#283–Happiness is a new septic tank . . .

It all started last June when I had Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping come and pump out my septic tank. That is something I have done every five years or so. The good news, one of the young men doing the job said, is that it was easy to pump out. The bad news is that it’s collapsing on the uphill side. He said that the baffles were still working and that it could last 10 more years or totally collapse in 10 days. He recommended I do something about it. Hmm! Always something!

I had no idea what a new septic tank would cost. I went to Leasure Excavating and found out. It would be $9,500 and more if unforeseen problems occur. That was about twice what I thought it would cost. We signed a contract. And I pulled more money out of my inheritance. Then I waited. Quit using my walk-in tub because it takes a lot of water. And waited. Didn’t flush toilets every single time. And waited. Did laundry like once a month. Several months passed, and still I waited.

Every few weeks, I’d call Leasure Excavating and whine. I’d ask, how long do you think it’s going to be. The poor gal in the office, Christy, probably got really tired of hearing from me. She would commiserate and tell me that she would let her boss know that I called.

That’s how it went up through a few weeks ago when Carole, who rents my downstairs, had a plugged toilet. And we couldn’t unplug it with the plunger. My first thought was that the septic tank was failing. Of course, it was a Friday afternoon and no one was in the office at Leasure Excavating. I left a rather panicked message. Then I called my plumber who lives nearby. He was out, but when he got home, he called. He came and used a snake. He had it unplugged in less than five minutes. It was not the septic system. Whew! I felt as if I had dodged a bullet.

Before they got too far into the project, Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping came and emptied the old tank.

Maybe my panicked call moved me up on the list at Leasure Excavating. I don’t know. I do know that last Monday, instead of me calling to whine, Christy called me and said that they could probably put my septic tank in this week. I couldn’t believe it and had her repeat the message two more times.

Within an hour, there was a knock on the door. The fellow said that they wanted to check things out. I thought a walk around would be what they would do, but the large piece of equipment on a trailer parked in front of my house should have been a clue.

Within an hour, the piece of equipment that was on caterpillar tracks and was the kind where the cab and arm that had a claw attachment could turn all the way around without moving the tracks. It had plowed through my rugosa roses that I had already decided to replace because the deer had discovered them. Two plants had died and the others were no longer in good shape. They were no great loss, but the machine did a real number on my gravel area.

Before they really got started, Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping came and pumped out the old tank. I was told that we could use water in the house up until the actual connection. That would take half hour to an hour and they would let us know when not to use any water.

The machine made quick work of removing the salal.

I had a great view of the whole project from the balcony off my bedroom. There was a crew of four. One ran the machine and the others were poking around with long skinny prods. The machine plowed through tall salal, pulling it out and piling it up. It is quite a bank there where the septic tank is located. They found my flexible drainpipe and cut it and moved that section out of the way. But the top of the drainpipe would drain right in the area where the machine was working.

By 3 p.m., all the salal was out and the machine was sitting on a slope of dirt. That was how they left things Monday. It rained that night.

A new septic tank appeared in the lot next door on Tuesday morning.

The next morning, I asked how it was going. The guy running the machine said it was scary working on such a slope, and one of the others, said he dreamed of lots of water gushing out of the drainpipe creating problems. Fortunately, there wasn’t enough rain for that to happen.  

Looking for the distribution box.

Tuesday would be the big day. A brand-new septic tank had appeared in the lot next door. The hole would be dug and the septic tank installed before the day was over, they assured me.

Each time I took a peek, the hole got bigger and bigger. I asked how it was going and one fellow said that the old tank was going in the opposite direction of the drawing on the plans that they had. And they couldn’t find the distribution box. He was down in the hole with a shovel and clearly annoyed. He said that if they had put it in, there would be no problem!

The septic tankk makes its way across the gravel area in slow motion.

I kept my distance for awhile. Then the next time I took a peek, they were messing around at the far end of the hole. I asked if they had found what they were looking for, and they had. Whew!

Ever so gently, it was lowered into the hole.

Next thing I knew, the machine had traversed my gravel area and rugosas once again and came back carrying the septic tank, which was being guided with two fellows holding a rope. They moved very slowly, and it was exciting to watch. Then ever so gently, it was lowered into the hole and put precisely where they wanted it. Then they brought in this gigantic level. The younger, more nimble fellows handled the level and moved some dirt around. When they got it exactly the way they wanted it, they started hooking it up.

It’s settling in.

They brought in large, white pipe, which they cut to fit and fiddled around for awhile until they got everything just the way they wanted.

Now, they are in the hook-up phase.

I had to leave to run an errand in town. When I got back, the machine had a scoop where the claw had been and was filling in the hole around the septic tank.

Filling back in. Burying the septic tank.

The next day, they traded the machine they had been using for a smaller one. It also had cat tracks. It finished filling in around the tank and smoothing out the slope; the younger fellows smoothed out the gravel area. The gravel area looked better, but where there was gravel in the damaged areas, it is now more dirt than gravel. I may have to replace some gravel. The rugosas are gone, gone, but that’s okay. I will replace with three rhodies. Deer don’t normally eat rhodies.

Different, smaller machine finishing up moving and smoothing the dirt around.

The next day, one of the crew came out and spread some bales of straw on the slope to keep it from eroding with upcoming rains. Also, a county inspector came and left a tag. I received numerous emails from him. Apparently, it passed inspection! Thank goodness!

Bottom line: I have a new septic tank and can use my walk-in tub again. And I don’t have to worry about flushing toilets or doing the laundry. Happiness is a new septic tank.Woo! Hoo!

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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