The Think Tank Septic Forum     Septic System Survival Strategies

septic-design test#1  Question: Where is the best place for a septic system in the photo below, 1, 2, 3 or 4?

A Good Designer Must Understand the Site: The Key to good septic design is not just understanding drainage, but it helps a lot.

In the photo to the right, natural erosion and deposition of soil has created characteristic patterns with good and bad soil areas. Can you spot the best places for septic?

The Answer: If you guessed #1, the area left of center, good for you. This is a deposit of deep coarse to medium sand and an excellent area for septic systems. The sand was deposited by an ancient flood that flowed from right to left. Stay back 100 Ft from the waters edge to the extreme left though. On the right side of the picture, #4, deep sand deposits flowed into the scoured flood channels as the waters receded following the great flood. This is another great place for septic due to the deep sand.

Poor Soil Means Poor Septic Performance: The center of the photo is solid rock, #3 with no soil deeper than a few inches, and land-locked evaporative lakes, a delicate environmental area as well, and a perfect 10 as a difficult septic design site.

Farmland is OK: The farmland, #2 near the top of the photo is already taken, but septic systems could be fit in here quite safely, but with more restriction and with more expensive designs. Farm drains, canals and their easements are everywhere. Dark circles and squares are the irrigated fields. The houses show up as tiny white dots. This USGS image is of the historic Ancient Lakes in the vast Quincy Basin of central Washington State. This area is a monumental remnant of the colossal Missoula Floods of the last Ice Age. I personally would never like to see this area "marted" and paved over due to its historic importance, and I hope it will always remain unspoiled and a great example of drainage.

How About No Septic: If you said none of the places above, shame on you. Septic systems are a compatible solution to wastewater treatment and nationally serve a third of all of our homes. If good septic design is used, better treatment is provided than most municipal treatment plants. Septic systems avoid point loads and spillage that often characterize outdated municipal sewage treatment plants. The often outdated design and poor performance of these plants is a well kept secret by towns and cities that often can not afford necessary upgrades and live in denial.

What Type of Septic Design is Best?: Not every septic design gets built as it was designed. If the septic designer is not working closely with and talking a lot with the contractor who will build a septic system, the resulting construction will not likely have the best performance and may not survive for a long time. These types of systems can become quite expensive to both build and maintain because they usually contain too many peoples ideas and lots of compromises.

How to be the Best Designer: A good septic designer or engineer will always communicate with the excavator using clear, clean drawings that contain every imaginable detail and lave nothing to the imagination, or chance. In the photo above there is a lot going on during construction of this community drainfield for a new resort housing complex. Parts and tools are laid out so that everything is at hand and not in any-one else's way. The track hoe is removing excess dirt to the dump truck and will next continue to place excavated dirt on the up-slope drainfield to the right. The shovel-man has been constantly checking the grade with the laser level and has the grade pole nearby. The other man in the trench is gluing the manifolds and transport lines. The pre-drilled one-inch diameter laterals can be seen on the ground about to be strapped to the underside of the vaults with nylon quick-ties. You can see galvanized chicken wire laid under the vaults to prevent gophers from using the vaults to hide their extra dirt before the system is charged with sewage effluent.

Where is the designer?: Some designers rarely visit the construction site and leave many details to chance. These designers rarely receive feedback from the excavators about their designs and often have no idea that many of their carefully drawn details are not being followed or simply do not work. Because they spend most of their time at the computer, they have no idea how the jobsite is coordinated or how to improve their drawings and designs to help the other contractors on the site.

Septic design is a lot more than just design, but it always starts with drawings. The best designers are around the construction and they always have the best drawings with workable details. Just ask any contractor. The designer in this project was taking the picture.

Design Details: The septic designs advertised on this page are battle-tested and up-to-date. The world of septic design is changing almost as fast as computers, although most people are unaware of this. Although every health department has their own rules and regulations, and lots of them, standard graphics for septic systems have not been available in the past. Great new technology is driving the industry, and local health departments can not control the rapid changes. If a health office insists on resisting change and doing things in an old fashioned way, public health is not served. Innovative technology can save money and time as it usually does.

Last Revised: 01/01/2006
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