“Your lateral lines have failed. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t fully understand what lateral lines failing meant, but as a homeowner with a sick
septic tank, it couldn’t be good.
An antique septic system came with my home. Yep – more than 30 years old, it worked well until January. Suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) the toilets gurgled at random times. You haven’t lived until you wake in the wee hours of the morning to a gurgling sound coming from your bathroom. Then the unthinkable happened. Brown, stinky gunk appeared in the shower and bathtub, and the front line toilets of the system didn’t always flush. Gross.
So, what precisely are lateral lines? And why do I care if they fail?
I own an anaerobic septic system—an onsite sewage facility that processes every tiny bit of household waste flowing down a drain. Beautiful picture, isn’t it? The system consists of two tanks. One holds pure nastiness. (Use your imagination.) A pipe flows between the first one into the second tank, which contains mostly water with millions of microorganisms. From that tank, underground pipes flow into the yard, the area known as a leech field. These pipes are the infamous lateral lines. Processed water soaks into the ground, producing fertilization for evergreen grass and weeds. When the lateral lines fail, the tanks can’t empty. So, they reverse flow. Not fun.
So, I get the tanks pumped, which I learn should happen every three to five years anyway, and I have a plumber clear a clog. All is well until I notice a small stream running from beneath my house.
I now have a broken pipe. Sigh. The plumbers repair it. And immediately, gurgle, gurgle, gurgle. Stench pervades both bathrooms—again. The plumber suggests someone to call. I do. And that’s when I get the pronouncement of failed lateral lines.
Next step—get a soil sample and site evaluation.
It could be a simple replacement, but it might mean an entirely new system—the aerobic type, which uses air to purify poop and sprays clean water in various locations throughout the yard. No big deal—if you have a fat bank account. I don’t.
Lord, what am I gonna do? How will I ever pay for this?
As often happens, I hear a whisper. Trust me.
Trust God with lateral lines?
The declaration comes. Too much clay and rock, meaning replace with an aerobic system. $400 and a week and a half later, I finally get paperwork and start the arduous process of taking bids for the project. I convince myself God’s got this, although I’m not sure how.
The first installer hits me with $9,500. Gulp. Number two comes out. He’s better—$ 8,900. Then, a miracle—he questions the need for a new system. He looks in the second tank. I don’t blame him for avoiding the first. The low water level intrigues him. With the water hose, he attempts to fill the tank. Doesn’t happen. So, his team locates the first tank, pops the lid and a piece of PVC pipe floats near the top. They manage to free up something, and water flows. At least toilets flush now. But they say it doesn’t feel right, and I should call the first guy because he can repair it for less money.
The first guy gets another call. Two days later, he comes back. Sure enough, I don’t have a septic problem at all. I have a septic plumbing issue—most likely caused by two weed trees with crushing roots, right on top of the pipe.
$425, eight and a half feet of new pipe, a cleanout (which I didn’t have) and a new cover for tank two (somehow the installer’s guy dropped the old one), my antique system works perfectly.
Does God heal lateral lines? My property sits on top of a rock shelf with water beneath it—probably what mimicked failed lateral lines. Maybe they were never broken. That, I don’t know. But I do know my faith kept me sane throughout the entire ordeal, and I believe maybe He does heal lateral lines—in His way.