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Fosse Septique Management

by beetle » Sun 12 Oct 2008 17:58

Fosse septique management is not a topic I know anything about.

It complies near enough to the latest standards and I have good idea where the inspection point is, but what would I be looking for? How do I assess whether it needs emptying or the bacteria requires a helping hand by adding the supplements you can buy at the supermarket.

All part of everyday life in France, but still one of its mysteries to me.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by Creusebear » Sun 12 Oct 2008 18:40

We too are fosse novices!
We were advised (for a holiday home) to inspect the grease trap yearly; empty out any mud and grease and power wash it clean. The filter needs checking and cleaning by power jet every two years. The fosse should be inspected, emptied and refilled with clean water every 5-8 years dependant on usage by a qualified fosse engineer and not in the the rainy season.
The pamphlet we got also what not to put down the drains:
corrosive liquids,
oils and grease,
paint,
pharmaceuticals
and anything that might block the pipes.

It also said that bleech could be used in moderation but the engineer who installed it advised against it. He also offers an after care service which we will probably take him up on next year.

Last time we were over I fed it (the fosse - not the engineer) a dose of Eparcyl (sp?) - which seems to be the fosse equivalent of Yacult - which said it was good for 6 months.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by Annik » Sun 12 Oct 2008 19:35

We have never had our fosse emptied in 14 years but when we looked at it, it was very clean and working perfectly. For the first ten years or so it was only used for holidays, now it is for several months of the year. We use regular weekly doses of Eparcyl. We have a soakwaway that takes water from the washing machine, dishwasher and bathroom down to the field at the back of the house. In the summer if/when there is a water shortage, we divert the water from the bathroom into a big barrel and use it to water the garden. I guess we try to ease the strain on the fosse septique as much as we can.

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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by beetle » Wed 15 Oct 2008 18:46

Thanks for the info.

Books tell you about the preferred fosse septique layout, not how to manage it.

It looks as though I will need to find a local qualified fosse engineer and buy a pressure washer, so off to the Marie for one and eventually, Mr Bricolage for the other.

I think the bacteria are well overdue for a feed.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by alldown » Wed 15 Oct 2008 20:01

Fosse Septiques are the bane of our lives. Before we bought our house the maire told us that there was a problem and the fosse was smelly in the hot weather. Although he also said we would be on main drainage in January 2007. No wonder it was smelly. A large family had lived there previously and it could never have been emptied as there was no access to it! Our solicitor eventually managed to get the immobilier to pay to have it broken into, emptied and fit a manhole over it. That was in 2005.

The following year we turned the smallest kitchen into a utility room and fitted a new sink, dishwasher and washing machine. That is when we discovered that the pipe from that room did not go into the fosse but straight outside the window onto a flower bed.

Last month we had a SPANC inspector visit us We did query the fact that main drainage was supposed to come but he did that lovely shrug and said “there is no money”. He had very good English but I do love the way words that are perfectly understandable just don’t translate well. He was really helpful and told us exactly what we had to do plus the estimated cost 4,000€ to 6,000€ OUCH 8O but his cheery smile and “I reject all of this” was a hard pill to swallow. Apparently the only thing that goes through our fosse is the toilet! All other water goes straight into the main drains. Apart that is from the grey water that goes on the flower bed!!

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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Thu 16 Oct 2008 13:34

Fosse management, ah, a subject dear to many a brits noses :lol:

Well, to start, lets assume that it's a system that meets all the current requirements. Mr Spanc (I love that name) or whoever has been delegated to do the work of inspecting your installation will visit you every 4 years, at which point he will want to see a receipt for emptying the fosse by an approved muck sucker :oops: dated less than 6 months ago. So effectively a fosse has to be emptied every 4 years, now that’s not a very good way of doing it but it's easy to understand and there's no ambiguity about it such as half full.

Really it's down to the house holder to be sensible, if it's a holiday home it will need a lot less emptying than a system that is used to it's maximum capacity. Look in the manholes take out the prefilter and at a last resort try & "feel" the level of the "mud" There is no economy in leaving your tank until it overflows with "stuff" as by the time it overflows the damage has been done and the drainage system is blocked. That's going to cost a whole lot more than a 250euro pump out of the tank.

Start by finding your fosse :roll: and taking of the lid furthest from the house, if there's only one, that’s the one. You're going to need marigolds now. Inside this lid you will find a prefilter (if it's not check under the other cover, the pipework might not go logically :roll: you might well have to push/pull the outlet pipe to release the basket and hopefully there's a handle to lift the prefilter by, if this is a whole new experience, just to find the fosse then this prefilter probably won't come out very easily.....
Take this to a dark satanic corner of your land (preferably down wind) and hose it off/out. If you have what appear to be rock in it and this is the first time that you have seen them in 10 years rush out to brico & get a sack of pouzelaine, it's not expensive and whats more, if you buy it in B&Q it's called larva rock! (and times the price) so you can put new rocks on your BBQ as well. No don't try the ones out of the prefilter :lol:

If you have a concrete lid to the fosse you can tell if it’s ventilated properly by looking at the underside. If there is white deposits then you need to improve the ventilation, after all the bacteria needs oxygen to work & break down the solids. There should be 2 vent pipes going to your roof line, both 100mm diameter, one comes from the tank to allow the gases to escape and the other at the end of the upstream to admit air. The ends of these vents should keeps out leaves/birds/cows etc but allow free movement of gases.

If you have a grease trap (oops I nearly typed crease trap :oops: ) most older ruins, sorry I mean properties, have one. Modern stuff, well if the fosse is less than 10metres from the house there is no requirement to install one, but when one is installed it should be less than 2metres from the house. Anyway, if you have one, how do you know? smell after doing the dishes? close to the house? Look for a round concrete cover a rectangular plastic cover, anything that is reasonably close to the house.
If you have never cleaned it and it should be done every 3 months but I'm as guilty as you and have left it, erm, years. If it's been that long you will need a shovel! The solids from this can be put in a sealed bag with the normal household rubbish. I advise doing it in the winter, the smell isn't so bad!

We all know about these fosse activators, but do they do anything? Do they work? If you go and have a read of various spanc forums (shows you what an exciting life I lead eh!) they all say that it’s not needed, but won’t do any harm though using these products is no alternative for regular maintenance & emptying.

Bleach, well we all know what a toilet bowl looks like if it’s just left to its own devices, oh, perhaps it’s only men that know that… I’m sure that bleach will kill 99% of all germs but one litre of bleach in 3000litres of germs is going to have its work cut out! So I say use it, but just like wine – in moderation. :lol:
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by tomdenne » Sat 18 Oct 2008 00:22

The one aspect of SPANC that I find particularly troubling is the origin of their inspectors. They should be employed by a totally independent organisation, but they aren’t. They work for companies already operating in the supply / treatment of water and as a result there is a high risk of them having a vested interest.

Many of us know of the glorious job-creation opportunities afforded to the garage trade in the UK by the MOT scheme. SPANC is in a similar situation of judge, jury and executioner, all rolled into one. In fact, it’s even worse because you can’t take your property round to another inspector for a second opinion.

It’s strange that France has approved this system when they took such trouble to set up their vehicle CT centres as complete stand alones. Possibly it’s because they have been rushed into it by the EU. In any event, all we can hope now is that the inspectors will be so overwhelmed with work that they won’t be too concerned by finding jobs.

However, I wouldn’t put any money on this being the case. Is it septic tank or sceptic tank?
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Sat 18 Oct 2008 08:02

They work for companies already operating in the supply / treatment of water and as a result there is a high risk of them having a vested interest.


a vested interest in what? Making sure that their water supplies arn't poluted?

it’s even worse because you can’t take your property round to another inspector for a second opinion.


If sewage if spewing from the tank, it's spewing from the tank, if liquid from the tank is being sent straight out to a river/ditch.... there's no two ways about it is there? Does it conform or doesn't it?
Minimum size for a septic tank (fosse septique) is 3000 litres. All installations must conform to DTU64.1 The S.P.A.N.C. technician will verify this. A principle piece is a room without water larger than 7 metres square.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by tomdenne » Sat 18 Oct 2008 11:21

:( A vested interest in selling you stuff that you don't really need; just like so many garages do when you take your car for a MOT in the UK.

I'm sure that most people want to comply with the new regulations but these, like so many rules, can be a matter of interpretation. I'm nervous about being forced to over-comply.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Sat 18 Oct 2008 11:58

A vested interest in selling you stuff that you don't really need; just like so many garages do when you take your car for a MOT in the UK.


what like water? Or do they have another sideline :?:

I can only speak about the Creuse but I've never seen a spanc technican installing a fosse nor trying to sell one
Minimum size for a septic tank (fosse septique) is 3000 litres. All installations must conform to DTU64.1 The S.P.A.N.C. technician will verify this. A principle piece is a room without water larger than 7 metres square.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by howfeness » Sat 18 Oct 2008 17:37

I read with interest all these posts and I am expecting a vsist from the SPANC man at the end of the month. We have what appears to be 2 very large brick built tanks in our cellar with sand and stone in them. One filters into the other through a grey pipe an then god knows what happens to it. I do not know of any way of accessing it to look inside or if that is possible. It works ok for our toilets and we have had no problems ye, but am intrigued to know just what system we have and whether there is something undiscovered somewhere on our land outside. We have a plan in our house buying papers that shows a drawing of a fosse and a test of the land. I assume for drainage quality and it looks good but whether this is the system now or a planned one that never happene, I do not know. Hs anyone else got similar type constructions or might now where to start?
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Sat 18 Oct 2008 21:17

Hmmm, It sounds like your system is not going to pass, sorry to bring doom :roll: saying it has sand & stones in it only reduces its volume so I'm assuming that it's the second tank that has this in, so it could be a prefilter, to clean the water a bit more before it goes...erm.. where ever it goes. Or kiddies have been playing. Has it ever been emptied?
Saying it works fine is not the whole picture, the main thing that spanc are interested in is that the stuff you chuck out the end of your system is likely to be within the limits of toxicity. If there's no filter system, ie, the "liquid" just drops out the end of the fosse or prefilter Mr. spanc will deem that your effulent is toxic & should be remidied.

These old systems can be added to/ modified to conform but it is usually cheaper to just install a new fosse toutes eaux - because the factories make thousands of tanks so they're competitively priced.

If you've got a drawing you could go "devining" with a stick and hopfully find some manholes. If you can't find any evidence of when the water goes & it's your house, then the technician isn't going to either.

But don't worry about it, they won't ban you from your house & seal it up in white plastic......although I suppose there's always a first time.. :lol:
Minimum size for a septic tank (fosse septique) is 3000 litres. All installations must conform to DTU64.1 The S.P.A.N.C. technician will verify this. A principle piece is a room without water larger than 7 metres square.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by beetle » Tue 28 Oct 2008 19:00

Hang on a minute, you cannot leave us just hanging in the air. What happens after you have been 'SPANC' ed (sorry could not resist that), does he hand over a wedge of forms to be filled in? Require other agencies to be employed to carryout measurements?, soil tests?. Demand remidial works to be carried out by..... etc.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by howfeness » Sat 01 Nov 2008 16:11

well. I have been SPANC ed and yes he did hand over a bunch of forms. He was a lovely guy with a snazy p.c. He asked question, looked at our existing one and told us t was installed in 70's but did not conform. He gave us good advice on what we needed to get and said we could do it ourselves or get someone in, but did not give us a time. We said we were planning to do it in summer and he said ok. To conact him in April and he will come with the Marie to agree it and we can give them the papers then. The work will be inspected before it is completed and the the job is good one. Fairly painless as we knew what the cost would be before and plan to do it ourselves. In the meantime we carry on as we are with things working as they do and no sealing up or demands were made. So - just the paper work in French to tackle now. Gulp!!
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by suziely » Mon 05 Jan 2009 23:06

hi. just joined this forum, has anyone out there put in their own septic tank and soakaway field? we arn't going to be in the position to pay a firm 5-60000 euros and would like to know how we would find out the spec for the pipes etc.thanks.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Tue 06 Jan 2009 18:51

Wow!I see we've been made sticky! :mrgreen:

has anyone out there put in their own septic tank and soakaway field? we arn't going to be in the position to pay a firm 5-60000 euros and would like to know how we would find out the spec for the pipes etc.thanks.


one or two... :lol: I'd say the base price is rather less than your stated price and tva at only 5.5% if it's a house, but all depends on what mr spanc will allow given the permiability of you ground.
Have you completed the forms & had mr spanc out to visit? if so what did he say?
Minimum size for a septic tank (fosse septique) is 3000 litres. All installations must conform to DTU64.1 The S.P.A.N.C. technician will verify this. A principle piece is a room without water larger than 7 metres square.
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by Sevy » Thu 07 May 2009 11:37

Just a thought, what happens to the old fosse when you have new one. Does it have to be emptied and then dug out and taken away or do you leave it where it is?
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Re: Fosse Septique - its management?

by blaudeix » Sun 10 May 2009 13:42

what happens to the old fosse when you have new one

The cheapest, safest option is to have it pumped out & cleaned, if at all possible poke a hole in the bottom, that stops it floating if there is excess rain. Fill it up with inert material, i.e muck dugout from installing the new one. The old tank will probably only be around 1000litres so it doesn't take much. If the tank is free standing, perhaps in a cellar, then after emptying & cleaning put some old clothes on and vent your frustration on it - smash it up and bury the remains outside.
Minimum size for a septic tank (fosse septique) is 3000 litres. All installations must conform to DTU64.1 The S.P.A.N.C. technician will verify this. A principle piece is a room without water larger than 7 metres square.
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