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What Do You Mean It's Frozen?

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This will provide some more insight to life in Alaska I think. If you wanna live here you better be ready to do more than fish. As a matter of fact you have be able to handle about anything or........Option #2, you better have a lot of money and I do mean a lot. The problem I am about to disclose has been on the radar here since January 27 and today is March 16'th.

This is going to be an interesting day no doubt about it and I will take a few pictures and put them into this article after the festivities are over later today. For almost all of us who didn't grow up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere the daily routine of running water, washing dishes, laundry, and the ever popular flushing of the commode have been a way of life as long as we can remember. I mentioned in earlier installments that it has been cold here and that we had little in the way of snow. There has been about 1" of ice covering the ground since December with any snow that did fall being blown away by harsh wind storms that last up to a week and hit wind speeds of 75 - 80 mph. Whew! It's been a windy fall & winter here.

In the picture below you can see that the back yard has about 1" of ice with a crust of another inch or two of frozen snow over it. Not very much snow to insulate the ground here.


So what does this mean? It means that the frost line is a lot deeper than it would be if we had a foot of snow or more on the ground. Back on February 27 I became aware that the 'drain field' for the septic system here was frozen........Now that is not good, if you've never had a septic tank and drain field just consider that your city sewer system is frozen solid and it's going to stay that way till May.
But with a tank you can at least pump it and buy yourself another 1000 gallons or so of freedom to flush and so on. So yesterday before I called to have a local honey pumper come to drain the 1250 gallons of water from what is now essentially a holding tank, again......I went out to check for any unforeseen problems. Well, 'ask & you shall receive' both of the clean out tubes are full of ice.

Down the tube; looking at 3 or 4 feet of ice...........


And what does that mean? That means you cant get that big friendly 3" hose down into the tank to draw the water and whatever out! The nice lady at Alpine Septic was very forthcoming in telling me that they are servicing hundreds of people who are suffering from the same affliction; frozen drain fields and nowhere for the do do to go. Nice, so how do I get the ice out of the tubes I ask? I should tell you that just having the water removed from the tank costs $325 to put some economic perspective on this. The nice lady directed me to call a local drain specialist who has the equipment to steam the clean-out tubes open so I called. if you can deal with the 72 hour waiting list for this service that's step one but next you better be ready for the 200 per hour rate for the service. That's right, I said 200 per hour! So how long does this take I ask the second nice lady? "Their all different" she replied "some take an hour and others a couple". I hung the phone up and began searching the cabinets for liquor.

That ice set stage #1 of my plan into motion (no not the booze but God knows I needed it ) I went out to the garage and grabbed up an Alaskan Bush repair kit and got to work. The idea was sound but once I had it down to the ground level that was all you were gonna do with forced hot air. I left it run for 16 hours total........It was a spirited effort.


Yep, that is exactly what it looks like; a blow drier and insulation wrapped around the stand pipe held there by Duct Tape. Remember I spend a lot of time at the cabin and you have to work with what you've got. It's all part of the "For Gods' sake man do something even if it's wrong" attitude that you have to take when things aren't going your way. Speaking of things not going your way, the hot air wasn't looking like the answer by 3:00 PM yesterday afternoon so I moved to 'Stage 2 of my plan. It's important to note that I'm not the kind of guy who just gives up and says 'well so be it' so I started to make calls to local rental outfits. Here is an excerpt from the first call; ["I'm looking for a really big drill".] ["What do you need to drill"?] ["Ice, about three or four feet of it and I'm not going fishing".] After explaining what I was dealing with the Rental guy 'Robert' told me, "Oh yeah we have been getting a lot of calls from people who have this problem but I don't have anything to either drill or steam those tubes out with". He did refer me to someone who rents steamers so thats where I'm headed right now, (8:35 AM) I will put in the photos and finish this text in about 6 hours, stand by...........

When I came home I had to get this 200 pound steel drum out of the truck and load it up with hot water. Yes a steam pot septic thawer, that's what they call it.

All you have to do is hook up everything and then fire up the flame thrower and wait for steam.


I gotta tell you it took an hour to get any steam but once it started it got serious.


After a couple hours (remember this is $200/hr) I had all the ice uot of the stand pipes and that monitor tube too. I was pretty happy to find fluid at the bottom of the monitor because that means there is some flow making its way from the tank to the end of the line. With all the staming done by 2:45 I was able to return the steam machine to my new pal Glen and get off with a half day rental, $40, not bad when you consider the option. I got so excited when my other new pal Larry showed up with the big Honey Dipper I forgot to take pictures of him sucking er dry, darn! But then I was excited, I hadn't had a shower for 6 days and this was a watershed moment, ya that's a pun........ Any way when it was all said and done I had less than $300 in the works about 290 total plus two days of messing with it so I'm so happy I could just shi..........Nah I won't finish that but I can now if I need too

Thanks Larry..........................5:30 PM. it's over.


Oh hey, with all this activity I almost forgot to ask; how was your day?

Updated 03-20-2011 at 12:12 PM by Ard



  1. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: I went back and read your whole blog, that was some serious thinking on your part to get the sewer lines unfrozen, nice work indeed!
    We had our feed line from the well freeze one winter when it was -45 degrees. Turned out the heat tape had failed. They brought out a backhoe to dig it up but were afraid to run the backhoe until it warmed up so we went without water for about 10 days.

    Updated 03-19-2011 at 10:09 PM by mcnerney
  2. Ard's Avatar
    It is working for me too. I used the little pencile icon to make this post
  3. fyshstykr's Avatar
    Yea, it's fixed!! That problem and fixing it look like a real "pain in the rear" !!
    Looks like a great way to add a little coin to your pocket when these issues occur. I can't see that making a contraption like that would be all that difficult.

    Glad your finally able to shower, as is Nancy I'm sure.
  4. littledavid123's Avatar
    Did you put the fertilizer in the tank like we discussed?