Since the Environmental Protection Department couldn’t find any records on file about our septic system, we had to have a 2′ x 2′ section of the tank uncovered for their inspection before we could get a Building Permit. They want to be sure we’re not using an old fridge or freezer–or as some “tanks” they’ve found, a tarp-lined hole.  Blech!  

A tank needs to be pumped about every five years.  We’ve lived here for four years and the man before us lived here for three and didn’t know when it was last pumped.  So we figured it was high time. 

The guys from Blevins arrived bright and early.  The first order of business was to find the tank.  We told them where we thought it was.  The young guy rammed his rebar tool into the ground and hit pay dirt–I mean concrete.

The older man driving the little track-hoe was so good that he barely left a mark on the wet ground when the job was all done.  He said he waited years for his turn at the track-hoe; first Mr. Blevins, Sr. drove it, then his son, and now it’s this guy’s turn.  He agreed with my guess that it’s the best part of his job!

With the finesse of a surgeon, he scraped dirt away from the  tank lid.

Then they attached chains to the track-hoe, hooked them on to special rings set into the septic tank lid, and lifted off the lid.  

I backed away!  The guy in charge was eager to explain everything, though, so I eventually moved in closer to see.  I took plenty of photos, too.  

To show you any more photos, however, would be “TMI” (as my youngest sister would say.  Actually, she would certainly say, “Too late!”)

There were a few “bobbles” with the suction on the hose, but everything went quite smoothly until they got to the bottom.  What the men euphemistically referred to as “sludge” on the bottom of the tank indicated that this elderly tank had not been pumped in many a long year!

So out came the invention of the older man .  He saw a $1500 tool like this in a trade catalog and told his boss he was sure he could make one.  He got a metal pipe and a boat propeller and connected them to what sounds like a chain saw.  With water being squirted in, it basically acts like a soup blender–and I’ll stop there.  TMI again!

These guys take pride in their work, and they are amazingly cheerful.  Their work has its humorous side, and they enjoy it.  

Right after they lifted the lid off, I moved in close to see what the older man was showing me, and I ended up straddling the green pipe.  Out of sight back at the truck, the younger man turned on the air suction to the hose, just as I was thinking “Thar she blows!”–and a loud sucking sound erupted between my feet.  I erupted backwards into the air with a shriek, and they had a good laugh!

I took their word for it that the truck has a transparent window on the tank so they can tell when it’s full.  Apparently we were the last load of the morning, then they were heading off to the local sewage treatment plant to empty their tank.  In fact, I learned that a septic tank IS a miniature sewage treatment plant.  I learned a lot today!  Of course, most of it can’t be discussed in polite company!

This all took about an hour and a half, and the environmental inspector turned up right on time at 10 a.m.  He glanced into the clean (well, by septic standards) tank, said, “It’s fine” and prepared to leave.  Shocked, I asked, “Is that all?”  And it was.  He said his report would be ready in the afternoon.

Herb came out right after he left–that’s how quick it all happened.  “What did he say?” he asked.  I replied, “He said the tank is too old, and we have to replace it with a new one.  It’s going to cost $5000.”  As I said this, I winked at the guys, and they played right along, commiserating with Herb.  As he sighed, we all burst out laughing and gave him the good news.  Herb wasn’t surprised at my teasing him, but he was quite impressed at the two guys who never missed a beat.  I bet they’re good at Poker!

When I saw the work involved in digging the tank up and learnied it needed to be done every five years, I asked why no one had invented a lid with a port that would stick up above the soil for easy access without digging.  In fact, it turns out that someone has!  So we have one on order.  It’s not expensive, and it will certainly make pumping cheaper because of not needing to dig.  

Our tank was closed and neatly covered over with dirt by the track-hoe and a rake (to the chagrin of the younger guy who couldn’t see why they have to dig twice).  In a few days they’ll come back and install our new lid, and the port will hide under the bushes.

So this inspection that I have been dreading was such a non-event that it was almost funny!  I hope it’s a harbinger of things to come . . .