Got Estimate For Septic System...$$$$

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Oldgator73

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We were quoted $12,000 for a septic system for our cabin in Virginia. We already paid $9,000 for electric to be installed which hasn’t happened yet). I’m almost to the point of buying either a composting or incinerator toilet and letting the grey water run into the garden.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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That's actually not a bad price, especially if it's difficult terrain for digging or creating the leach field. On the other hand, you can make a simple one yourself. Something as simple as a 55 gallon drum and 20 ft of perforated drain pipe works if the water volume is modest and the soil drains well. And you have that front-loader tractor now, right? I've helped build a couple for mountain cabins and hunting camps in NY, but those were all in sandy soil. Clay is a whole nother ballpark!

Lots of info online.
 
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Oldgator73

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We are looking for some simple solutions. Maybe an incinerator toilet and just have the grey water run into a pit with sand and rock as a filter.
 

UTTransplant

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What is the percolation rate for your land? A perc test is usually required for land that will be built on as part of the sale. If it is really good, a simple DIY solution wouldn’t be too hard. Rock, clay, etc is, as Gary said, an entirely different situation.
 

Mark_K5LXP

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The cash value expense isn't the only thing to look at. Depending on the potential change in property valuation you might be able to leverage that equity to do improvements while you're living there, and there might be a return at time of sale.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 
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Oldgator73

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The cash value expense isn't the only thing to look at. Depending on the potential change in property valuation you might be able to leverage that equity to do improvements while you're living there, and there might be a return at time of sale.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
Yeah, equity and property valuation is not a concern. I am 70 and will most likely live out my life on that property. The house we are in now will go to our daughter and the other property will be our sons. He already lives there off grid.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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A dry well for gray water is really no different than a simple septic - I have one for the outside laundry room at my stick house (it's grandfathered in - couldn't legally do that now).

A small septic always has a settling tank, but a dry well may or may not have a holding tank. The drain field is the same either way. A 50 gallon tank and 20 ft of drain pipe is ok for two people and very light use, i.e. no clothes or dish washer and easy on the showers. 100-200 gal is much better, though. Two or three 50 gallon drums (plastic or metal) in a daisy chain is simple enough. So is two or three 20 ft drain pipes in parallel (a simple Y connector if just two pipes).
 

jymbee

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That's actually not a bad price, especially if it's difficult terrain for digging or creating the leach field. On the other hand, you can make a simple one yourself. Something as simple as a 55 gallon drum and 20 ft of perforated drain pipe works if the water volume is modest and the soil drains well. And you have that front-loader tractor now, right? I've helped build a couple for mountain cabins and hunting camps in NY, but those were all in sandy soil. Clay is a whole nother ballpark!

Lots of info online.
Where you live is a big consideration of course. From that article:
Property owners planning a system similar to this one should be aware that this system would not pass inspections from any public health department in the USA and could subject the owner to a fine if the system was discovered in use
I built my own septic system about 25 years ago. Fortunately before things here in the NYC watershed got crazy. I needed to run over 200' with 2 cleanouts along the way down to a distribution box with 4 laterals.

Folks building around here these days would be all over any contractor who could install a system for 9 grand. I've seen prices for $20k and up.

In the "old days" like when my father built his cabin, it was just Orangeburg pipe run into a cesspool lined with creosote planks and built up with rocks. No leach field. My how things have change...

But given how rural we are here there's definitely many who build drum & pipe systems like you mentioned wagering that the chances of them getting busted are slim.
 

IBTripping

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Much of Virginia has clay soil which percolates slowly. So, a perc test would help you in deciding what will work best for you. Best wishes.
 

TheBar

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Another alternative is an aerobic treatment unit. They may not be legal everywhere. Supposedly you can drink the clear water which comes out but I just couldn't bring myself to do it :( My house is on top of a ridge with almost no level land for percolation. 12 years ago my best option was a treatment unit. The installer said if we ever smell sewage put a chlorine tablet in the dispenser but after 12 years there has been no smell.

Basically it uses a quiet air pump which is the same one used for Coy fish ponds and uses 60w of electricity. So it adds a little electric cost for the pump. The oxygen causes a natural process of safe bacterial growth which eats the grease/solids/TP so it may never need to be pumped. My in-laws have had one for 20 years and never needed it pumped. And I haven't after 12 years. So that eliminates $400 to get a honey wagon to pump it out every 5 years or so.

The only maintenance is twice a year I have to wash out the filter on the air pump. My air pump diaphragm failed after 9 years. The rebuild kit was $35 and only took 30 minutes and was very simple. A new pump was about $100.

It cost $3,000 total for the tanks, excavation, and the PVC pipes connecting it to the house and pump. Mine is rated for a family of 4. About 1/2 the price of a conventional septic with a drain field. I could have elected to have the waste water sprayed out on the lawn but that would have more than doubled the price. Instead the water drains downhill and disappears into the soil within about 20 feet. The grass grows really green there so nobody knows there is any discharge from the tank :)
 

Oldgator73

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Just looked up aerobic systems. The article indicated they could cost twice as much as a conventional septic system.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Maybe The Bar could identify what make of system he has. Aerobic systems are typically industrial size, but I've never researched them in depth.

One campground I worked in (in Maine) had rocky, clay soil, so the septic drain field was built above ground, basically a 4 ft deep pile of good soil about 20x60 ft in size. The drain pipes were near the top surface and the effluent was pumped up into it. The grass on top grew like crazy! The entire RV park was lower than the septic, so the all the RV sites drained to lift stations which then pumped to the septic, sometimes from 400 yards away. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about sewer system in that job!
 

Oldgator73

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In the estimate we got there is a stipulation that if they hit rock there is an additional $250 hr labor. Our system will have pump installed.
 

Lou Schneider

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We installed an aerobic system in the house we built on Marrowstone Island near Port Townsend, WA 15 years ago. It was a conventional two chamber septic tank that fed clear water to a third chamber. The third tank had a submersible sump pump inside a baffle made from a cut down plastic trash barrel and pumped the effluent twice a day to the leach field about 10 ft. uphill.

The aerobic system was in the second chamber and was simply a small air pump feeding a perforated hose acting like an aquarium bubbler. There was a fluorescent UV light between the second and third tanks.

As part of the building permit we had to contract with an environmental monitoring company to come and inspect our septic system for proper functioning once a year. The inspection cost about $300 and never found any problems.
 
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TheBar

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Maybe The Bar could identify what make of system he has.
My system is an Aqua Aire AA500 which is their lowest cost. Some aerobic plants have multiple tanks with lots of plumbing between them, some have one tank with internal dividing walls (like mine). So only one hole to excavate. If codes require you to pump the effluent uphill to a drain field or an on-demand surface spray the cost will double or triple and be more problematic. Mine has one working part, the air pump. It drains out on open ground so it is about as simple as it gets.
Aqua Aire
 

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