Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Project Day 44 - Installing the Septic System

Note: Grab a cup of java or a cold drink, sit back, and enjoy the read. Today's blog entry is a novel.

Up early this morning expecting an active obersvation day today. We wanted to be at the property early to watch the septic system be installed. After a quick stop at McD's for a biscuit with all the trimmings, we headed north.

We arrived at 9 AM only to find that the three men on the septic tank crew had already dug a hole for the septic tank and a very long trench for the drain field. They were sitting around back waiting for the septic tank to be delivered.

Dave dashed inside to retrieve our chairs and tables so he could set up our Observation Station on our new cement-floor porch. Now that the porch has a floor, we sit at the perfect height for viewing over the kickplate. Before the floor was poured, the sand surface was 6-8 inches lower. We designed a kickplate for this porch to reduce rain splashing into the porch. Unless we have heavy winds, we should get little water inside the porch.

Back to the events at hand: While Dave was setting up, I busied myself with snapping a couple of photos of the trenches already dug.

This trench is approximately 60-ft long x 4.5-ft deep. Our porch railing is in the foreground of the photo.

In order to make the day's events more understandable for you as I describe them, I have created the following diagram of our lot. The diagram shows the property boundary lines, the house, the parking area for the RV, and the septic tank and drain field locations. The numbers on the diagram represent the order in which the trenches were dug. The septic tank is near the dining room (1). The drain field trenches are the long rectangles.

When we arrived, only the septic tank hole and Trench #2 were dug. However, when we arrived we were unaware of how many trenches and in what locations the trenches would eventually be dug. We thought what was already dug was all that was going to be dug. Therefore, each time the tractor was started and the scoop went to work digging, we comprehended a new piece of the whole back yard puzzle. It was like a mystery plot unfolding before our eyes!

It was only a few minutes after we got organized that the truck carrying the septic tank and black plastic drain field arcs arrived. The drain arcs are stacked on the back end of the truck. As you scroll through the following photos, you may be able to identify the stack.

The stack of drain arcs were just shoved off the back end of the truck and allowed to fall on the ground. From there, two of the men began to haul the arcs to the trench for assembly.

At the end of an entire row of assembled arcs, an end cap is screwed into place. Each row, we learned later, is 55-ft long. Here's a photo of the batch of end caps before they are installed. I neglected to snap a photo of one installed. They worked so fast, I could hardly comprehend what was going on before they were on to a new process!

Two of the men would start filling the trench with the arcs, snapping each into place as they moved along in the trench.

The arcs have small slits between each ridge that allow the water to ooze out above the arc, but the slits are designed to keep dirt and rock from entering the arcs. You can see those slits in the following photo on the arc that is leaning vertical in the trench. You can see light/dirt through the arc. Each arc attaches to the next on a "nub" that acts as a hinge. You can see that nub on the arc that is horizontal in the trench.

Meanwhile, the other man and the driver of the truck (the woman) began to off-load the tank.

The tank is attached to a chain harness (the harness is more visible the farther off the truck the tank becomes). The harness is attached to a pulley system on a stationary beam on the truck. Slowly the harness raises the tank, and then the pulley system begins to back the tank off the truck. The driver is working the pulley controls at the back of the truck. One of the men turns the tank and guide it into the proper position as the tank is slowly lowered into the hole.

The following photos show the maneuvering process. Note: The equipment on the tripod in the foreground of some of these photos is an electronic level.

After the tank was in place, the level was checked. One corner of the tank was not level, so it was lifted slightly and a few shovels of dirt were added under that corner. The level was checked again. After the tank was set, the chain harness was removed.

Now the man who was working on setting the tank is done with that task, he went to the trench that was filled with the arcs. His new task was to verify that the trench was level. As I mentioned earlier, the apparatus on a tripod near the house was an electronic level. This level sends out a circular signal. In the next two photos, you can see that a signal-receiving device has been attached to a measuring pole. The device is placed on the pole at the height needed for Trench #2.

We learned that each trench must be a 6-in fall from the previous trench (starting from the septic tank and moving toward the back of the property). Therefore, with each subsequent trench, the receiving device was either raised or lowered on the measuring pole by 6 inches (depending upon which trench they were outfitting with the arcs).

Here's the pole and a close-up of the signal-receiving device.

After Trench #2 was outfitted with its arcs, the dozer was ready to start Trench #3. This time, because there were three men available to work the trench, one man would dig the trench with the dozer, and the other two men would orchestrate putting together the arcs and measuring that the trenches were level and that they met the 6-inch fall requirement.

When the length of Trench #3 was approximately half the distance of Trench #2, a PVC pipe was cut that would connect Trench #3 with Trench #2. This pipe will carry fluids from one trench to the next. Eventually, all trenches are connected by PVC pipe. In the diagram of the back yard, the black connecting lines represent the PVC pipes that connect each row of drain arcs.

Here's Dave giving the back yard activity a once-over.

Here's progress on Trench #4. The back yard is now looking like we have had a nuclear explosion. There seems to be more trench than back yard!

When viewing photos that are 2-dimensional, it's hard to get a 3-D perspective on the actual distances involved. So, here's a view that is nearly actual size of how close to the porch Trench #4 is actually located. The end of the trench is actually about 3-4 ft from the edge of the porch foundation wall. You can see the LP gas line near the end of the porch foundation in the lower-left portion of this photo.

The bulldozer was moved to the far back of the yard and began to dig Trench #5.

You can see one of the men in the trench checking the signal to be sure that the trench is level and at least 6-in. lower than Trench #2.

Dave has been busy off and on with continuing his vacuuming project. He vacuums for a bit, and then comes to check on the progress and rest a bit. Here's Dave on the porch during one of his respites.

In the diagram of the back yard, I drew a "tree" between Trench #5 and #2. Here's a photo of the "saved" tree. We were amazed at how they maneuvered the dozer around that tree without disturbing it. We are not sure it will survive, however, because we are not sure how much of its root system was disturbed. If it does survive, it might have a steady water source!

There is another small tree in the yard, an oak. You can see this little oak in front of the truck in the next photo. They drove the truck around the bedroom side of the house to deliver the PVC pipe for the last connection. Back to the oak: this little tree is situated in the middle of the area that was unsuitable for a drain field. In the diagram of the back yard, this tree is in the middle of the pink, circular area. I held my breath as the dozer whipped past this tree so close that its leaves shimmered; but, the driver never touched it. Amazing!

In no time at all, Trench #5 was dug and outfitted with its arcs. The dozer left the back yard on the bedroom side of the house. I thought the digging might be done; but, oh no, there was more digging to do.

The dozer came up the kitchen side of the house and began to dig a small trench between the septic tank and the house. I am taking these photos from the dining room window on the side of the house. The photo is nearly actual size--so it was extremely close to the house. Such precise digging for such a large "shovel." (The septic tank is visible on the left side of the following photo.)

You can see that the trench is for the sewer pipe that will connect the house's sewer lines to septic tank. The vertical pipe is for the cleanout line to the septic tank.

Next, the dozer moved to dig a shallow trench between the septic tank and Trench #4. This shallow trench will hold the PVC pipe that connects the septic tank to the first set of drain arcs.

A Little Hand Digging Required

Piecing the PVC Pipe Together

After all of the trenches were filled with the plastic arcs and the trench rows were connected to each other and the septic tank, the three men went to sit in their truck. Dave and I thought they might just be so hot, they needed to cool off or maybe they were heading out for lunch. But, they just sat in there for quite some time. At that point, we realized they had probably called for the Health Inspector to come and approve their handiwork. Sure enough, in about 30 minutes, the inspector showed up with clipboard in hand. He came and introduced himself to us, and then he realized we had met a couple of months ago when we were trying to get the layout approved.

We were quite in awe at how thorough a job he did at checking. He took the measuring stick with the signal device and checked each and every trench in 4-5 spots. He hiked over all of the mounds and counted the number of arcs in each trench. It took him about 15 minutes to check everything, and then he gave his approval to the work crew.

And with that approval, one of the men quickly sprang into the dozer and covered up all of the trenches and the septic tank. I think it was all done in about 15 mintues. I couldn't believe it.

They had started this project about 8:30 AM and were done and gone by 12:30 PM.

No sooner had they left when the siding was delivered. I guess he brought the siding in a semi, which would not make the turns on these small subdivision roads. So, he brought the stack of materials on his fork lift. We were surprised that the entire batch of materials to cover this house was such a small load.

The man who delivered the load came in to look at the house. He delivers to a lot of homes and was saying how much he likes the homes that Tomorrow's Homes builds. So much so, he's considering building on some property he owns.

Dave wanted to finish up his vacuuming before we went to lunch. It's so clean, I felt like we could move in! Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?

While Dave was vacuuming, I busied myself with a task I had put off for a few days. I wanted to write "thank yous" on the house structure as well as some Scriptures and house blessing messages. However, after I started to write, I realized that the surface was not conducive to easy writing. So, next week, Dave will bring a step-stool for me so that I can write above the door jams--the only smooth writing surface available. For now, this is all I could write. But, the sentiment is certainly sincere. We couldn't have built this house without the blessings of God or the considerations we received from Tomorrow's Homes.

The final activity for the day was the clock-work arrival of the poop truck. Every Wednesday they show up to clean the outhouse. Dave and I have both availed ourselves of the facilities. And, I must say, it's always clean and scant of any unpleasant odor. The only downside of the "facilities" is that in the heat of the day, it's sweltering.

As we headed out for the day, here's the final look-see of the back yard. All nice and put back together.

Left-Hand Side of the Back Yard (and our wee oak tree still stands)

Right-Hand Side of the Back Yard

Because everything had been done at the house by 1:30 PM, we packed up and went to Dad's for lunch on our way home. The waitress knows us so well now, that when she sees us arrive, she has our iced tea waiting for us! While we were ordering, we saw the Health Inspector that was at our house arrive to do the restaurant's inspection. I mentioned to the waitress that the inspector who was there had been at our house earlier in the day. I barely got the words "health inspector" out of my mouth and she was gone like a shot to the back area. We could see much scurrying in the back kitchen, which became our dining floor show!

I am writing this blog entry a few days after the fact. On Thursday, we decided not to return to the property until Monday. The cost of gas eats into our budget quite a bit, and according to Brad it will take approximately 4 days to complete the siding job. By Monday, there will still be plenty to observe. On Friday, it rained and we were informed that the siding installation crew did not work. This weekend, Dave is disassembling and loading onto his utility trailer much of the black chain link fencing we have at our current home. He will take the fencing to the new house and start to install it (with Brad's blessing) now that the septic system digging is complete. Dave will also be removing some of the "extras" we put into our current home for re-use in the new home. So, until Monday, keep on rockin'.

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