Can you tell me about well water and septic systems? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 05-04-2006, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We are considering a house in the country and it has well water and septic. I've always lived within city boundaries and have no experience with wells and septic systems. Can someone help me understand what we would be getting into?

What are the pros and cons?

What are the maintenance requirements?

What are the expenses?

Any help is much appreciated!
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#2 of 16 Old 05-04-2006, 11:07 AM
 
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First, make sure that you have a home inspection to make sure that the septic is working properly. Ask when the last time the tank was pumped out and when the septic system was built. How long it lasts depends on how well it was maintained and what kind of soil there is in the area. If it is sandy soil you will be in good shape. Clay soil often requires a trans-vap system where sand is brought in. Trans-vap system can last about 25 years. Prices vary in my area from $8500-15000. About every 4-5 years the septic tank should be pumped out. The cost for that here (upstate NY) is about $200. You may need to reseed lawn over the tank.

Wells vary in price depending on how deep they are. If the water supply is good you probably will not need to drill another. If your water supply is iffy, you'll have a hard time getting a mortgage. You can have your water tested for all kinds of contaminants prior to buying. If you are getting an FHA mortgage then HUD will require a lead test. The pro of having a well is that you don't have to deal with the chlorine in a municiple water supply. The con is, if you have no power then you have no water. If you have a fairly shallow well then you may be able to hand pump. A deep well (over 120' I think) negates that possibilty. The deeper the well the more powerful the well pump needs to be (more expensive). My well is 547' deep. The well pump is a 1 horsepower pump. It requires a pretty sizable surge of electricity to start up. We have a generator in case of power outage. If your water is hard you may need (want) a water softener. My parents had really hard water and never had a softener.

Overall we like our set up for well and septic although I wold prefer to not have a trans-vap septic system. Our water is wonderful (not hard, no iron) and we have lots of it. You can hire a dowser or geologist to give you an idea of what to expect for a water supply. I would put contingincies in any purchase contract for water and septic condition, althought the septic condition should be included in a structural inspection.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions.

Amy at Stone Fence Farm
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#3 of 16 Old 05-04-2006, 01:31 PM
 
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Hi,
My husband & BIL do septic system inspection and design. What you need to do for a septic system is going to depend a lot on what area you are in. My advice is to be sure that the existing system is insepected before you buy! A new septic can be a spendy thing.

Septics need to be treated nicely; no flushing anything other than tp (and well, you know). No tampons, condoms, food, small animals, etc. My dh has a great collection of stories regarding what he's seen floating in people's septic systems.

You might also want to be sure that your land will have a place for a replacement system, should you need one someday.

We're in Minnesota, which is a pretty picky state due to all of the lakes and farmland, other places probably have soil that drains better and counties with less restrictions, but thinking about your septic and having a plan is a good idea!

Megan~ mama to Cecilia (9/1/04) Carl (11/19/06) Vivian (9/10/09) & spring 2011 baby.
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#4 of 16 Old 05-04-2006, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is all very helpful!

Maybe a stupid question: Can we have a vegetable garden or does the presence of a septic tank make the ground unsafe for growing vegetables?
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#5 of 16 Old 05-04-2006, 03:42 PM
 
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You can have a vegetable garden it just can't be over the septic tank or on the leach field. You also can't drive heavy eqipment on the st or lf. A lawn tractor is OK though.

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#6 of 16 Old 05-05-2006, 09:04 AM
 
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we have both well and septic...

here some of the cons... our water is very very hard. it's calcium carbonate, disolved limestone. it took me a while to figure out how to wash clothes so they actually come clean (little detergent lots of baking soda). the water is slightly acidic, so beans and split peans and such don't cook. and also we had a dought here last year, so the water level is low and the water is really hard now and we all just found out we are anemic. now, not all well water is hard like ours... many have other things in them. our's just happens to be calcium. we have now switched to drinking and cooking with bottled water and we are all feeling better.

other things, you can't water your garden give baths and wash the dishes at the same time. you can't do one load of laundry right after another. and you can't put a sprinkler on for the kids and just run the water. 900 gallons a day is maximum for many wells, some less. our well guy told us, many people in the city use upwards of 1500 gallons of water a day and so if you aren't up to being aware of just how much water you are using daily, then well isn't for you. our well pump now had some thing called a pump tech on it. it shuts the pump off when the pressure gets to low. as far as i know it has never come on since we installed it. but hat's becuase we are careful about our water usesage.

i like being on well. i hate bathing and drinking in other peoples meds, lawn spray and chlorine. i hate the smell of city water and the taste too. my water esp in the last spring tastes really yummy. and it doesn't stink. but it does take getting used to.

a new well pump will last a long time. but ours was old when we moved in (more than 25 years) and it went bad the first year we lived here. a new well pump and pump tech was $1800.

septic we haven't had any issues with, except you shouldn't use harsh cleaners and you can't let the water run. no garbage disposal either. (we compost anyway)

all of these things require a new persepective and a good one i think, but i know it's not for everyone.

PM me if you have more questions!

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Olivercoolshine.gif

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#7 of 16 Old 05-05-2006, 09:25 AM
 
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I think it's already been covered, but I thought I'd put in my okie openion We bought a place that has a well and septic, both of us grew up on well and septic so we think that's normal. City water is gross! Well water (ours at least) is kinda gross until you get used to it. But once we got used to it we love it! We have to buy bottled water before anyone comes and visits that's used to city water, though, so they don't get sick. No, we didn't get the water tested, it didn't make us real sick, it just upset our systems a little bit. We don't have any filters on it, but my MIL has filters on hers that keep hers cleaner. We don't really mind the water how it is, it's fine.

For cost, it's recommended to put aside about 1/2 of what you were paying for city water to cover expences if the pump breaks, you need your spetic pumped, etc. That way it doesn't come as a surprise. We don't do that... but it would be a good idea to...

For pressure, if you get a huge tank (ours is like 5 gallons, tiny!) you don't have a problem with pressure. My parents just put in a 500 gallon tank and they can shower, wash dishes, and water the garden all at the same time. Unheard of for us! Having a big tank is also better on your pump, as it's not starting and stopping all the time.

To well-shock ours, I pour a cup of bleach down the well head, don't use water for a few hours, and then run all the facuets and stuff for about 10 mins to try and flush the system. Not exactly NFL, but if the water is getting murky or tasting weird, that clears it up. We don't have money right now to do testing and stuff. We mostly only need to do this when it's been real dry, in the late summer and fall, I guess the rain and stuff keeps the ick diluted enough that it's fine.

When the power goes out (in CA it did all the time, we haven't had it out for more than 10 mins in MT!) we'd collect rain water in buckets and use that to flush the toilets. For water water, we'd always have a few gallons that we kept around JIC.

City people are always amazed that we get water directly from the gound and, oh my goodness, drink it withough sterilizing it The ground itself is a darn good filter, so that's why it's good.

I think our well is 250 feet deep.


Cara
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#8 of 16 Old 05-05-2006, 09:58 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myhoneyswife

I think our well is 250 feet deep.


Cara
WOW! our's is 50 feet. it takes 3 months for water to get to the well, that seems like a great filter to me!

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Olivercoolshine.gif

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#9 of 16 Old 05-05-2006, 10:57 AM
 
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Yeah, my parents was 30 feet deep. Theirs was up on a pretty tall hill also, so the bottom of the well was actually at the same level of the house. Isn't that weird?
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#10 of 16 Old 05-06-2006, 09:48 AM
 
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We just put in a well & septic for our new house. We are on full clay and had extensive engineering done for it but that's one of the prices we pay for living out in the middle of nowhere (and on clay). I haven't heard anyone else mention adding bacteria (we use rid-X) to promote good bac. growth. We add it every couple of months.

Well - we put down to 83 ft and have over a 100 gal per min with no pump. Water is going to be very specific to your area, in content and amounts. I love well water but I've also tasted some that sucks. You can send a water sample to your extension office and see what your content is and get regionally specific advice. Good Luck
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#11 of 16 Old 05-06-2006, 10:20 AM
 
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i'm not sure about a new system, but i have been told that bacteria is very specific to each system and that adding things like yeast, beer and rid-X is waste of time becuase the bacteria that is in there will just kill it anyway.

instead just pay attention to what you put down there and you'll be okay.

100 gallons per minute is impressive! how cool! our well is almost 100 years old and i hope with good care (and not too much global warming) it will still be giving water in another 100 years!

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Olivercoolshine.gif

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#12 of 16 Old 05-06-2006, 03:25 PM
 
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Just to clarify - we are using ridx on the old system at our temporary house (it has been a rental for years)- which is barely legal I'm guessing. The drain field had visible green leach - by adding the ridx that has come under control. The septic at the new house will not have anything added to it as we will know what is going into it from the beginning
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#13 of 16 Old 05-06-2006, 04:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gr8tfulmom
Just to clarify - we are using ridx on the old system at our temporary house (it has been a rental for years)- which is barely legal I'm guessing. The drain field had visible green leach - by adding the ridx that has come under control. The septic at the new house will not have anything added to it as we will know what is going into it from the beginning
ewwwwww... it must need to get pumped bad!

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Olivercoolshine.gif

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#14 of 16 Old 05-07-2006, 10:40 PM
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About being careful no one parks on your leaching field.......



I TOLD the foundation guys where mine was, came out and showed the boss, then the workers. What did they do? Pulled a cement truck right up into it. Yep, ruined the whole leaching field. Spurting out, running down teh driveway, and down the road. Blech!

Now I'm planting flowers along the edge and putting a small fence there. It xost us $11,500 to get it fixed, only $5000 of which we got back by hassling the cement company.







Get it pumped every 2 years. It runs us about $125. You're pumping out the solids, the liquid goes to the leaching field. Check the yard for wet areas or swampy looking areas.

Our well is 250 ft. We water the garden, shower, run teh washer, etc, with no noticeable difference in power. I also fill teh 18' x 4' pool every summer and still shower etc while it's happening. It depends on the well, the pump and the supply. Try running a faucet and flushing while your dh runs the hose. Its a good test for the future.

And do pay to get your water tested. Some thigs may be present that won't make you sick NOW, but will get you later. It's not that expensive and worth it to know if there's lead or something in your drinking water.
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#15 of 16 Old 05-08-2006, 09:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honeybeedreams
ewwwwww... it must need to get pumped bad!
Yes it did! Just got done, but I think it was engineered poorly as it's not raised or surrounded with sand and it is in straight up clay!
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#16 of 16 Old 05-11-2006, 10:51 PM
 
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I have to echo the comments about making sure that you get the septic system surveyed *before* you sign for the house! We made the mistake of not having an adequate survey done, and a year later discovered that the 2nd tank was absolutely full, and that the pump that should be pushing the water up to the leach field was also broken...consequently the tank had been slowly overflowing, accounting for the fabulously lush lawn, and hugely weedy pond

Thankfully we replaced the pump ourselves....and attached an alarm that sounds if the water level gets too high, but all in all it cost us about $500 and a lot of heartache to fix - money that would have been better spent on a survey...ah well!

In order to prolong the life of the system we have made a few choices: we invested in a front-loading washer, which uses vastly less water, we don't flush the toilet for every pee (horrifies visitors from the city) and we don't put excessive amounts of TP down either...the general rule is that nothing goes down the toilet that hasn't been digested first

We also have a well; it is pretty iron laden, and one of my lottery-type dreams is having an artesian well sunk, but for the time being we can live with it! Our pressure tank is fairly small, but seems to be adequate for the size of our household - you certainly can't run more one thing at a time though without getting alternately scalded/frozen. I do find it quite noisy - the tank is in the basement - but nothing unbearable. Along with the measures that we have taken to help the septic we also try and be quite sparing with the water that we use...so no running taps whilst we brush teeth, shower with a lo-flo head, water barrels for use in the garden...all really common sense stuff that I'm sure most people already do!
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