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Discussion Starter #1
Just wondering if anybody out there has any ideas on how to unfreeze a septic system. I have access to the pipe going to the tank and as far as I can tell there isn’t any ice in there.
 

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What part of the system do you think is frozen? What makes you believe it is frozen vs. plugged or full?

You have access to the line out of the house or to the tank, both?
 

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This was one of my fears when we had the recent 14 days with below zero temps. Thankfully we had a 3” or so blanket of snow on the ground.

Pump? His looks exactly like mine - all gravity from the house to the tank to the drain field.

Sorry I can’t be of any help. Will be following along in case this ever happens to me......
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I don’t have access to the tank from top. The ground is frozen. I don’t have a pump. It’s just a big tank with a leach field. Problem is, I just don’t know where it’s frozen in that the pipe seems to have all water in it. I just had the tank pumped this summer so everything checked out then. And I don’t think it’s clogged because it’s just been me here and I haven’t put anything strange down there. This has happened before. It usually doesn’t happen this early but it’s been so cold and we don’t have any snow here in central Wisconsin. I was thinking about maybe trying a couple gallons of RV anti freeze but that might not be too good for the system.
 

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Have you had any snow on the ground? If so, the ground might not be as frozen as you think.

If it were me I would try to get at the tank lid with my loader with tooth bar. My lid is only around 12” below grade. If you could see in the tank it might give you a clue where the problem is.

This is making me think harder about putting one of those tank lid risiers on my tank so I wouldn’t have to dig for access to the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I have been thinking about doing precisely that. My cousin, just a couple miles away, did that this summer. I’m definitely going to go over and copy his handiwork.
It’s been kind a warm here the last couple of days. I’m gonna run out and see if I can get at that lid.
 

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This is making me think harder about putting one of those tank lid risiers on my tank so I wouldn’t have to dig for access to the tank.
Same here. Have to dig down around 14". I can't install an above-ground riser because the access hole is in the middle of our parking area and I can't use a commercial riser kit because none of them will fit. But... I lucked out during clean-up day this year and the Township was throwing away some small sections of 16" double-walled black culvert pipe (I tried to buy some once and it only comes in 20-foot lengths). So I scored a 18" piece that I am going to cut down to create my own riser. I'm going to purchase a square of 3/16" steel plate to use as a lid and I'll weld on a handle. I figure I can keep it about 3-4 inches under the gravel which will be a piece of cake to dig up when needed. It will sure beat digging a 14" hole.
 

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I don’t have access to the tank from top. The ground is frozen. I don’t have a pump. It’s just a big tank with a leach field. Problem is, I just don’t know where it’s frozen in that the pipe seems to have all water in it. I just had the tank pumped this summer so everything checked out then. And I don’t think it’s clogged because it’s just been me here and I haven’t put anything strange down there. This has happened before. It usually doesn’t happen this early but it’s been so cold and we don’t have any snow here in central Wisconsin. I was thinking about maybe trying a couple gallons of RV anti freeze but that might not be too good for the system.
RV antifreeze wouldn’t be my first choice to try and thaw it, I’d try hot water or maybe some de-icing chemicals like calcium or magnesium chloride.

I’d not worry that any of them would harm the physical components of the system, they’re not corrosive or detrimental to plastic, Concrete, etc. as far as them being chemicals you wouldn’t normally use in a septic, yes but think of the cleaning solutions, laundry (bleach), showering soaps, etc that get washed down there. If none of these do any harm to the supposed digestive enzymes in the tank that are supposed to process the waste I can’t see how anything to de-ice the line would.

In the future if there is a long cold spell predicted and you have no or minimal snow cover for insulation I’d think seriously about getting an insulating blanket or bales of loose straw and a tarp to place over your tank or the field-whichever is actually freezing to protect them from freezing up.
 

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Here is something else I've been meaning to get:

https://www.amazon.com/Depstech-Semi-rigid-Inspection-Megapixels-Waterproof/dp/B06WRNGYXY/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1515681810&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=endoscope&psc=1

With an endoscope you can go in through the clean out and see what is going on. They come in different lengths and some are waterproof.

Being able to actually see what is going on would be a huge help. If you find that in fact you do have a frozen section I would start a fire above it. Heat is the only thing that is going to help a frozen septic line.
 

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I just dug mine up by hand, because I wasn't sure about it's location and didn't want to damage anything with a backhoe. We had snow coverage and the ground was pretty soft. I had to use a pick axe in a few places, but after that it wasn't bad. I had a couple of big rocks to drag out with the Jeep. Mine was about 4 feet down. :dunno: On most tanks there is 2 covers, one smaller one in the front then a larger one about 3 feet back. We had quite a time getting the cover off. We used a pry bar in a corner and kept hitting it with another bar, being careful not to break it.

I, like you, had grey water backing up, which tells me there is an issue with the leach field. It's probably not large enough by today's standards or has some obstruction. This was the first time it's happened to me. I'm sure it was because we put a lot of water into the system within a short time from showers, baths and laundry. I decided to have it pumped. It has never been done that I'm aware of. The guy that pumped it had a great idea about putting a barrel over the cover. I cut the bottom out of an old one I had, put the lid on it, and buried it so if I need to get at it again, I won't have to dig 4 feet.

I'd gain access to the bigger cover and call in someone in the business. My guy was very helpful. They can inspect the baffles, scope it, check flow, etc and make sure it is working okay.

Good luck, let us know how you make out.
 

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I have seen this and experienced this myself on a new home we built that didn't have anything in the tank yet to "warm" up the system. First before you try to dig up the cover, open your clean out and get a snake in there and see if there is a blockage. Get a good light and see if you can see anything like ICE in the line. That five gallon bucket may not do the trick,, be warned before you take the cleanout off! I don't want to go into what we did to get the ice out of the line which was my problem from a condensate furnace in this thread but you can link to my posts and read what I stated to do. It will work if it's ice but you will need a lot of hot water to take care of it and a submersible sump pump.. Then get some hay or straw as mentioned and cover your line and use enough so the frost doesn't drive anymore. The ground temp will get rid of the ice around your pipe eventually. Adding RV antifreeze will not do the trick unless you have a year to wait! Even road salt mixed with hot water may help but It will also take some time to work.. Don't worry about putting chemicals in the system, this is an emergency! Get the tank pumped in the spring so the enzymes can live in the tank.
It's been said, before winter put straw or hay down over the pipe and cover with a tarp so the hay doesn't fly away! Good luck and I feel your pain.. Jeff :hi:
 

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Don't Flame Me here..... Rescue 911? Alcohol? Vodka? Crown Royal?
 

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You might talk to one of the local funeral homes or cemeteries. They might have some “heated blankets” they use to for digging graves that would work to thaw it.

In talking to them they might know of.someone else who has had this problem and they might have a better solution.

CP, you can probably take the rest of the week off. This one is going to be hard on the sandwich thread.
 

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You might talk to one of the local funeral homes or cemeteries. They might have some “heated blankets” they use to for digging graves that would work to thaw it.

I talking to them they might know of.someone else who has had this problem and they might have a better solution.

CP, you can probably take the rest of the week off. This one is going to be hard on the sandwich thread.

Even commercial concrete masons will have heating blankets....

CP, you can probably take the rest of the week off. This one is going to be hard on the sandwich thread

:lolol:
 

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CP, you can probably take the rest of the week off. This one is going to be hard on the sandwich thread.

I may have to just to follow this thread. I can't say I've ever heard of a septic freezing.:unknown:
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Well I got about a foot down. It’s just too darn frozen. And besides, I don’t know if it’s really going to help anyway.
After reading all of your comments this is my theory: My leach bed is probably not in the best shape. The part that does still function most likely freezes and doesn’t drain.
Next year I’ll have access to the tank to verify this.
For now (i’ve been through this before), I have a 5 gallon bucket under the kitchen sink. The other bucket hanging from the cleanout trap services the bathroom which has a toilet, sink and a shower. It’s not that bad with just me here but in a few weeks my wife will be here along with my niece and her family. That’s going to be interesting. And if you’re wondering how smelly it gets, it really isn’t bad at all.
 

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I may have to just to follow this thread. I can't say I've ever heard of a septic freezing.:unknown:
That’s why I am paying attention. I am almost positive the line between my house and the tank - at least part of it - isn’t below the frost line.
 
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