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Find That Plumbing Leak Before Digging, Excavating, or Taking Other Drastic Measures

Updated on April 17, 2013

Example of a home septic system with tank drywell


Our water system and the septic system

We have a producing water well with a cistern not far from our house. When the water level is considered lower than it should be, the well pump turns on automatically and adds to the cistern water supply. A separate pump brings the water from the pressure tank through a water line to the house.

Because we do not have access to a sewer, we also have a sewage system consisting of a septic tank with a drywell which is down hill from that. The first image will give you an idea about how our system works ... first the septic tank, then a conduit pipe that transfers the waste water down into the drywell where the waste water is dispersed into the surrounding soil.

This summer, our septic tank was working fine but the drywell kept running over. The runoff was clear and seemed to be without actual sewage water. We couldn't imagine what was happening but I was hoping for a spring that had decided to send water in our direction. Wouldn't that be wonderful, to have an additional water supply in an arid area? My husband was certain that the pipeline from the well to the house (in the same general place as my spring) was broken, allowing our well water to flow down into the drywell. I much preferred my solution but you know Crow by now. If not, read my hub Home Grown, Raising Animals and Plants for Food.

The well company we use checked and then reported that there was nothing wrong with our well system and that the well was actually producing water. This confirmed to Crow that his theory of a leaking water line was correct. He busily engaged in contacting contractors whose expertise included replacing water lines, while I was occupied with designing a grape arbor that would have a spring-fed irrigation system.

Digging would take out the shrubbery

Contractor's visit and advice

Crow found a contractor who was experienced in replacing underground water lines. He listened to the previous information we had gathered and suggested that we contact one of the companies who specialized in finding leaks. He knew someone who had used that option and it worked out well for the homeowner. The contractor also said it was expensive to find leaks that way but so was the earth moving process.

I did not really want the water line from the well dug up. First of all, because of where Crow thought the leak would have to be ... alongside an attractive row of shrubbery we had planted many years ago. Most of them would be torn up in the search. On the other hand, however, I thought that the digging equipment would locate the spring. I reconciled myself by deciding that the leak finders could also locate the spring.

The compressor

The compressor is hooked up to an outside outlet.
The compressor is hooked up to an outside outlet.
Connection to an outside hydrant.
Connection to an outside hydrant.
Items inside the pickup
Items inside the pickup

Finding the leak

Two men and a truck came to our house at the appointed time. They took some kind of a large compressor from the truck and situated it so that it could be connected to an electrical outlet and also to the outside hydrant.

The compressor directed air to the pressure tank through the water lines, into the well, and also every plumbing pipe inside the house. The well area and the pipeline connecting the well to the house were fine, but the toilet in the second bathroom (farthest from the incoming water) began to rattle.

After further checking, the leak finders decided that the toilet was the culprit. Although it did not sing or even hum, it must have been leaking, and they replaced a couple of items in the tank. We have not had a problem since with the cistern emptying or the drywell running over.

This method worked well for us

We were happy with the outcome. There was less expense using the leak finders than if earth moving took place. We had no damage to repair and, also, digging could have damaged our water line which would be very costly. The leak finder solution may not always work for everyone (or as quickly) but it worked well for us.

Should anyone have high water usage (a meter or bill would reflect that) or an overflowing drywell, check the toilet/s first even though there is no humming, singing, or whistling.


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