced my drain field to 330 lineal ft and a cost of $3,900.  Life is good.

I did the grading and clearing and the contractor began trenching for the septic system.  He ran into rock all over the place.  Turns out I will not be able to put in a traditional septic system because of the rock (gravel or EZ flow).  The health dept told me that I would need to get an engineer to design a system and that I would probably need a Drip System and that I should expect it to cost around $15,000 to $20,000.

Does anyone have any information on these systems and are there any other options?  I am starting to think that I may not build.  $20k would be 10% of my total budget.  I can't see how it makes sense to assign 10% to a turd collector.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 11/29/2007


I haven't heard of a drip system, but what I put in is called "Aerobic Spray." It consists of what I imagine is a fairly conventional "tank," a concrete coffin with about four chambers, about 8' wide by 6' high by about 12' long, which outputs supposedly purified water to a couple spray heads, like lawn sprinklers.

It's a very common system in my area, which is rocky underneath a few inches to a few feet of soil.  The going price installed for such a system in my area is about $8,500.


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By Mark in Seattle, WA on 11/29/2007


My system sounds similar to Michael's, with an aerobic chamber that has pressurized sprinklers in it.  I'm on the water, so the county required a top-shelf system, but it's only 150' for a three bedroom.

When I was doing my research, I remember seeing a well-known supplier in Oregon that designed and manufactured most of the parts for high-tech septic systems.  I can't remember the name, but I'd be sure to see if a supplier could give you some free info before I'd hire an engineer.  The right supplier would be up on the latest systems.  The installer/designer/engineer might not be.

Moderate Mark


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By Pat in Arnold, CA on 12/15/2007


Prices sound correct and I'm not aware of anything cheaper.  We have fantastic soil and our gravity flow septic will run $12,000 here.  However, in our area if you have bad soil it isn't unusual for it to run around $28,000.    Thats why one of our stipulations on closing escrow on our land is the seller having to provide a soil  perc test so we knew how good or bad the septic problems would be ahead of time.
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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 12/16/2007


In Tuolumne County, across the river from you, they have gone through a horrible pendulum swing from very lax septic standards to unbelievably tough.  A friend of mine is trying to build in Cedar Ridge and may have to go with engineered vertical tubes as there is a seasonal creek on his lot.  In my area, the entire town of Los Osos is facing huge fines and costs for polluting the bay with private septic systems (great percolation rate in the sand).  Private septic system costs will only continue to rise, so bite the bullet early.  Incidentally, California is adopting the new IBC building code in January, so get your plans reviewed in case they aren't submitted prior to 01/01/08.  Changes include guardrails must be 42" high in residential, not 36" high as before.  Check out naffa.com for the skinny.

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By Bob in New Florence, PA on 12/20/2007


Out here if you don't have city sewage and you have less than 10 acres your usually putting in a sand mound or some type of gravity flow system but you are looking at 10-15K it sucks but its all part of building. The more you think about it the more it irritates you. Especially knowing that city sewage is only a matter of time and you are likely throwing money away.
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By Scott in Ellicott City, MD on 12/21/2007


I am going to be building in Chincoteague, VA. With its high water table, building there requires a peat-based system as the secondary treatment pad for effluent. The most popular device is called an Eco-Flo system. I understand its about $16K but comes with annual maintenance for 8 years or so. I hope you can find a cost-effective solution.

Scott

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By Terry in Phoenix / Oracle, AZ on 12/21/2007


I have the same problem on the lot I am currently working on.  My plan for dealing with it is to use an "on grade" mound system.  This involves digging a field (in my case) 16 feet wide 40 feet long to a depth of 6 feet for 1,205 square feet of house with one bath, giving a irrigation pipe length of 160 feet.  The first two feet in field is backfilled with washed sand for filtration.  The drain piping is placed on a foot of gravel and covered with another foot.  Landscape felt or roofing paper is then used to prevent soil filtration into this part of the mound.  Soil backfill covers the paper. 

Adding an aerating system is a possibility but I want to avoid this unless there is no choice on it.  While this is an older "low tech" solution to the problem of poor circulation it does work well.


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