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Septic Tank Problems

My friend has a septic tank that looks like there are a bunch of roots sticking out of a pipe. He has had some problems off and on with this tank and wants to fix the problem himself this time. He is thinking that he might need to go into the tank to remove some of the roots. While he has had some training in manhole safety for a utility I still worry that he might put himself in some danger. He says the tank is very small I think about four and a half feet deep. This services an old farm house.
My question is this isn't what he is thinking of dangerous? I think it is but don't think I can convince him otherwise. Also it sounds to me anyway that this tank may be undersized for todays needs and probably should be replaced.
My friend said something about some kind of new piping that he might need to replace the old pipes with that would keep the roots from getting in. Any idea of what kind of pipe that is and what it looks like? Also any ideas as to how much the pipes themselves might cost and perhaps sources for where to buy them in the south? Are there any alternatives too other than those new pipes that would be cheaper and work just as well. Thanks for your help!

Re: Septic Tank Problems

Yes it is dangerous to go into a septic tank. There may be levels of methane gas that can kill him. Every once in a while you see news reports of a death from something like this. It can be done safely, but you will need to be aware of the fresh air circulation in the tank. He may be aware of this danger and the precautions necessary from his "man hole safety training".

In our area a tank is sized by the number of bedrooms in a house, not the number of bathrooms as you might think. A 3 bedroom needs a 1250 gallon tank. The different size tanks have the same footprint, but the larger sizes have an additional "ring" section added to increase the depth. Your area may have the same requirements. Your township or county health department would be a good place to start with questions. I had to upgrade our tank a few years ago when we added on. The original tank was in the way of where we were building and since we added 2 bedrooms, we upsized the tank. I went one size higher than the county requirement since the cost difference was minimal (~$200 if I remember correctly).

I used 4" PVC pipe to run to the tank, roots will not be able to infiltrate this pipe. The pipe is available at any big box or local plumbing supply house. Others may have a suggestion on getting rid of the roots without the new pipe. I would think that if you cut them out with some kind of auger they would still grow back at some point.

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