Avalanche Questions and Answers


Q:             How many tank lids should I have?

A:             If you have an elevated sand mound septic, you will have a minimum of two lids; one for the solids compartment and one for the pump compartment.  If your home was built after the year 2000, you will possibly have three total lids; two solids compartments, each having a lid, and one pumping compartment with a lid. If you have an in-ground gravity system and it was constructed before the year 2000, it will most likely have one lid, and after the year 2000 it most likely will have two lids.

Q:             How does my system work with an elevated sand mound?

A:             The sewage water leaves the home by way of gravity in most installations and enters a solids compartment that is called a septic tank.  Bacteria break down the solids into a substance called sludge that collects in the bottom of the septic tank.  Effluent water exits this tank and is filtered via baffles, and moved by gravity to a pump tank in most installations. When enough water collects in the pump tank, a float switch activates and turns on a pump that moves the water into the upper portion of a sand bed and is sprayed thru small holes into a bed of gravel that is above the sand. The water, again by gravity, seeps thru the sand and into the soil below the sand.

Q:             What is the purpose of a PSMA inspection?

A:            A PSMA inspection is a thorough inspection of all components that make up an on-site septic system and is completed consistently, applying methods that have been developed by an organization called Pennsylvania Septic Management Association to ensure that all components are functioning properly at the time of the inspection.

Q:            How do I determine my tank size?

A:            The simplest way to determine tank size is by the number of bedrooms a home has. The state code requires a minimum of 1000 gallons; this will service up to a three bedroom home. For each additional bedroom, the code requires 250 additional gallons.  This method applies 85% of the time, depending on the age of the home and if the home had addictions built.

For example, a six-bedroom home that was built to code may have a 1750 gallon tank; 1000 gallons for the first three bedrooms and 750 gallons for the second three bedrooms, based on 250 gallons for each additional bedroom.

Q:           What causes sewer backups?

A:            The most common cause of a sewer backup is a foreign object flushed down the drain. Second is lack of maintenance. Third most common would only apply to elevated sand mounds or a system that utilizes a pump: when a mechanical device like a pump fails to turn on, this causes sewage to back up into the piping, thus causing a sewer line back up. There are many other reasons this could happen, as well, but these are the most common.

Q:            What is a jetting?

A:            A sewer jet is a piece of equipment that pressurizes water into a line that has a nozzle attached; this nozzle spays 80% of the water in a reverse direction to propel the nozzle into a sewer line. Any foreign objects are expelled backward out of the pipe. We use this process to clean pipes in drainage beds, sand mounds, and clogged sewer lines.

Q:            Why do you need a riser package?

A:            A riser package extends the tank opening to grade for access to perform normal maintenance and also to allow quick access in the event of an emergency backup.  It’s not uncommon to find tanks buried as deep as 4 feet in the ground; in these cases, it is highly advised to install risers.  New building codes require all tank lids to be 12 inches or less from grade.

Q:            How does my alarm work, and what might be wrong if it goes off?

A:            An alarm sounding usually means high water in your pump tank.  A high water alarm is a float attached to a wire in your pump tank; it sends a signal to a panel that activates a light and a horn to let someone know that there is a high water level and service is needed immediately.  Immediately in this case means soon (by the next day), so don’t panic if it goes off during the night; just limit water usage and call us in the morning.