Effluent Pump Service Call

An effluent pump is used to pump wastewater to a remote drainfield site in Virginia, which is where I live. A typical installation requires the use of a regular septic tank, then a separate pump tank. The wastewater travels from the building to the septic tank by gravity. When the effluent exits the septic tank, it goes into the pump tank where it is then pumped to the drainfield.

The effluent pump that I was called to check was improperly installed.

The tank that the pump is installed in requires a watertight riser that should be installed at ground level. This allows easy access to the pump and control switches. This particular installation used a water meter box and lid. They were installed so that they were not watertight, and surface water was flowing into the pump chamber. I had to dig this up and replace it. Also, pump access was impossible through this set up.

After I dug up the ground to access the pump, the electrical connections were made in the tank and underwater. No electrical connections are supposed to be made inside the pump chamber.

The original installation consisted of the proper wire being used from the house to the pump chamber, but once inside the tank, the previous technician took a regular household extension cord, cut about a foot of it off, and twisted the wires from the cord and the house together. He then taped the connection. He did not use wire nuts or shrink-fit type well pump connections specifically designed to be in water.

However, I have found in my area that even those type of connections do not last in effluent conditions.

Also, a quick disconnect for electrical connections is supposed to be installed within sight of the effluent pump chamber. This was also missing.

Upon further inspection, the pump was not properly piped in. Virginia requires the use of a check valve, a gate valve, and a union, which should be installed in the pump discharge line. This is to allow easy removal of the pump in case of trouble.

After the old pump was removed, I found it to be a regular sump pump, not one rated for effluent water.

This pump was installed in this manner to cut initial cost, or at least that is my perception.

To properly fix this, I spent two days worth of labor and many dollars worth of additional parts.

I also had to replace the high water level alarm that is located in the house with an audible alarm to alert the owners of a problem with the pump.

After I made the proper repairs, the effluent pump could easily be removed and replaced in about a half-hour. Also, I installed an electrical quick disconnect so that the owner can easily check the pump and control switches if future problems occur.

Please educate yourself on these types of installations before you have one done. Make sure it is installed to the standards set by your locality.

A little more initial expense upfront can save you a lot of money and headache in the future.

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