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View Full Version : Septic run off field...pasture?



Skyedragon
Jul. 28, 2012, 08:42 AM
I would really like to bring my horse home, and I am looking around the property planning out where to put up pastures. One spot that seems really appealing is about an acre on the side of my house that has a ton of shade and is weed free. I could see the horse from almost every window in the house which has a a huge appeal to me. However, this area is my septic run off field, and I am guessing that is why its the only spot that didn't die in our drought. :lol: Is it safe to graze a horse on that?

JB
Jul. 28, 2012, 08:48 AM
Safe to graze on? Sure.

Safe for the field to be walked on by large psi hoofs? Not really.

Calvincrowe
Jul. 28, 2012, 10:06 AM
In a word, no. As JB said, horses can eat it all the grass that grows there, but your septic field is not intended to be walked or driven on by heavy things. You might want to find out exactly how big the field really is, you may be able to use some of it. (there should be a map of where your tubes or whatever actually are, may be on file with your county).

Bacardi1
Jul. 28, 2012, 06:38 PM
Definitely & emphatically NO.

Sure there will be the usual group of people who will say they've been grazing their horses on their septic field for years & nothing has ever happened. Just like the non-helmet-wearing folk do.

But just take a drive down to your local health department & speak to folks in charge of zoning & inspecting septic fields, etc., & listen to their horror stories of allowing livestock on septic fields. Then see how you feel about it.

SLW
Jul. 28, 2012, 07:03 PM
Probably depends a little bit on your soil type and mine is clay in spite of the alleged topsoil put in over the lateral field. Some of my lateral lines are in a paddock and my horses have been grazing over it for 18 years. However, it's only two horses, only in two week spurts, it's only a small part of the larger turnout area and they never go out on it after a rain.

P.S. I always wear a helmet. :)

Bacardi1
Jul. 28, 2012, 07:25 PM
LOL!!!!!

Guilherme
Jul. 28, 2012, 08:30 PM
I've had a "drain field" under two day paddocks for years without issue.

What is the overburden on top of the drain field? If it's a good, hard clay they you should not have any issues. If it a softer soil then you'd probably best stay off it.

G.

msj
Jul. 29, 2012, 08:51 AM
Go price the replacement of your septic field and leach lines and then decide if you really want to consider it! When I bought my farm, the cost of a septic was about $20K. About 4 yrs ago a friend put one in for $35K. I know I can put $35K to better use.

Also, from what I gathered talking to the guys who do my work, you can't just dig up the old and put a new one in where the old one was, you need a new location and, of course, it can't be near your well.

Hippolyta
Jul. 29, 2012, 09:23 PM
We had our leech field inside a pasture, but horses were fenced out of it. (brighter green island fenced off- talk about grass being greener...)

From a soil & water management/septic perspective, bad news to let horse hooves chop it up.

Keep in mind that one acre looks pretty big right now, but it isn't that large from a pasture perspective. What a lot of ppl call a pasture is really a paddock. I don't like that most zoning laws do not consider this.

Here is info from U MN extension- scroll to "pasture size"

http://www.extension.org/pages/15643/planning-a-horse-pasture\

good luck!

Skyedragon
Jul. 30, 2012, 09:27 PM
So I take that as a big fat no to that idea. I guess I didn't relies that the run off field was so fragile. Really too bad, would have been an awesome spot.

Bacardi1
Jul. 30, 2012, 09:30 PM
Yup - take it as a big fat no. And count yourself lucky & intelligent enough to have asked about it first instead of going ahead & finding out the ugly later.

TrotTrotPumpkn
Jul. 31, 2012, 10:01 PM
Well timely and annoying. We had our home inspection today and the septic drains into the only (albeit inappropriately) fenced paddock (about a 200 x 400 paddock--100 feet right smack dab in the middle) on the entire property. So disapointing. This really kills a huge area I was planning on using as a turnout. Super bummed!

Of course they have had big drafties running around on it, ironically. Although they are no longer pastured there.

Septic looked good though. *sigh*

Guilherme
Jul. 31, 2012, 10:50 PM
So I take that as a big fat no to that idea. I guess I didn't relies that the run off field was so fragile. Really too bad, would have been an awesome spot.

With real estate it's always "location, location, and location."

If your drain field overburden is a good, hard clay then it's highly unlikely that you'll have a problem. If it's not then you may or may not have a problem.

Why not call an expert? For free. Call your County Extension Agent and ask them about soils in your area. They might even make a site visit for you and answer your questions after and ACTUAL inspection of the site vice opinions from folks who've never seen it.

G.

gnu
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:22 AM
Surprisingly, the health dept person said go right ahead! when she inspected the new leach field. Herd has been on it; and in this drought it is not green... note may relate to size, use, and soil.

fanfayre
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:47 AM
Wel, then, be prepared to spend a LOT of money in the not too distant future to replace that field. Start saving NOW.
All those who have stated 'no' are correct, no matter what your Health Dept. person has said (she's WRONG!!!)

<Putting on Lecture Cap>
Sorry Guilherme, but actually clay is worse to have under the field, as it prevents liquid (water, effluent, oil, etc) from draining downward and away and causes the liquid to drain horizontally or worse, upward thus "daylighting" at surface and causing a health hazard. And if a "drain field overburden is a good, hard clay" that's even worse, as it creates a sealing crust and blocks out almost all oxygen from the field so NO "cleaning" of the septic fluids occurs and all you end up with is raw sewage draining into the groundwater (may be just me, but YEUCCH!!)

It's been mentioned before, but I'll mention it again, my job is to design septic systems, so yes, I do have experience and proof to back up my claims

Hippolyta
Aug. 1, 2012, 02:11 AM
Wel, then, be prepared to spend a LOT of money in the not too distant future to replace that field. Start saving NOW.
All those who have stated 'no' are correct, no matter what your Health Dept. person has said (she's WRONG!!!)

<Putting on Lecture Cap>
Sorry Guilherme, but actually clay is worse to have under the field, as it prevents liquid (water, effluent, oil, etc) from draining downward and away and causes the liquid to drain horizontally or worse, upward thus "daylighting" at surface and causing a health hazard. And if a "drain field overburden is a good, hard clay" that's even worse, as it creates a sealing crust and blocks out almost all oxygen from the field so NO "cleaning" of the septic fluids occurs and all you end up with is raw sewage draining into the groundwater (may be just me, but YEUCCH!!)

Health inspector is not a soil scientist. Go with this info.

Contaminating groundwater potentially contaminates nearby wells. So there is not only an expense issue here, but health issue, as well as conservation issue from a soil & water standpoint. Not a good stewardship practice.

as far as the clay goes, in case you don't believe fanfayre: "When clay content in soils exceeds 35% (heavy cl, heavy sicl, sic, or c textures), the soils are generally poorly suited for conventional septic systems because of slow permeability. "

http://web.extension.illinois.edu/septicsystems/soil.cfm

Soil extension agents would give best advice here, as someone else mentioned. Your tax $ at work.

JB
Aug. 1, 2012, 08:59 AM
"in this drought it is not green" - might be time to check it then? We are super dry here, and it's SO easy to see where EVERYone's septic field is because that's the only thing that IS green.

Health inspectors don't know anything about the psi of a galloping horse. There's a reason pastures need to be aerated every now and then - horses walking and playing on them compacts the soil.

Guilherme
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:19 AM
Wel, then, be prepared to spend a LOT of money in the not too distant future to replace that field. Start saving NOW.
All those who have stated 'no' are correct, no matter what your Health Dept. person has said (she's WRONG!!!)

<Putting on Lecture Cap>
Sorry Guilherme, but actually clay is worse to have under the field, as it prevents liquid (water, effluent, oil, etc) from draining downward and away and causes the liquid to drain horizontally or worse, upward thus "daylighting" at surface and causing a health hazard. And if a "drain field overburden is a good, hard clay" that's even worse, as it creates a sealing crust and blocks out almost all oxygen from the field so NO "cleaning" of the septic fluids occurs and all you end up with is raw sewage draining into the groundwater (may be just me, but YEUCCH!!)

It's been mentioned before, but I'll mention it again, my job is to design septic systems, so yes, I do have experience and proof to back up my claims

I said nothing about sub soil. I addressed overburden. Two separate issues, don't you know.

I don't install septic systems, but I've been a user for close to 40 years. In the present situation I have I run horses on top of systems, and have done so for almost 20 years, without incident. So, at least here, the sky is not falling.

G.

PeteyPie
Aug. 1, 2012, 01:56 PM
Wel, then, be prepared to spend a LOT of money in the not too distant future to replace that field. Start saving NOW.
All those who have stated 'no' are correct, no matter what your Health Dept. person has said (she's WRONG!!!)

<Putting on Lecture Cap>
Sorry Guilherme, but actually clay is worse to have under the field, as it prevents liquid (water, effluent, oil, etc) from draining downward and away and causes the liquid to drain horizontally or worse, upward thus "daylighting" at surface and causing a health hazard. And if a "drain field overburden is a good, hard clay" that's even worse, as it creates a sealing crust and blocks out almost all oxygen from the field so NO "cleaning" of the septic fluids occurs and all you end up with is raw sewage draining into the groundwater (may be just me, but YEUCCH!!)

It's been mentioned before, but I'll mention it again, my job is to design septic systems, so yes, I do have experience and proof to back up my claims

So can I get your input? What if you were hired to design a (new) drainage field that would accommodate livestock? Let's give an imaginary situation where the underlying soils are non-organic sandy gravel. I would think it would be possible to engineer something with sufficient depth of soil over the leach lines to protect those pipes and underlayment. Have you heard of this being done?

candyappy
Aug. 1, 2012, 03:24 PM
I thought that it was not " legal" to have runoff water coming out at ground level anymore? When a place that has that type of drain field is sold it must be upgraded. Pipes are way under ground and drain well below the topsoil.

We had a place for years that our cows were housed in where a portion of the drain field pipe went through their pasture. Cows are big and heavy too and do a fair mount of running when the mood hits. We also had no problems I guess because our soil was right and the pipe was buried deeper than some.

I would say it depends on the type of drain field you have and how deep the pipe is buried. I wouldn't want them walking over the septic or the pipes going from the house to the septic at all.

fanfayre
Aug. 2, 2012, 01:02 PM
So can I get your input? What if you were hired to design a (new) drainage field that would accommodate livestock? Let's give an imaginary situation where the underlying soils are non-organic sandy gravel. I would think it would be possible to engineer something with sufficient depth of soil over the leach lines to protect those pipes and underlayment. Have you heard of this being done?

Well, not knowing your EXACT rules and regulations, I can only hypothesize. But, IF you have a really good depth of that sandy gravel, (like, >8' above bedrock, clay, water table or other impervious layer), you could possibly put the pipes in deep enough (like 36" or so) that hoof pressure would be mitigated. However, the problem with that depth is the O2 only gets into the soil to about 24" depth, so at that depth of bury NO oxygen is getting to the effluent and you're letting, basically, raw sewage run down into the water table. My provincial regulations state that we MUST have a minimum 24" (and in some cases 48") vertical distance between the bottom of the trench and the restrictive layer. In my area, specifically, there's NO WAY we could meet that criteria, we just don't have the depth of soil.
Hope that helps.:)

PeteyPie
Aug. 2, 2012, 02:00 PM
Well, not knowing your EXACT rules and regulations, I can only hypothesize. But, IF you have a really good depth of that sandy gravel, (like, >8' above bedrock, clay, water table or other impervious layer), you could possibly put the pipes in deep enough (like 36" or so) that hoof pressure would be mitigated. However, the problem with that depth is the O2 only gets into the soil to about 24" depth, so at that depth of bury NO oxygen is getting to the effluent and you're letting, basically, raw sewage run down into the water table. My provincial regulations state that we MUST have a minimum 24" (and in some cases 48") vertical distance between the bottom of the trench and the restrictive layer. In my area, specifically, there's NO WAY we could meet that criteria, we just don't have the depth of soil.
Hope that helps.:)

Thanks. It does help.

My Dad's place had such great soil -- gravel forever, that the design didn't really require a leach field. The gravel was so deep and such good quality that the septic tank was able to handle everything. I don't think he had a leach field. He had the septic tank emptied about ten years after he bought the house, and the honey truck guy didn't charge him because there was nothing in the septic tank!

As for the leach field, everything I read says not to build over or drive over leach fields. But common sense would dictate the variables of use/design. In Alaska, leach fields are usually installed well below the frost line. The city of Anchorage requires a minimum depth of 36" unless you install rigid insulation on top of the pipes, and people don't usually want to do that so where possible, they bury the pipes well below the frost line, four, five, six feet deep. Obviously it depends on your soils since the depth would be limited by the conditions underneath the drainage trench that the pipes are in, such as bedrock, clay, peat moss/organic soil, groundwater... I don't know what else. In addition, if your leach field is buried deeply and you have installed a protective layer of rigid material like insulation plus a geofabric to prevent soils above from shifting, it would definitely make that soil more stable. If I had that kind of situation I wouldn't mind a horse strolling over my leach field. However, if I had a built-up system, I think I would fence it off completely.

I am just playing the Devil's Advocate here with my suppositions, because without the system being specifically designed to support galloping horses, or the go ahead by a soils engineer, I would go with the advice given by others and say, stay off.

fanfayre
Aug. 2, 2012, 03:37 PM
PeteyPie, you've got that RIGHT!!
Absolutely if it's a built-up field, everything but cats, dogs, humans, lawnmowers, etc. MUST stay off it!
But as for your Dad's property -no disposal field Yowza!!! That sounds interesting, but as I kep saying, different areas/counties/States/Provinces have different design criteria/specifications, and so I can only speak about my particular area, or generalise.

PeteyPie
Aug. 2, 2012, 04:09 PM
PeteyPie, you've got that RIGHT!!
Absolutely if it's a built-up field, everything but cats, dogs, humans, lawnmowers, etc. MUST stay off it!
But as for your Dad's property -no disposal field Yowza!!! That sounds interesting, but as I kep saying, different areas/counties/States/Provinces have different design criteria/specifications, and so I can only speak about my particular area, or generalise.

I'm pretty sure that's what he said -- I may be wrong, but for what it's worth, the specs from the Municipality of Anchorage support that, if I'm reading the chart right:

http://www.muni.org/Departments/OCPD/development/onsite/Documents/bed.pdf

The way I read it, the chart on page four says that a leach bed is n/a with a percolation rate of 1 inch/min or faster. A previous page indicates a fast percolation does have a special requirement of a certain size of particles (51% passing a number 4 sieve).

Someone told me about an experiment in their engineering class where the professor put a gallon of poopy water into a glass tube of sands and gravels. I don't know the size of the pipe or amount of gravel, but it was a good graphic illustration of the cleaning power of non-organic soils. The water came out the other end crystal clear and he said it was totally safe and drinkable. I wish I knew the rest of the story. Did he drink it? Don't know.

PeteyPie
Aug. 2, 2012, 04:29 PM
Okay, fanfayre, now I'm confused. All the drawings show septic tanks that are long, horizontal and sealed, with the only outlet leading to the leach field. I am now wondering if there is a special name for the kind of septic tank that is a big concrete tank, like six to eight feet in diameter and at least five or six feet tall with a few rows of small round holes evenly spaced around the sides. The bottom row of holes is at least a foot or two up from the bottom of the septic tank. Looking at one of these tanks, you could see how it would contain the solids and allow the liquids to seep out into the surrounding gravel/permeable soil. So it is not a holding tank, because it works like a leach field.

Off to Google.

HydroPHILE
Aug. 3, 2012, 09:39 AM
This thread has been eye-opening and possibly answers A LOT of questions pertaining to the farm we currently lease:

1. The septic field is in the back pasture.
2. The septic system was designed to support a LARGE house (4000+ sq ft. minimum and a guest house.) The large house was never built, for what it's worth.
3. Livestock from ducks to sheep to horses to cattle have always grazed....in the back pasture including over the lines of the septic field.
4. Since we moved here, the previous persons downstairs told us that there are "septic issues" including septic lines being backed up, etc. I found that odd considering the system was designed to support two residences.
5. The first time there was a septic line issue, the septic guys said there was "thick greasy junk clogging the main line." It was discovered to be show shampoo/conditioner for long-haired dogs as the person downstairs was bathing her show dogs indoors.
6. The property owner said, "I have no doubt I will have to get a new system put in there eventually."

Now the pieces are falling into place a little bit more....what if the livestock that had grazed back there all this time is the reason WHY there are septic issues? The septic guy that came last time (January) said "new lines would have to be dug eventually." Could it be that all this time LIVESTOCK is the reason why there were septic issues?

For what it's worth, we have a greywater line running from our washing machine outside (we use green products anyways, and the greywater runs into a dried creek bed.) We have not had any septic issues *knock on wood* since the persons downstairs moved out.

Since the back pasture area is about five acres, it would be easy for the lines there now (or future lines) to be fenced off with some t-posts and tape fencing or cattle fencing and just NOT touched except to be mowed with a riding mower, etc. to prevent any further damage or damage to new lines being dug.

She's Pure Gold
Aug. 3, 2012, 10:39 AM
This may be a stupid question but do all houses with a septic tank have a septic field? My husband and I are closing on our farm today (yeah!) and were planning on fencing the area around the existing barn as the main paddock area (in addition to another field elsewhere on the property). The area we are fencing will be close to (but not on top of) the brand new septic tank. Property is in a populated residential neighborhood (but with 5 acres) if that makes a difference. Thoughts?

fanfayre
Aug. 3, 2012, 11:45 AM
PeteyPie;
Sounds like your father MAY have what's known as an aerobic package treatment plant. It uses O2 to "upgrade" the quality of effluent before it leaves the tank. Some of these systems don't actually have any field, but just overflow into the ground below the tank. These specific types of treatment plants produce the quality of effluent you mentioned above that can be drunk (clean water).
OR, your father's tank is so old, and the soil is "so good" that it's a "bottomless" tank (no floor) and the septic just percolates down through the tank and out into the soil at the bottom and through the side holes, so there is no field [and NO treatment of the effluent either, for that matter :(] I can tell you that here in BC those types of tanks are NOT permitted!

She's Pure Gold:
Unless you have the exact type of treatment plant I mentioned above, then yes, you have a septic field/disposal field/leach field/dispersal field somewhere on your property, unless you have a Pump-and Haul system(holding tank) and you have the tank pumped every 2-4 weeks [this usually happens IF there is NO SOIL to speak of to install a disposal field]. If you have a brand new septic tank, then you should have a record of the location of the field too. You need to ask for it. Congratulations on your new farm!!!!

Oh and a bit of a PSA for everyone, with a new or old septic system: Don't use any septic additives. They're expensive, ineffective and counter-productive to the purpose of a septic tank. Save your money, and your disposal field in the long run.

JB
Aug. 3, 2012, 12:17 PM
since that subject came up - what's the deal with adding activated yeast 1-2 times a year? Beneficial? Harmful? Benign?

fanfayre
Aug. 3, 2012, 12:46 PM
^ A waste of money, probably harmful, and totally unnecessary. There is enough biological action going on in the tank naturally that nothing needs to be added, plus the yeast could cause stirring up of the materials in the tank, which is the exact opposite of the purpose of the septic tank. A septic tank is designed to be a settling chamber only to separate all the solids and fats and greases from the liquid portion which carries on out into the field. When you add any additive, like the yeast or a commercial septic tank additive you end up causing stirring of the layers in the tank and allowing solids and greases to be carried over with the liquid and ending up in the field, causing clogging of the soil particles and shortening the life of the field.
Save your money. :)

trubandloki
Aug. 3, 2012, 12:50 PM
Every time I read the title of this thread I read it as 'Septic runs off into field'.

JB
Aug. 3, 2012, 01:31 PM
Thanks fan! It is cheap, but heck, if unnecessary AND if potentially harmful, why bother! :)

fanfayre
Aug. 3, 2012, 02:57 PM
Glad to be of help! :)