We've been having some trouble with our septic system. Bad odors from the drains, slow flushing from the toilet, even a few wiffs of bad odors outside in the yard - all worrisome signs. A couple of days ago I picked up three 6" risers to raise the lids of the hatches up above the level of the surrounding terrain, because with the heavy rains we had last week water had puddled over the top of them, which is not reccommended, even though they are supposed to be water tight. When we went to install them, however, stinkwater came up out of the lid. Not good, definately not good at all! We tightened the lid back down without installing the riser, and today I called Jake of Fountain Construction, and described the symptoms to him. He immediately wanted to come out and take a look, so I left the office and headed home.
Jake quickly figured out that the problem was that the pump wasn't running, so our tank was full. Really full. It took a few more minutes to figure out why the tank wasn't running - a bad switch on the alarm circuit. This was not only preventing the alarm from sounding, it was keeping the whole system off-line. Thank goodness I called when I did, or the failure of this $1 part could have cost us hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Not to mention the ugly possibility of nastiness coming up in the shower drain and touching my toes.
Anyway, Jake & Lee (his dad/boss) managed to override the bad circuit and get the pump going enough to take the pressure off the system. The sound of the water that had been backed up into the house pipes draining out was pretty impressive. We called Mark Schramer and got the number for the electrician, and thankfully he, Andy, was able to come right out and replace that pesky switch. Jake helpfully installed the risers for me, so now the whole system is ship-shape and closed up again. We need to treat it gently for a few days (no laundry marathons!) but it looks like we caught the problem before any serious damage was done to the drainfield.
There was one unfortunate casualty: a small frog jumped into the tank when we had the lid open. I tried to fish him out, but he kept diving and swiming away from my bucket. I selfishly wasn't willing to actually TOUCH the stinkwater to save him. I feel a little bad about that... but mostly I feel like I just passed some sort of official homeowner test, and I got an A. :)