Yum Hey What's for Dinner Mom?: The Failing Septic: A Geek Tragedy


The Failing Septic: A Geek Tragedy

The last 10 days have been spent in heart attack mode. I went to work in my studio and stepped off the bottom step into a puddle. Now the puddle was only water from the washing machine, nothing nasty or gross, just bubbles. I've lived in this old house long enough to know that occasionally the washing machine will do this to you, especially when you least expect it or need it. It serves as a reminder and cleanser in one--don't leave things you love on the floor and if you do you'll be getting rid of them soon.

Now usually the the water just sucks right down and we're fine or we need a pump out because I never remember to get it done until it's. time. right. now. But NOOOO the water just stood there, mocking me, refusing to go away so I could do things I wanted to do, like anything else at this point. It eventually trickled away.

I called my husband and let him know, I was met with silence, which means nasty words I shouldn't repeat. You see we'd just had the septic pumped so the only other alternative to the water in the basement problem, snake. ARRRGHGHGH. Just the way NO ONE EVER WANTS TO SPEND THEIR WEEKEND, what a perfect Friday night.

So the snake was rented and it didn't fix it.

So we called the drain cleaner and for 140 bucks they "took care of it"

Which was a lie because within 72 hours we had water in the basement AGAIN. I tried to play it off like a fluke, but no it kept happening. DAMN.

And in the midst of all the chaos our furnace went out, all four zone valve brains fried out. It had been 25 below, luckily it warmed up and we didn't freeze. The furnace is fixed and will be fixed better soon.

But we still had water in the basement, which still sucked and seemed like an eternity of not washing every dish so we don't flood the basement. No taking a long shower, it was get in with cold water, get out as the hot water hits because godforbid you don't want to be the jerk who floods the basement.

Now along about now I decide our septic is failing because we pumped and it flooded. We snaked and it flooded. We professionally snaked and it flooded. THE ONLY POSSIBLE THING LEFT IS WE HAVE A FAILING SEPTIC. To be sure I had to know if the line could still possibly be blocked?

I called the drain cleaners back and asked them, nay told them, to "please come back I don't think you fixed it and I need to be sure you fixed it." To which their receptionist said "sure for 140 bucks..."At which point I relayed some vile mutterings and said "seriously? No I'll call someone who'll stand behind their work." 20 minutes later the owner called me and said his boys would be right out. When they got here the kid who came last time told my husband they never snaked to the tank but this time they did.(yeah I'm all over this on Angies List!!) Long story short, they did it properly this time and we don't have a failing septic just a house with very old, cruddy pipes.

Cheer! Rejoice! The angels of cleanliness are singing in my house! For the first time in 10 days we have clean laundry, clean dishes, clean children and no soapy water in the basement.

So what does anybody know about greywater recycling? During my "the septic is failing" mode I started thinking seriously about reusing the washing machine water for toilet water or lawn water. It can cut water consumption up to 20,000 gallons per year. Oh! I really need to do more research and find out all I can.

Some of the things I need to do find out:

is it legal in Alaska? can I use my wash water on the lawn? does anyone even care?

is it feasible in Alaska?

are there any plumbers (MY SON??) who work on or install greywater recycling units?

what will the best soaps for our family to use?

So much to think about, you know, now that the septic ISN'T failing and my brain can function, mostly.

Peace and Love--



  1. An Alaska tragedy is more like it, is there something in the air? We had a very similar situation last week, although ours turned out to be a drain pipe that has moved due to frozen ground and doesn't align exactly as it should...talk about panic!! Ours is working well again after many prayers for help. I'm glad yours is working well too, isn't it wonderful?

  2. We have the last remaining septic system on our block, maybe in the whole of our city! It failing is my biggest fear. So glad to hear it was a pipe problems & not septic!

  3. Did you say 25 below? I'm a baby if it gets below 45 here in San Francisco.

    Septic systems remind me of home in Connecticut. Good times.

    You going to Seattle? This is *Amanda* by the way...

  4. oh *AMANDA* :) yes I did say 25 BELOW zero...effing cold... Seattle is a maybe--sounds good but it's also growing season so it's hard to leave


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