Monday, June 15, 2009

They Just Don't Make Them Like They Used To

The saying, "They don't make them like they used to" is so very true.  

We have lived in our house for 13 years.  It was supposed to be the "transitional" house.  You know, the one you live in until you can afford what you really want.  But as it goes, we fell in love with the area, the people, and yes, even the school system is quite good.  We decided to stay. 

In the years we have lived here, we have done quite a bit to upgrade the house to make it our "home", and we still love the area.  The problem is, everything around us is falling apart.  We have been through two ovens, 3 refrigerators and numerous dishwashers.  I have replaced a few toilets, seen furniture come and go and we have had our family meals at more than 2 or 3 kitchen tables.  We are on our second water heater and our poor furnace has been repaired more times than we would like to count.  We have spent many a cold winter night wrapped in dozens of blankets, spending quality time as a family huddled around the wood stove.  

But these are just minor inconveniences that have made us laugh and play remember when on more than one occasion.  But now, we have much bigger fish to fry.  Our entire septic system is on its last leg.  Not the tank itself, but the lovely drainage system that encompasses a great percentage of our backyard.  You see, our problem is twofold.  First, when they were building our neighborhood, they used our lot as a place to dump a lot of the boulders, etc. that were taken out of other people's yards that had their homes built before us.  Second, our entire neighborhood is built on ledge and the land is constantly shifting.  Quite noticeably.  One day, there will be a large rock in the middle of the front yard and the next, it will have magically disappeared and seemingly have shifted to the side of the house.  

We first discovered problems with the leach-field a number of years ago.  We noticed that there was a not so pleasant odor wafting about.  We complained about the "neighbor" who failed to pump his/her septic tank on a regular basis.  Until Mr. P went to mow the lawn.  As he drove about on the tractor, he realized that not only was this "scent" emanating from our own backyard, but it was as if he were trying to drive through a swamp while mowing the lawn.  We did not know how this could be, as we have always diligently had our tank pumped right on schedule.   Every.  Single.  Year.  After calls and quotes from numerous "professionals", it was discovered that because of how closely our "field" sits to the ledge, we have a problem with bacterial growth.  This bacteria causes the drainage system to fail and therefore instead of our sewage draining through the system, it drains "up" into our yard.  Nice, huh?

After a few thousand dollars and more than a few thousand gallons of peroxide flushed through our system, the "field" did dry up.  We had not had a problem since.  Until a few weeks ago.  At first, our eldest cherub came in from playing outside and said that the backyard was very mushy.  We chalked it up to the amount of rain and little sun we've had for the past few months.  Then came prom night.  Our next door neighbor's son decided to have the post-prom party at his house.  They were setting up tents in the yard and were going to have a campfire, etc. etc.  and yes, we were invited to join the fun.  So about midnight on prom night, we packed up and headed over to join the fun.  And it hit us.  The smell.  It was an undeniable, horrific, sewage smell.  This was when we opened the back door to head out.  Then, about halfway through our trek next door, littlest cherub piped up, "Mom, my foot is all wet.  What's that smell?  Why is our grass so soggy?  EEEEEWWWWWW - I'm stepping in poop!!!!"  And so began our slow approach into septic-sewage hell.  

After more phone calls and discussions with professionals, it was determined that because of our proximity to "wetlands", the "special" type of system that had been installed because of the proximity to ledge, and the fact that the sand around our system was now officially considered hazardous waste, our minimal cost of system replacement was somewhere around the $50,000.00 mark.  Yes my friends, you read that correctly.  $50 thousand dollars.  MINIMUM!

Because we do not have an extra $50,000 lying around, as well as the fact that dealing with permits, the DEM and various and sundry other government offices makes our heads spin, Mr. P and I decided to do a little more research to seek alternative resolutions before jumping into a project of that enormity.  And research we did.  After long and tension ridden hours of research, we found a company that sells a product GUARANTEED to rid us of our problem.  And only for a fraction of the cost of system replacement.  

Great, lets do it.  So we called and spoke to one of their "experts" who helped us order the kits needed to super shock, power shock and treat our leach-field. 

"But you should have your septic tank pumped the same day you start treatment" he says.  
"We did that last month."
"Well, it doesn't matter.  You need to do it the same day."  
OK, we called and made the appointment.  
"And you shouldn't use regular laundry detergent or bleach.  Let me recommend a special brand." 
"OK, I guess I need to order that too."
"And the same company has the automatic dish detergent, regular dish soap, toilet paper, toilet bowl cleaner, hand soap, facial soap, shampoo . . . . . . . that you will need to start using too." 
"Um, I can't use my regular face soap and shampoo?"
"We don't recommend it."
"OK, I guess I can give it a try.  Would you happen to know if I can buy these items at the local stores?"
"Well, sometimes they carry them, but you would be better off getting on an auto-refill program through one of the stores I'll recommend on the internet."
I am now thinking that this guy makes a commission on all sales recommended.  Apparently, the point of all these "special" products is that they contain bacteria that will eat the "bad biomat" that has decided to take up residence in and destroy or leach-field.  

Needless to say, we order our kits, schedule our septic pumping and order our gazillion dollars worth of new "special"products, and I am now thinking that we are probably not far off from the $50,000 mark anyway.  We are ready to rumble . . . 

All of my products come in (in a very timely manner I might add) and Eldest Cherub and I get to work.  We proceed to complete step 1 of our new project in lightening quick speed.  We wait the allotted 3 hour time slot and on to step 2.  Now we just have to remember that in 5 days we need to flush the special solution down the toilet furthest from our septic system and then in another 7 days, we need to repeat step 2.  After all this, we will magically have a brand new system.

Then I read the fine print.  "This procedure will take a minimum of 30 days to work.  If your system is more than 10 years old, it will probably take a minimum of 60.  We recommend NO water use during this timeframe if possible.  If this is not possible, use minimal, limited water."
"WHAT?!"  I think we may need to move for 2 months.  

When Mr. P gets home, I attack him on his way in the door.  
"Did you know we can't use our water for 60 days?"
"Yeah, the guy told me that on the phone . . ."
"And you didn't think to mention it to me?"
"What would be the point?  We can't use it, it would've freaked you out, you would have started to complain much sooner than now, and we really can't afford the 5 star hotel I know you are considering booking to stay in for the next 2 months.  It says we can use minimal water.  We'll just have to limit showers, eat off paper, only flush when necessary, and find a laundromat."
"OH, is THAT ALL!  I'm so sorry, I thought we'd be REALLY inconvenienced . . . "
And so it went, for the next couple of hours.  Mr. P telling me that it would be another adventure.  Me complaining that I feel like a Pilgrim.  But, so be it.  We will do what we have to do.  

So this is how we have spent our last few weeks.  We eat off paper with plastic utensils.  We take 5 minute showers (and Mr. P has become an expert at timing us).  I have become accustomed to finding full toilets and have made quite a few interesting friends from my weekly ventures to the laundromat. 

Yesterday, Mr. P and eldest cherub dug up some of the yard around the leach-field because it still looked like we were getting pooling.  Much to our surprise and JOY, the sand was Dry.  Yes, DRY!  Hooray!  The pooling was just on top, from all the rain.  

So it was a big exciting day.  In my sheer pleasure of having our little experiment work so quickly, I happily danced from room to room collecting laundry to wash in the convenience of my own home, on my own time.  In went load #1.  When it was done, in went load #2.  How happy I was.  I was going to get laundry done.  Life was good.  

And then . . . I went to switch load #2 to the dryer and guess what.  Load #1 was still wet.  WET - it had been in the dryer for an hour.  Did I start the dryer?  Did I run it on the right setting?  Shoot, I would have to run it again.  So I diligently checked all the settings and made sure to hit START.  A FULL HOUR later, in I went to put load #2 in and load #1 was STILL WET.  And the dryer was cold.  Apparently, our heating element is now gone.  I am now off to the laundromat to rewash my washed clothes.  I guess it's true, They just don't make them like they used to.  

To Be Continued . . . 


Thinkinfyou said...

Sewage problems are the worst! I know the exact way you're feeling. Fixing one thing always means something else will break. I feel for ya!

Pretty Personal Gifts said...

What a nightmare! So sorry!

Tickled Pink And Green said...

OMG, what a nightmare....

Miss Janice said...

You definitely had a nightmare. During this economy, a lot of people are saying that home ownership is overrated...hmmmmmm.

Chris said...

How terrible!

I sure hope that it all is fixed soon.

The day I went in the basement and found out sewer backed up and later found that they'd have to jackhammer up the basement floor AND dig up most of the backyard... well, I feel your pain. Our bill was only $8000 though, which seemed a lot to me until I read your post!

Shop for a Cure said...

Ah, I tracked you down! Count this towards my detective's badge! :) You won our drawing a few days email must have went into your spam folder. I need your mailing address.

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preppyinnewengland said...

HI! Living here in New England and just found your blog. OMG...the septic story is unbelieveable!

the Preppy Princess said...

Oh my goodness, this is one of the worst home horror stories I have ever heard, am so sorry you have to cope with this!

I'm sending good thoughts and hugs your way, hopefully things will get better. :)