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5 Tips on Septic System Repairs: an Interview with David James of The Septic Guys

By David James

Tell us a little bit about your company's history and the services you offer.

The Septic Guys started as a side service business to support our installation business. As time has progressed it has grown into its own entity. We bought Triplett Septic Tanks from Melvin Triplett in April 2002. We saw a niche, due to state requirements for service on the aerobic septic systems, and pursued it. My background is not septic. I have a BS in Geology and a BS in Computer Science. So Before getting into this business we were in the same place as a lot of our customers. We were having to believe what we were told and assume it was right. Never any explanation or direct answers to our questions. So when we got into this business we swore that we would never ask our customers to blindly accept what we say but educate anyone that wants to know about their system. It has been fun as well as a blessing to help people understand septic systems and how they work. The Septic Guys works with standard septic systems (lateral or anaerobic) and aerobic septic systems. Both have septic tanks it is what we do with the water when it comes out of the tank that differentiates aerobic from anaerobic. In question 5 I refer to the NSF recommendation for lateral system only. All of the other information in that item is for septic tanks in general.

What are two or three of the most common septic system repairs you've done in the Oklahoma area?

As far as major repairs, that would be replacing failing laterals with an aerobic treatment unit and spraying the treated water onto the lawn. Some of the older style aerobic systems we have had to replace the fiberglass treatment unit. The ultra-violet light will weaken the tank and cause a cave-in effect. When we took over this business we phased out the fiberglass units and went to a concrete tank. We always strive to give our customers the best available for their money.

Can you describe some signs that a homeowner has a septic problem he or she should consult a licensed contractor about?

If they see water surfacing around the lateral field or if they have an aerobic system, a red light that has been on for more than 24hrs. Toilets are slow to flush, shower or tub drains slow or there could be a gurgling sound that accompanies any of the previously mentioned actions.

When is a permit required for repairs, and how long does it usually take to get one?

The only time a permit is required for repairs is if you are changing the system design that is on file with ODEQ (Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality). It varies according to the location. If we are working in the Oklahoma City Office area, we can usually get a permit for most jobs within 3 days to 1 week (or less at times). They are good about rushing a permit if someone is in trouble.

Are there any basic steps that homeowners can take to help prevent major septic repairs?

For a lateral system, NSF (National Science Foundation) recommends pumping your tank every year to keep the laterals unclogged and active.

Do not use Charmin, Northern or Cottenelle. The super absorbent tissue does not break down very well causing the septic tank to fill faster than normal. Stick with brands that have the septic safe sign on the back of the package. Just because something says it is flushable doesn't mean that it is good for septic tanks.

There is nothing that can be put into a garbage disposal that is good for a septic tank. Your body may break whole food down but the septic is void of the acids in your stomach. The best additive you can use in a septic tank is molasses. Just heat a cup of molasses and go to the toilet close to the septic tank and pour and flush. This helps the enzymes from your intestines colonize in the septic tank. They will continue to breakdown solid particulate. The molasses will need to be added about every two to three months, depending on cleaning habits.

Check for leaking toilets. The only sure fire method I know of is a dye test. Make sure the bowl has clean water, take a dark food coloring and place in the tank on the back of the toilet (just a few drops, remember to remove the tank lid). Don't let anyone use this toilet for at least 10 minutes. Check the bowl. If any of the coloring has reached the bowl then the toilet is leaking. One leaking toilet can ruin lateral lines. In aerobic systems this will cause a bad smell when spraying as well as cause your system to spray during the day.

What advice would you give to people who are considering purchasing a house in Oklahoma with a septic system?

Always have the septic system cleaned before moving in, you never know what the previous owners have put down the drain and this will give you a good starting point. Most closing companies require an inspection before closing. If yours didn't, you might ask why they didn't. If you are in doubt, please be aware in the State of Oklahoma you are not required to have a license to inspect septic systems. So please if you are going to pay for an inspection why not pay someone that repairs and installs these systems. Would you take your car to your barber to get a brake job, not unless this is something he did in a past life.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your company?

Just call 405-341-7101 Monday thru Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or any other time just leave a message.

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