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Old 10-27-2011, 03:55 PM
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plumbers opinion needed!

Investigating a lingering smell in company bathroom. Not sewage, but dampness, and almost sewage. Pop this cover off next to the toilet and im standing above some kind of cistern, or something broken.

There is standing water right under the hatch, and its more than 5 feet deep, and goes for about 2 foot in either direction under the hatch. Did not find bottom after extending entire broom handle down there.

Question, WTF is this? It CANT be by design, or maybe it can, I know next to nothing about plumbing except how to put in some copper lines and sinks and stuff



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Old 10-27-2011, 04:05 PM
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oh my god, just got off the phone with a commercial plumber. that area is most likely a holding tank for the toilet down pipe. Thats basically a hatch into a septic tank. Theres supposed to be a pump working on the bottom, but it seems like the pump has stopped.

This is disgusting.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:09 PM
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I think it's time to move but that's just me.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by davidmash View Post
I think it's time to move but that's just me.
Well, I just got off the phone with the landlord. There is no pump in there. Essentially, in this property, you are sitting on top of an open cistern, which you have to have pumped out periodically he says.

Over the top of it is a large concrete slab with a few cracks in it. Ive got a subletter renting a studio space complaining of smell, and no wonder, she is sitting on top of an open sewage tank.

I would consider moving, but this place is otherwise very useful and well priced. Would have appreciated him telling me about this though when I moved in, pretty gross. I assumed it was connected to city water and sewage
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:17 PM
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I would call your local building inspection department and see if that $hit is legal. Sounds like something out of the Middle Ages, and down right unsanitary.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:18 PM
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I would call your local building inspection department and see if that $hit is legal. Sounds like something out of the Middle Ages, and down right unsanitary.
It can't be, its a friggin major health hazard. This is how people get dysentery
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:27 PM
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Get in touch with the Public Health people in your city. Sewage is supposed to be carried away from your building, not stored in it. Solids are supposed to build up in the septic tank and pumped out every few years, that is acceptable, but that germmy $hit is supposed to be deep underground and away from people. I am suspecting that is the thing you see is the actual "septic tank" in your system, it probably flows out to the leach field from there, there is no actual septic tank installed out on the property. That would violate codes that require the septic tank to be so many feet from the building at so many feet of depth. This kind of set up would be installed by someone who is willing to violate the codes so he doesn't have to go thru the excavation expenses of putting a tank out on the property, I bet the whole thing will get tagged and the owner will have to fix it. Do you actually see a pump-out for a septic tank out on the property that indicates where the supposed septic tank is?
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:32 PM
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It's simply a holding tank. The property may not 'perc' well enough to have a drainage field. I'm in Canada and remote cabins, etc are allowed to have holding tanks in extreme cases like rock. The holding tank should have a vent above the roof to allow sewer gas to escape. If the tank isn't overflowing and you have a smell, check that something isn't blocking the vent, top or bottom.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:33 PM
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I would put up no smoking signs just to be safe.

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Old 10-27-2011, 04:33 PM
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Get in touch with the Public Health people in your city. Sewage is supposed to be carried away from your building, not stored in it. Solids are supposed to build up in the septic tank and pumped out every few years, that is acceptable, but that germmy $hit supposed to be deep underground and away from people. I am suspecting that is the actual "septic tank" in your system, it probably flows out to the leach field from there, there is no actual septic tank installed out on the property. That would violate codes that require the septic tank to be so many feet from the house. This kind of set up would be installed by someone who is willing to violate the codes so he doesn't have to go thru the excavation expenses of putting a tank out on the property.
Ive got a plumber coming out to assess the situation. I haven't called the public health people yet, still deciding how I want to handle this. Ive got a 6 month very well priced lease, and it would be detrimental to my business to create a huge battle with the landlord at this paticular time, BUT, this is unsanitary and completely illegal/unacceptable.

He HAS to properly fix this and bring it up to code. Problem might be the age of the building, its 90+ years old and this might have been legal back then, but something has to be done immediately.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:34 PM
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In New England, if it doesn't perc well, you can't build. I suppose some things are grandfathered, is this an old building?

^ looks like you answered that, if it is 90 yrs old, it is probably legal.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Kyle Blackmore View Post
It's simply a holding tank. The property may not 'perc' well enough to have a drainage field. I'm in Canada and remote cabins, etc are allowed to have holding tanks in extreme cases like rock. The holding tank should have a vent above the roof to allow sewer gas to escape. If the tank isn't overflowing and you have a smell, check that something isn't blocking the vent, top or bottom.
I dont see a vent, but my biggest fear is that even if the holding tank location is legit, the concrete pad above it is disintegrating. next to that hatch is a big crack and about a 4 inch hole down into the tank. My subletter has an enormous crack in her studio floor and some other holes. I think her floor is the roof of the holding tank, and its falling apart
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:36 PM
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If you want to get kicked out of the place, call the city. If you don't, don't call. it's kind of weird to have a tank that large under the bathroom floor, but it's pretty routine to have a tank in the basement which gets regularly pumped up into a sewer line. Are there city sewers on the street? Any explanation as to why the tank is there? The smell could simply be the result of a plugged vent. Clean the vent and the smell might go away.

If you really want to find the bottom, jump down in there and dive deep.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:43 PM
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ok, just went through the subletters office room, and she has what looks like a 4 inch pipe fitting in one corner full of garbage. If this was the vent, it would make the holding tank about 15 feet long.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:47 PM
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Are you saying it was venting into an occupied space? If so, that is a definite no-no. It should be vented above the roof line.

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