"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bob, the Night Visitor

After my visitor left about 8:30 last night, I washed the dishes that were piled in the plastic dish pans, except this time I ran water and detergent into the stainless steel kitchen sink.  When all the dishes were clean, I pulled the stopper and let the water run down the drain line.

The dishwater didn’t burble up in the ground floor toilet and flow across the garage floor.  Miracle of miracles.

Then I cleaned and flushed the four toilets in this house, the ones that had clean water sitting in them for almost a week.

The water didn’t geyser up in the  ground floor toilet and flow across the garage floor.

A little while later, I took a long hot shower, letting the water run down the drain.

The ground floor toilet didn’t regurgitate that shower water and sent it flowing across the garage floor.  All the effluents were flowing to their proper place.

My visitor, you see, was Bob the Roto-Rooter guy.  Once he got everything set up, it took him about fifteen minutes (or less) to thaw out about 80 feet of solidly frozen ice from my house to the septic tank.  He even cut the cast iron stand pipe down to ground level, and that prevented the hot thawing water from backing up into that ground floor toilet.

Today, as we speak, I have a load of clothes in the washing machine.  First load in more than a week.

I caught this temperature on the way up from 8 below.  The 38 is humidity.

When they’re done and in the dryer, I get to dress up in warm clothes, go outside and play in the septic system again because, while the line to the tank is open, the leach field line remains frozen.   Only Mother Nature will thaw that and she won’t get around to it for a couple months or more.  So, I will hook up a pump, stick the suction line into the septic tank, and pump the liquids up into the raised mound that is the leach field.  I will do this probably three or four times a week for the duration.

In the meantime, I am hearing about all sorts of folks in this area who are having the same problems that I am.  A lack of snow and cold temperatures are the culprits.  The more than adequate snow level we had before Christmas was decimated by rising temperatures, rain, and Chinook winds.  Since then we’ve had very little snowfall, nowhere near enough to insulate our underground water and sewer systems.  This morning the temperature was 8 below zero; by noon it was 6 above zero and time to go outside.

What worries me the most during winters like this is not the inconvenience of frozen lines, but the ptarmigan and grouse that burrow into the snow for warmth.   I picture them out there, scrabbling for food and shivering.  That bothers me.

As for frozen sewer lines, like the Bob the Roto Rooter guy said, this is Alaska.  We have cold, frost-heaving ground, and earthquakes.  You can install a line absolutely straight, with the correct amount of fall, and one little shaker will ruin all that.  Then water will puddle in a low spot and freeze.  It builds from there.

Or, in my case, a skim of ice in the lift station will freeze the floats in place, the pump and the alarms won’t come on, and before you know it, the tank is full, the line is full and frozen, and water gushes out of the ground floor toilet and streams across the garage floor.

This time?  This time I caught it before the ground floor toilet overflowed.

Bob, the Roto Rooter guy,  went on his way last night, headed to Kasilof, about 70 miles from my place, and another frozen septic line.   It would be at least 10 p.m. before he reached that job site, and probably midnight when he finished, and he'd been doing this since early morn..  Just another typical day in the world of a man who thaws underground lines for a living.

I wish I’d taken photographs last night, but I had other things on my mind.  Like a ground floor toilet turning into Old Faithful.  I was spared that mess.  So far.

Life in Alaska, one frozen septic line and one earthquake at a time.


  1. I'm glad your situation has improved!! Bob was the perfect visitor for you yesterday :)

  2. I'm amazed a how much you know about so many, many things. You understand all the intricacies of how everything regarding your home functions. I'm doing something if I change a light bulb!!!

    I'm glad that things are looking up for you.

  3. Whew. What a pain. So glad it got sorted.

  4. you need a spare "out house" WITH strofoam seat, of course!