Friday, 20 July 2012

The agricultural smell

I have, from time to time, tried to entertain you with tales from deepest France, the joys and challenges of buying and subsequently owning a house in a small, French village.  One of the problems we faced after owning the house for about a year to eighteen months was the smell.  It seemed to come and go but we traced it to the cover of the septic tank in the courtyard.

The cause really was something of a puzzle. Well, perhaps not the cause - we knew that well enough - but the reason. When we first saw the house the estate agent's particulars clearly indicated that the house was on mains drainage. But if that was so, why did we still have a septic tank which was full to the brim? (I knew this to be the case as Chris and Alan had helped me to lift the lid when they came over to help with another job.) I had no experience of septic tanks, and wondered if perhaps being full was the problem. Maybe we were on mains drainage, but waste water and so on was passed through the tank before reaching the sewer?

I decided my next step would be to have to tank emptied so I spent an interesting half hour in the post office studying the French Yellow Pages. I wasn't entirely sure quite what heading I would need but in the end I left with the telephone numbers of three or four businesses I thought might be able to do what I wanted. I struck lucky with my first call, and the lady promised service the next morning. Sure enough, just as I was finishing breakfast, a lorry pulled up outside and the driver scrunched his way across the courtyard. With luck, our smell would soon be gone.

After helping the driver to lift the lid of the septic tank, I retreated indoors and shut the windows, having no wish to share the experience of emptying the tank. I suppose it didn't really take very long: it just seemed as though it did. I was quite happy to write a cheque in payment, having noticed that the tank was now delightfully empty.

Having no knowledge of the workings of septic drainage systems, I had assumed that after the tank had been emptied, we just waited until it was full again and called the company back in for another session with their suction hoses. I was, therefore, somewhat taken aback when the driver told me that I should now half-fill the tank with water. In my ignorance, I thought doing that would reduce the length of time before it needed emptying again. All the same, I did what I was told and decided to read up on septic tanks once I had returned to England.

It isn't necessary for me to go into the details of my research, but one thing I did discover was that septic tanks need feeding. As soon as I had read this, I recalled that in the olden days people would feed their septic tanks by throwing in a chicken carcase, feathers and all. I didn't fancy doing this - in any case, I had no chickens, dead or alive - so when I was next in France I phoned Sue and asked her what I should do. Apparently, according to Sue anyway, I could buy a suitable product at any supermarket.

Sure enough, the next time I visited Super U I discovered almost a complete aisle given over to products for septic tanks. I emptied the carton down the loo as instructed on the box, and flushed. Surely that would get rid of the smell?


Just for a change, let's see a picture of the River Loire, not so very far from "our" village.

1 comment:

Buck said...

The American humorist Erma Bombeck wrote a book titled "The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank." I can vouch for this, even though I only owned one house with a septic system... which never gave me any problems at all.