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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Bob, the Night Visitor

By Jeanne Waite Follett of Gullible's Travels

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

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 15 minutes (or less) to thaw out about 80 feet of solidly frozen ice from my house to the septic tank.

Today, I get to dress up in warm clothes and play with the septic system 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 three or four times a week for the duration.

I’ve heard about lots of folks in this area who are having the same problems. A lack of snow and cold temperatures are the culprits. The 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 eight below zero.

Like the Bob the Roto Rooter guy said, this is Alaska. We have cold temperatures, frost-heaving ground and earthquakes. You can install a septic 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.

Bob 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 10PM before he reached that job site and probably midnight when he finished, and he'd been doing this since early morn. Just a typical day for a man who thaws underground lines for a living.

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

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


On a MUCH smaller scale, we had a frozen pipe problem this week,too.

We just came home from Florida and found a frozen water pipe. Lucky it was in an accessible place and all we had to do was get out the hair dryer and aim the heat at the pipe for a few minutes and we heard the water running through normally.

I'm glad we didn't have to call OUR Bob this time but he has been to our house a few times,too.

Aren't you glad we have him to count on?

Wow! And I thought living in China was tough but you've got me beat by miles. Hope everything works for the rest of the cold spell.

Jeanne - I was just beginning to think 'Spring' when I read your post. Then I walked outside to attend a Salem historical function, and was greeted with a face full of blowing snow.

This 'global warming' thing has a lot to answer for! - Sandy

Sometimes there is nothing as resplendent as an outhouse when you live in Alaska. Glad you are back in the water game!

You do pay a price for living in all that beauty, don't you?

I am not willing to live in cold climates. However, things other than frozen pipes can cause septic tank problems. The morning my step-daughter got married we woke up to sewage in the basement bath tub. The reception was at my house and the house smelled. Phew !

A rock had crushed the pipe leading to the septic tank. No Bob could solve that problem.

Wow, living in Alaska isn't the magic kingdom I would have thought it was...my Bob is Hector, and I couldn't have been a single Mom with house for the past 32 years without him...Life sure shows us all who the heroes in our lives turn out to be...I loved your story, but was sure glad I wasn't living it..
Alaska visit is on my list of places must get to...

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