When we bought our house in France we were told it was on mains drainage and that the old septic tank in the garage was not in use and so it was just a matter of removing it – something not high on our priority list, and we didn’t think too much about it.
That is, until the garage started becoming rather smelly and the unpleasant odour began wafting up through the floorboards into the bathroom and adjacent bedroom. Something was not right and we had to address the problem ASAP – especially with a visitor sleeping in that room.
We had already lined up an English plumber (happy to avoid language difficulties where possible at this stage) to replace the old toilet which had a crack in the base. When he did so, he discovered (to our horror) that the toilet was actually broken inside as well and had not been flushing properly…ewww!
On the septic tank issue he confirmed our suspicion that the tank was in fact in use, and hooked up to mains sewerage only to cope with any overflow. He advised that we check with the council (Mairie) that it was ok to re-plumb our waste into the mains and by-pass the tank.
Armed with photos (on the basis that a picture says a thousand words), off we went, only to be redirected to Veolia, the company who handles the town’s drainage system. By phone would have been a nightmare, so we went straight to their address which was close by. The office was locked (was it lunchtime already?) but we spotted two workers. It was a little difficult to convey what we were trying to do (these sorts of terms are not in the little French dictionary I always carry) but when we showed them a diagram of our drains which I had found amongst the mountains of paperwork provided when buying a house in France, they pointed out that it showed that the current configuration was not compliant – meaning that it was actually necessary to get this work done.
So while the plumber fixed this problem, he also removed the old asbestos pipes in the house (another “no-no”) and put in the hot water, cold water and waste pipes for the new kitchen and bathroom to be constructed upstairs.
The next step was to have the old tank professionally emptied and flushed out. We were grateful to our plumber for organising that on our behalf. (So much easier when you know the vocabulary.)
The final stage in this saga was up to Tony – to demolish the tank itself: made of thick reinforced concrete. It was no mean feat even with the aid of a sledge hammer and angle grinder.
You could say all our problems were now flushed away!