I'm looking to purchase a bank owned bungalow that had some really sketchy things going on with the septic system. I know that I will have to completely re-work the septic system if I purchase it and I'm just considering my options. There are three things that make it difficult.

  1. It is close to a lake where they are particular about the septic systems.
  2. The house is built on a rock ledge about 40' down from the road (plateau).
  3. The only suitable area for a leach field is at the top.

My thoughts thus far are to create some sort of hybrid system using composting toilets, some sort of holding sump, and then either just get the holding tank pumped periodically by a truck, or install inline pumps that pump the contents of the holding tank up the slope to a leaching field at the top. Any creative suggestions on how I could possibly solve this problem would be appreciated

  • 2
    That goes against rule #1 of plumbing "Crap flows downhill".
    – Tester101
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:29
  • 2
    There are pumps which can handle septic material, eg the ones used to empty RV waste tanks. But frankly this sounds like a prime case of "bring in an expert."
    – keshlam
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:37
  • @keshlam I plan to bring in an expert if I purchase the property, I'm trying to do my due diligence so I don't get stuck with a 20k bill that I wasn't expecting
    – user379468
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:44

3 Answers 3


Forget a septic system and instead get a waste water treatment system. The output is drinkable, clean water. However, most people prefer to just use the water for watering the lawn.

This Old House installed one recently. See http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/house-project/show-descriptions/0,,20587082,00.html


My house has a two part septic system. There is a tank by the house with a pump that moves the stuff up to the leach field that is uphill in my backyard. I was worried at first about the setup at first, but we've been here 4 years without any issues. I'm not sure about the distances/elevations involved with your situation, so I would advise bringing in an expert.

  • Worth noting that my previous house was on city sewer and they had a similar setup. There was a small pot that the house emptied into with a grinder/pump unit that pushed the stuff to the pipes at the road.
    – Josh Bush
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:48

Our company is located on heavy clay that has great water retention, but very poor drainage. For this type system, you create a sand trap which is a large elevated box filled with several layers of aggregate that serves as the leach field. Needless to say, it is all above grade.

The pump has only given out once in the last 20 years, and the sand trap septic tank needs pumping every so often for solids, no difference from standard in-ground septic systems there.

So to sum it up, it is common in some areas to have to make "stuff" flow uphill, and pumps are made to do this quite well. The deciding factor will be how far uphill you need to make it flow (images of municipal sewage pumping stations coming to mind here).

  • Understood, my concern is the lift, its about 40'. Is the sand a large mound? I'm in the north east and the frost line is 3' so I'm not sure if the pipes would freeze
    – user379468
    Jul 9, 2014 at 1:07
  • Sand filter probably wouldn't work in that case, it's a large berm about 3' high and the size of a small drain-field buried under another 1' of dirt over thick plastic so it can be landscaped. With that frost line, I'd imagine it would freeze up in winter. Jul 9, 2014 at 2:04

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