Monday, August 2, 2010

Plumbing History

Sometimes history is written in unexpected the loops and curls of ancient plumbing pipe underneath our poorly-draining kitchen sink. Husband bravely explored crawl space and found a weird situation.

In this drawing, the kitchen is the little add-on room at the top. #2 is the washing machine, #3 is the kitchen sink. #10 is some twirly flexible pipe added from the tankless water heater above the washer to the kitchen sink. At any rate, the kitchen sink and washer are draining into a big pipe that heads east out of the east end of the kitchen.

This big pipe appears to have once been connected to the toilet (#5) and tub (#7) drains. Now, the big pipe is severed. A newer pipe, (#6), takes the bathroom drainage out the front, or western side, of the house towards the street, in which there are manholes that YCUA occasionally accesses.

Our 1948 one-street subdivision, optimistically named "Audubon Gardens," consists of mostly tiny 780-square-foot homes. Was there an original sewer line to the east? Was this cheaply or inefficiently done? Was a later better one built under the street? Why was only part of the home drainage left connected to the eastward one? Where is that eastward effluent going?

Our effort to solve the mystery of the slow kitchen drain has raised more questions about the house's history than it answered.


Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for kitchen sink drains to just... drain to the backyard. Perhaps that is worth investigating- are there any low spots back there?

Dusty D said...

I've actually read of just this situation--kitchen plumbing that ran right into the backyard, just the way folks used to heave slops out the back kitchen door in earlier times.

There are no low spots or boggy spots back there (but its a sandy yard). We did have one especially virulent trash tree this year though, which is right where the eastward pipe would be if there is one down there.

Anyone have one a them ground-penetrating radar units I could borrow? (I'll have to take it over to Prospect Park, too, so you might not get it back for awhile...)

Dusty D said...

Hey, can I blog about my septic system some more? I'm guessing you've been hitting "Refresh" all day in the hopes of reading more on this topic.

So my husband contacted the YCUA with the question about the apparent 2 drainage systems.

Did they give him the runaround? Did they put him on hold? Force him through a phone tree? Tell him the records were in the vault available only via FOIA?

Nope. YCUA engineering manager Scott Westover got RIGHT back to him with this informative and fascinating reply:

"YCUA maintains a sanitary sewer in Bagley
Avenue. The next sanitary sewer that we have record of to the east is in
Hollis. We don't have any record of sanitary sewer in the rear yards between
Bagley and Hollis. I think it is very unlikely that a residence on Bagley would

have been connected to the sanitary sewer in Hollis, especially given the fact that the sewers in both streets appear to have been installed at the same time, during 1955. I suspect that the old iron pipe exiting the house to the east was/is connected to the septic field...Assuming the old pipe is indeed connected to a septic field it would be my recommendation that the plumbing be redirected to the pipe discharging to Bagley and plug the old pipe going out to the east. If the old pipe has a cleanout or similar means of access, you may want to have a plumber perform a television inspection."

How about that?! Talk about interesting. Our house was built in 1948. The first resident was Warren L. Taylor, an Army soldier and likely WWII veteran. There's a board in the attic that has his name and the name of an Army base in Texas.

It's crazy to think that this tiny 1/10th acre lot had its own septic field while Warren lived here. I've also discovered a weird subterranean trash pile in the far corner of the lot (now re-covered).

Pretty darn interesting. For about 8 years, our house was piped to a backyard septic field. Weird and interesting.

No wonder I have the best tomatoes on my block.

They're grown with seasoned poop from the Greatest Generation.

BF said...


I clicked on the "Effluent" label, hopefully expecting a whole series of DD postings I had forgotten about. All there is is just this one though.

I hope to see some more!

The Blue Man Group has a whole item on indoor plumbing. (If you've never taken the train to Chicago to see the BMG show, I highly recommend it. The first time I saw them, by the end of the show my face hurt from laughing so much!

Dusty D said...

The people have spoken...I'll keep an eye out for more "Effluent"-worthy posts. :D

Thanks for the BMG tip as well...