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    My husband and I have a country place that we go to for about 4 months of the year. It is on a septic system. The system was put in in 1998. Everything works fine with one exception. After we have been in the country place for about 6 weeks, the septic begins to smell. There is some slight smell around the toilet but most of it seems to be coming from the vent pipe. We have been told that what we need to do is install a "running P-trap" in the line outside. We are not sure where we do this, how far from the building should we dig down and what do we do when we get there. I'm not sure what a "running P-trap" even looks like. By no means are we plumbers but we've done quite a bit of work ourselves here and would like to tackle this project ourselves if possible. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated.

    Hi Tom,
    Just wanted to tell you that we will do the vent check in the next couple of days and get back to you with the results.
    Thanks for your continued assistance, and patience!
    Karen

    Last edited by speedball1; Apr 17, 2006 at 06:56 AM.
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    letmetellu's Avatar
    letmetellu Posts: 3,151, Reputation: 317
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    #2

    Apr 6, 2006, 09:41 PM
    A running p-trap is just a pipe that has a sag built in it. I don't know what size your sewer pipe is but if it is a 3 inch then it will have about a 3 inch sag of bend in it. The purpose of the trap it for the sag to stay full of water like a bowl would, this prevents sewer gases from coming back up the line and into the house or up the vents to put odors around the house. As far as where you put it that is up to you. It can be installed close to the house or in the yard or out close to the tank. If you have a plastic line if is very simple to install a running trap, if you would like for me to tell you then leave a post and I will get back with you.
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    speedball1's Avatar
    speedball1 Posts: 28,592, Reputation: 1910
    Senior Plumbing Expert
     
    #3

    Apr 7, 2006, 07:12 AM


    Quote Originally Posted by Karen M.
    My husband and I have a country place that we go to for about 4 months of the year. It is on a septic system. The system was put in in 1998. Everything works fine with one exception. After we have been in the country place for about 6 weeks, the septic begins to smell. There is some slight smell around the toilet but most of it seems to be coming from the vent pipe. We have been told that what we need to do is install a "running P-trap" in the line outside. We are not sure where we do this, how far from the building should we dig down and what do we do when we get there. I'm not sure what a "running P-trap" even looks like. By no means are we plumbers but we've done quite a bit of work ourselves here and would like to tackle this project ourselves if possible. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated.
    Good morning Karen,

    There are "P" traps and there are running traps,( see image) but there are no running "P" traps. As Letmetellu has stated, a running trap can be installed any where in the sewer line from the house to the septic tank. My suggestion would be close to the outside house clean out as this will require less digging. A running trap consists of a "U" bend and two street ells in the size of the sewer pipe.
    To instruct you on installing one we will need to know the material the sewer pipe's made of. The size of the pipe and how confident you are of your plumbing skills once you cut the pipe open. Good luck, Tom
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    Karen M.'s Avatar
    Karen M. Posts: 7, Reputation: 1
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    #4

    Apr 7, 2006, 11:43 AM
    Hello Speedball1 and letmetellu. Thanks for getting back to me about the P trap question. Now my husband and I have a couple of other questions. You'll have to forgive us, we are "city people" and really don't understand some of the basics of septic systems. Here are the questions:
    1. Since we are only here at our country place for about 4 months of the year, usually 2 in the spring, 2 in the fall, are the solids and water in the septic tank not degrading as they should? Could this be what is causing the odor after we have been using the system for about a month?
    2. We still don't quite understand about the vent pipe in the roof. I thought that pipe handled all the gases that would come back from the tank. So if we install a P trap, would the gases not come back to the vent pipe, and if not, where do they go?

    Sorry to ask such silly questions but our plumbing books are not basic enough, obviously!
    Thanks.
    Karen M.
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    speedball1's Avatar
    speedball1 Posts: 28,592, Reputation: 1910
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    #5

    Apr 7, 2006, 05:25 PM


    Hi Karen,
    1. Since we are only here at our country place for about 4 months of the year, usually 2 in the spring, 2 in the fall, are the solids and water in the septic tank not degrading as they should? Could this be what is causing the odor after we have been using the system for about a month?

    The solids should degrade. Have you considered adding a crown vent, (see image) on the septic tank to see if that would help?

    2. We still don't quite understand about the vent pipe in the roof. I thought that pipe handled all the gases that would come back from the tank. So if we install a P trap, would the gases not come back to the vent pipe, and if not, where do they go?

    The house vent is designed to prevent air lock caused by the vacume produced by the draining liquid. The house vents pull air into the system to relieve this vacume. The vent system isn't designed to exhaust air out. If gases build up in the tank they should exhaust through the drain field and out the cracks around the two inspection ports. This is why I suggested a crown vent on the tank. This is simpler then unstalling a running trap that will only cut back on the flow as any sharp bend will do. You may not need a running trap after you install the crown vent. What are your thoughts?
    Since you are new to septic systems a few pointers. Since the septic tank is such an essential part of a sewage system, here are some points to remember about the "care and feeding" of that part of the onsite sewage treatment system.
    A "starter" is not needed for bacterial action to begin in a septic tank. Many bacteria are present in the materials deposited into the tank and will thrive under the growth conditions present.
    If you feel that an additive is needed, be aware that some may do great harm. Additives that advertise to "eliminate" tank cleaning may cause the sludge layer to fluff up and be washed out into the drainfield, plugging soil pores. Some additives, particularly degreasers, may contain carcinogens (cancer-causing) or suspected carcinogens that will flow into the ground water along with the water from the soil treatment unit.
    Send all sewage into the septic tank. Don't run laundry wastes directly into the drainfield, since soap or detergent scum will plug the soil pores, causing failure.
    Normal amounts of household detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners, and other household chemicals can be used and won't stop the bacterial action in the septic tank. But don't use excessive amounts of any household chemicals. Do not dump cleaning water for latex paint brushes and cans into the house sewer.
    Don't deposit coffee grounds, cooking fats, wet-strength towels, disposable diapers, facial tissues, cigarette butts, and other non-decomposable materials into the house sewer. These materials won't decompose and will fill the septic tank and plug the system. To use a 5-gallon toilet flush to get rid of a cigarette butt is also very wasteful of water. Keep an ash tray in the bathroom, if necessary.
    Avoid dumping grease down the drain. It may plug sewer pipes or build up in the septic tank and plug the inlet. Keep a separate container for waste grease and throw it out with the garbage.
    If you must use a garbage disposal, you will likely need to remove septic tank solids every year or more often. Ground garbage will likely find its way out of the septic tank and plug up the drainfield. It is better to compost, incinerate, or deposit the materials in the garbage that will be hauled away. As one ad says, "You can pay me now, or pay me later."
    Clean your septic tank every 1 to 3 years. How often depends on the size of the tank and how many solids go into it. A rule of thumb is once every 3 years for a 1,000 gallon tank serving a 3-bedroom home with 4 occupants (and with no garbage disposal).
    Using too much soap or detergent can cause problems with the septic system. It is difficult to estimate how dirty a load of laundry is, and most people use far more cleaning power than is needed. If there are lots of suds in your laundry tub when the washer discharges, cut back on the amount of detergent for the next similar load. It's generally best not to use inexpensive detergents which may contain excessive amounts of filler or carrier. Some of these fillers are montmorillonite clay, which- is used to seal soils! The best solution may be to use a liquid laundry detergent, since they are less likely to have carriers or fillers that may harm the septic system.
    Each septic system has a certain capacity. When this capacity is reached or exceeded, there will likely be problems because the system won't take as much sewage as you want to discharge into it. When the onsite sewage treatment system reaches its daily capacity, be conservative with your use of water. Each gallon of water that flows into the drain must go through the septic tank and into the soil absorption unit. Following are some ways to conserve water that should cause little hardship in anyone's standard of living:
    Be sure that there are no leaking faucets or other plumbing fixtures. Routinely check the float valve on all toilets to be sure it isn't sticking and the water isn't running continuously. It doesn't take long for the water from a leaking toilet or a faucet to add up. A cup of water leaking out of a toilet every minute doesn't seem like much but that's 90 gallons a day! So be sure that there is no water flowing into the sewer when all water-using appliances are supposed to be off.
    The most effective way to reduce the sewage flow from a house is to reduce the toilet wastes, which usually account for about 40 percent of the sewage flow. Many toilets use 5 to 6 gallons per flush. Some of the so-called low water use toilets are advertised to use only 3.5 gallons per flush. Usually the design of the bowl hasn't been changed, however, and often two flushes are needed to remove all solids. That's 7 gallons! Toilets are available which have been redesigned and will do a good job with one gallon or less per flush. Using a 1-gallon toilet rather than a 5 gallon toilet will reduce sewage flows from a home by about a third. This reduction may be more than enough to make the sewage system function again. While prices may vary, 1.6 gallon toilets can usually be purchased in the $200 range, far less than the cost of a new sewer system. Baths and showers can use lots of water. "Setting up camp" in the shower with a shower head flow of 5 gallons per minute will require 100 gallons in 20 minutes. Shower heads that limit the flow to 1.5 or 2 gallons per minute are available and should be used. Filling the tub not quite so full and limiting the length of showers will result in appreciable water savings.
    Is the water from the faucet cold enough to drink? How long do you let it run to cool down? Keep a container of drinking water in the refrigerator. Then it won't be necessary to run water from your faucets in order to get a cool drink.
    There may be other ways to conserve water that you can think of in your home. The main idea is to consider water as a valuable resource and not to waste it.
    Following a few simple rules like not using too much water and not depositing materials in the septic tank that bacteria can't decompose should help to make a septic system trouble-free for m, too! Any years. But don't forget the septic tank does need to be cleaned out when too many solids builtreatment system.
    With a water meter you can determine how much water your automatic washer uses per cycle. Many washers now have settings to reduce the amount of water used for small loads. Front loading washers and suds savers use less water than top loading machines. If your sewage treatment system is reaching its maximum capacity, try to spread the washing out during the week to avoid overloading the sewage system on a single day. Septic tanks need tender, loving care too.
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    Karen M.'s Avatar
    Karen M. Posts: 7, Reputation: 1
    New Member
     
    #6

    Apr 12, 2006, 09:52 AM
    Septic Tank Vent
    Hello Speedball.
    Once again, thanks for your input on our septic questions. You suggested installing a vent on the septic tank. Our septic tank, as near as we can tell, is about 4 yards from our front porch! If we vent the tank there, will the gases be overpowering? By the way, how far down is the tank buried, about a foot or so? This is very hard, rocky Texas terrain.

    My other question is this: On the outside of the building, where the septic outpipe is buried, the vent pipe is attached at that same junction. It never occurred to me but perhaps this is a cleanout/vent pipe combination. This is right outside of our bathroom window. We had been assuming that the septic smell was coming from the top of the vent but you pointed out that that is not the purpose of the vent. Could this hookup be wrong? Or are the gases coming from that juncture? There is another cleanout further out in the yard and I've not noticed a smell in that area.

    Now that you've pointed out the downside of installing a P trap I'm not sure I want to try that. Our septic is a gravity flow system (at least I know that!) and there isn't a lot of slope to this whole setup.

    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Karen M.
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    speedball1's Avatar
    speedball1 Posts: 28,592, Reputation: 1910
    Senior Plumbing Expert
     
    #7

    Apr 14, 2006, 07:50 AM


    Hi Karen,
    "On the outside of the building, where the septic outpipe is buried, the vent pipe is attached at that same junction."

    Are you telling me that you have a vent off the sewer line that terminates outside your bathroom window? I'll wait on your answer. Regards, tom
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    Karen M.'s Avatar
    Karen M. Posts: 7, Reputation: 1
    New Member
     
    #8

    Apr 14, 2006, 08:33 AM
    The septic/vent pipe combo
    Hi Speedball,
    Yes, the vent pipe is part of the septic out pipe as far as I can tell.
    If I stand outside the building, I am right outside of the bathroom.
    There is a round (8" diameter) plastic clean-out looking contraption and coming out of the top of it is a piece of pvc pipe that curves toward the outside of the building and then attaches to the outside wall with brackets. The pipe ends about 2 feet above the roof line.

    We've been back at our country place for a month now so we think we've got about 2 more weeks before the septic starts smelling (as it has in the past).

    Thanks,
    Karen
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    speedball1's Avatar
    speedball1 Posts: 28,592, Reputation: 1910
    Senior Plumbing Expert
     
    #9

    Apr 15, 2006, 06:26 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by Karen M.
    Hi Speedball,
    Yes, the vent pipe is part of the septic out pipe as far as I can tell.
    If I stand outside the building, I am right outside of the bathroom.
    There is a round (8" diameter) plastic clean-out looking contraption and coming out of the top of it is a piece of pvc pipe that curves toward the outside of the building and then attaches to the outside wall with brackets. The pipe ends about 2 feet above the roof line.

    We've been back at our country place for a month now so we think we've got about 2 more weeks before the septic starts smelling (as it has in the past).

    Thanks,
    Karen
    Very strange! It would appear that the tank's vented already. That tells me that there's been a on-going problem with odor since the system was installed. Let's test this outside pipe to see if we have a vent,as it looks, or a exhaust pipe as I suppect. Next time you wash have someone climb up to see if air is being sucked in as the washer pump discharges, (vent) or if foul odors are being pushed out, (exhaust pipe). If the latter that would tend to indicate that a back pressure situation exists in the tank or drainfield that the installers attempted to correct by installing a vent outside your house. Hang in there with me and we'll track this down yet. Tom
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    Karen M.'s Avatar
    Karen M. Posts: 7, Reputation: 1
    New Member
     
    #10

    Apr 26, 2006, 10:00 AM
    Testing the vent pipe
    Hi Tom,
    It has been a few days but we are still trying to figure out our septic problem. As predicted, now we are starting to get the foul odor. My husband did what you suggested. He got up to the vent pipe and since we don't have a washing machine, I flushed the toilet to see what would happen. There was just the slightest sensation of air being pulled in. However, there is a definite foul odor (broccoli-like) coming out of the vent pipe. It's not being pushed out, just drifting out.

    Since this is the case, maybe we need to go back to the original idea of digging up the pipe near the building and installing a running trap to put a water block for the gases that are coming back to the building.

    There is a new bank in town and evidently they had to do the same thing. The odor was unbearable. So if this is the case, why aren't all septic systems installed with some kind of running trap?

    Thanks,
    Karen
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