Stories > General > The Septic Tank

The Septic Tank

We had bought a block of land at Clare, a small town about ninety miles north of Adelaide. It was four acres on a tree clad hill, the site of the former Station Master's house from the days of the railway. Four railway cottages occupied a smaller block which had been cut into one corner. The idea was to build a retirement home, but it needed a lot of work to clean it up before we could start work on the house.

We bought a small tractor, a Kubota B7200, four wheel drive. I also bought a heavy duty slasher and a grader. I wanted a front-end loader too, but that would have cost more than the tractor, so I made a hydraulically articulated bucket that fitted on the three point linkage at the rear of the tractor. Although not as convenient it cost a mere three hundred dollars as opposed to eight thousand for the front-end loader and did everything I needed it to do. I also modified the grader, built a small trailer, a carry-all, a ripper and a few other implements. I also bought a heavy duty rock drill, as the block was a conglomerate of rocks and I needed the rock drill to plant the trees.

We graded and established an all-weather drive to the site of the house, two hundred yards long, levelled the house and garage site, terraced one slope were we planted over one thousand tree, then we were ready to start work on the house. We built a shed, and ran electricity and water to the site of the house. The next task was to lay the underground pipework for sewerage and services at the house. Because we were in a rural location and there was no main's sewerage, we needed a septic system, but we were allowed to install this ourselves. Before I started to dig the hole, I thought it would be useful to know how big to make it. I phoned round for prices and information. All the tanks were concrete.

The first company gave me a price of two hundred and forty dollars for the tank.

'How big is this tank?' I asked.

'Three thousand litres.'

'That's a volume,' I said. 'What are the linear dimensions?'

'What do you mean?'

'How long is it and what's the diameter?'

'I don't know that.'

'Thanks very much,' I said and phoned the next manufacturer on my list. Their price was two hundred and forty dollars, and they knew the dimensions.

'Can you deliver?'

'We don't deliver, but we'll put it on a dual axle trailer in the yard.'

'How do I get it off?'

'Just flip it off with a crowbar. Builders do it all the time.'

'What's this thing weigh?' I asked.

'About three tonnes.'

The site for the tank was on the hillside overlooking the four cottages and I had a vision of the tank rolling down the hill and demolishing one of them.

'Thanks very much,' I said and phoned the next manufacturer on my list. Their price was two hundred and forty dollars, and they knew the dimensions.

'Can you deliver to Clare?'

'No worries. That'll cost you twenty dollars. We've a crane on the truck so if it can get close to the hole it can place the tank in it.'

Twenty dollars was incredibly cheap. 'Thanks for that. I'd like to order one, but I've still to dig the hole. Can I pay now and you keep a tank in your yard until I've dug the hole?' '

That's not how we operate. When you're ready just give us a call.'

So I started digging. Because of the rock it took three months before I'd completed the hole. I phoned to order the tank.

'We're not making them any more. The computer's showing no stocks, but I'll check in the yard to be sure.' A couple of minutes later he came back. 'Sorry, all gone. But there's a firm in Loxton who bought the moulds for the ends and they're still using our pipe.'

He gave me the contact details. Loxton is another South Australian country town. I phoned the company.

'Two hundred and forty dollars,' the salesman said.

'Can you deliver?'

'We deliver to Adelaide.'

'I need it in Clare.'

'We won't deliver to Clare,' the salesman said.

'But Clare is closer to Loxton than Adelaide is.'

'Makes no difference. We don't deliver to Clare.'

'Thanks,' I said.

We sold the block and bought a house in the Adelaide Hills.

© Jim Ditchfield 2017

Click on photos to see a full size image