A Shit Hole

Well, I got the water system working and have all the water I want. Now, I need a place to defecate. I have a toilet and gray water in the RV, but I needed a place to dump the waste from the RV and eventually our home. To keep the well water clean, I needed to build a septic system so that I don’t contaminate our water source. The septic tank needed to be at least 100’ away from the well to not contaminate it. I also wanted the septic tank to be downstream from the well. I didn’t want my shit to seep into the well, even from 100’.

I also wanted the septic tank to be below any structures that I built so that I wouldn’t need a pump to get the sewage to the septic tank and leach field. Amy made the drawing below and we ,submitted it with the application to Inyo County for the septic system. They approved it and it only cost $200.

Here’s the layout of the septic tank system and the driveways up the property. The area to the left of the septic system is where the RV will be placed, uphill from the buried septic tank.

Once we had the permit, the first thing to do was dig an 8′ deep hole that would make sure that we didn’t hit the water table. Some times of the year after big rains, the water table is about at ground level near the bottom of the property, but we were placing the septic tank at least 10′ uphill as shown in this survey.

Here’s the topography of the land in one foot increments. We didn’t have this when we submitted the application for the septic system, but we did know the basic layout of the land.

We called Cricket and he scraped the road out of the sage brush before he could dig the hole. This video shows that and a little more. One downer about this video is that it shows how thick the smoke was. We couldn’t even see the mountains for many days in September.

This video shows Cricket digging the test hole for the septic tank.

Cricket hit some hard sandstone at 7′ and he thought the inspector Jerry Oser would pass it anyway since we weren’t burying anything that deep. I called Jerry and he came out the next day to inspect it. He looked at it and said dig away. Cricket got right to work digging the land up to put in the septic tank and the leach field. It was all sand, so it was easy digging with the backhoe. We didn’t run into any boulders and the only challenge was getting it flat. Cricket had a laser that helped us dig to true.

I tried to borrow a trailer from Cricket to get my water tank and septic tank, but I wisely chose for them to deliver it from Inyo-Kern True Value Hardware. Instead of spending a day getting the stuff, they collected it all for me and delivered it. The 2,650 gallon water tank is on the back and the 1,250 gallon, green septic tank is in front of it. One extender blew off the truck on the way to the house. 4″ pipe is in the lower right side of the pic and would be used for connecting to the leach field.

With the tank at hand, Cricket dug the pit for the septic tank. Here’s a time elapse video of him placing the tank in the hole.

This was the second lowering of the septic tank into the hole. The tank didn’t fit well the first time, so Cricket dug it out some more.

With the tank in place, we had to dig out the leach field and place the pipes and infiltrators in the ground. An infiltrator is basically a plastic arch that is 54″ long. The infiltrators are arranged to form four thirty-foot-long chambers. The sewage flows into one end of the chamber and eventually flow down the length of the chamber. Based on our percolation test, they said we needed 120′ of infiltrators, so I bought four rows of 30′ of infiltrators. The drawing below shows how the sewage pours into each chamber on the left and flow 30′ to the right. I think that it will sink into the sand before flowing more than a few feet away. Thus, most of the leach field will not be used since it will sink into the sand after a few feet.

The water flowed in at the bottom of the green tank and then flowed out of the outlet and to the junction box. The junction box sends the sewage to the four lanes. I could have used one lane of 120′, but that would be a terrible design that would have passed inspection. The pipes had to be slightly downhill to let the sewage flow into the junction box and out into the leach field. The leach field consists of 120′ of infiltrators (not infiltratoes as in the drawing). The solid waste stays in the septic tank and can be pumped out every few years when the tank is full.
Here’s a picture when the leach field is half in place. The left side of the tank has extensions since the ground is on about a 10% grade. That means the left cap should be about 1′ taller than the downhill cap that is 10′ downhill from the lower cap.

Cricket stayed in the backhoe while I placed each 54″ infiltrator into the leach field. It was hot and dusty work, but I saved a lot of money doing it with Cricket. Cricket does a lot of work like this and knew what he was doing. I think it took us about 8 hours to run all the leach lines. It ended up looking like this at the end of the day after I hosed the dust off the lines.

Here’s another view of all 120′ of infiltrators.

We called Jerry and he came out and approved it with little inspection. Cricket backfilled the leach field with all the sand.

The cost of the septic system was something like this:

Septic tank – $1600

Infiltrators – $1,127

Septic tank lids – $94

Extension caps – $180

Junction Box – $89

PVC Pipe- $160

Miscellaneous and Delivery – $750

Labor – $1,000

Total – $5,000

It only took Cricket and I about 3 days to install the system and cover it up. It’s not bad for a modern-day shit hole.