|Dispatches from the Trenches
Karen Radford Treanor
2015 by Karen Radford Treanor
have recently moved from Western Australia to Tasmania, which
involved preparing our former home for sale. Murphy’s Law at
once came into force and things went wrong in the plans to have a
quick and smooth transition from one side of this big dry island to
the other. August found us indulging in a pastime that goes back
into the dim mists of our family’s history: plumbing the depths
of the septic system and drains.
day that the potential new owner’s building inspector was to
come and do a top-to-toe inspection of the property was the day that
the septic system overflowed. You don’t want to know the
details of that—no, really: you don’t-- but suffice it to
say the building inspector would have been under no illusions about
the subsequent cleanliness of the septic tank, or its exact location.
problem overcome, a few days later my husband had to tackle the grey
water drainage system, which had been running sluggishly for a week.
Finally, the kitchen sink refused to drain at all. Time for the
usual remedy, which calls for the garden hose to be poked up from the
lower ground, the water turned on full blast, and the blockage
cleared. “I’m not paying Frank to come back and do what
I can perfectly well do myself,” Gene grumbled, rolling up his
time the usual remedy did not work. Calling in his apprentice, Gene
put the hose down the inspection portal under the kitchen window, and
stuffed it round with newspaper and duct tape to make a seal. Reasoning that the blockage had to be somewhere near the kitchen
sink, Gene decided to start nearest the sink. Water on full blast
accomplished nothing at first, then caused the stuffed hose to fly
loose and thrash around like a cut snake. The apprentice—me--
was not amused, nor was the cat, who was sitting atop the fridge
supervising the proceedings.
B. Thread the hose down the laundry room inspection portal. After
some effort—hoses don’t like bending at right angles--the
hose was introduced into the pipe and the water turned on again.
Mysteriously, the water ran and ran but nothing came out down below
where the pipe empties into the carry-off system. "Where the
hell could the water be going?" asked the gang boss.
somewhere we don't want it to go," suggested the apprentice,
listening to ominous gurgling sounds coming from the bathroom. A
quick check revealed no backup of sludge as had been feared, just
lots of nasty gurgling noises and a rather unpleasant smell.
C: take up the brick paving along where the pipes run and check to
see if an invading bush or tree had managed to get its roots in to
pry apart a joint and form a root ball that was now clogging the
C had some problems, not least of which was the very professional
re-laying of bricks after the system was put in years ago. They were as
good as concreted in place, and it took a lot of effort to get them
up. Then it turned out the line didn't run right next to the house,
but on the other side of the walk, so more bricks had to be pried up.
However, once the drain pipe was uncovered, an inspection port was
discovered in the elbow. Now the hose could be threaded in and run
straight down the line to where it went over the bank and down to the
apprentice alternately turned water off and on as the master plumber
ran the hose back and forth. Nothing happened for a minute, then a
waterfall filled with dark lumps began pouring forth. The irrigation
was kept up until the water ran clean.
last, the hose was returned to the original spot near the sink drain
and the water turned on again. Once again, no water came out, until
with a rush it backed up the air vent and spilled out onto the
workers. Back to the inspection port; after more reaming out of the
straight run, more clumps of ick and oogh rushed out down below.
me a long skinny spoon," directed the master to the apprentice. A
variety of things were presented, and the choice was a long skinny
small-bowled iced tea stirrer given long ago by Grandma to the
apprentice for baby feeding. It did the trick, and allowed the
master plumber to dislodge some of the glorp from the short length of
pipe that ran from the elbow back towards the sink. After five
minutes of manual evacuation, the hose was again tried and with a
great whoosh, the line finally ran free--not before disgorging a
spring clothes peg, a plastic coffee spoon, and two old pennies.
the inspection ports were sealed up again, water introduced into the
top of the system, and the drains ran free. Hurrah! cried the
gathered masses (a cat, a bandicoot, two wattle birds and the
now it was after five o’clock, the sun was westering, and the
workers decided to leave everything as it was and and finish the
relaying of the bricks another day.
well and then slathering with alcohol externally was followed by a
well-deserved application of food-grade alcohol internally.
attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose,”
Gene quoted from his favorite poet.
got a better one,” I said, handing him the two old pennies I’d
polished up. “As they say in Yorkshire, ‘There’s
brass in muck’. Don’t spend it all in one place.”
If there were any justice in the world, the protagonists of the
preceding story would have found and bought a new home and never had
another plumbing problem. We did
find a new home, bought it, moved in, and three weeks later were
standing on the front lawn talking to Ken while his huge pumper truck
dealt with the overflowing septic tank. Sigh.
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