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The picture above represents a typical STEP system in our community. The green tops/lids are riser covers used to seal the openings in the two separate 1000-gallon vaults located below ground. Risers are 24 or 36 inch diameter vertical pipes are inserted into or butted on top of the access holes in your vaults. These are required for inspection, problem resolution and specific system maintenance. Risers are sealed to prevent inflow. Riser tops are generally held in place by self-tapping screws that can be removed for vault inspection/access. In this section we will discuss what is under each of the riser covers and what maintenance should be performed on each.
The first vault, the Solids Vault, has no specific picture provided here since there is no Homeowner performed maintenance required. This vault looks virtually the same as the Liquids Vault without any filter system as shown below. Waste comes from your home and enters the Solids Vault. Most solids settle to the bottom and some will rise to the top as a normal part of digestion/decomposition. This top solids layer is kept in the Solids Vault by a baffle. The liquids are therefore in the middle of the tank (if it were divided into sections) and flow from the Solids Vault to the Liquids Vault through a 4 inch pipe. Solids build up over time and they must be pumped by a Service Provider just like a typical on premise/on-site septic system. Depending on the number of people in your household, your garbage disposal and hygiene product flushing practices, a pumping service, (See Service Provider Section), should be called every 3 to 5 to years. Failure to maintain the solids vault can cause system blockage, which could create a backup in your home. It is uncommon that the system would get to a blockage point before you become aware but, as with a typical septic system, this can occur.
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The picture shows the open liquids vault riser. The arrow points to the 4" filter pipe, a feature you may or may not have in your system, which houses a removable particle filter. If there is a filter in your system, it needs to be maintained at least annually and perhaps more often. More information can be found regarding routine system maintenance by going to the System Maintenance tab.
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This picture gives you a view of the pump vault. This vault provides access to the STEP pump, pump float and the high liquid float and alarm. The pump is responsible for moving liquids from your system to the main sewer line. Our pumps are generally rated for a flow of 10 gallons per minute. A float located within the pump chamber controls power to the pump, therefore controls the pumping. As the liquid level rises so does the float. When the float moves above parallel, a switch is flipped inside the float triggering power to the pump. The pump then pushes liquids out of your system through the one way shutoff valve and into the mainline in the street. As pumping continues, the liquid level in your tank drops and so does the float. When the float drops below parallel, the float switch resets and pumping stops. Also installed in this vault is a high liquid level alarm float. This float is mounted higher in the vault than the power float. If the power float fails to trigger the pump for any reason, the liquids will continue to rise and eventually the alarm float rises past parallel and trips your alarm. This alarm is alerting you to a problem that requires your attention. When this alarm sounds; either your pump has failed, the power to the pump is off, or the pump cannot keep up with the amount of liquid flowing into the vault. If the latter is occurring, ground water, rain water or irrigation water is enter your vault and needs to be resolved. Some things to check if your alarm does sound: -----CHECK your electrical panel to see if you have a tripped circuit breaker. Your pump should be on its own circuit so if that was the one tripped, reset the breaker, and the alarm should stop once the pump catches up. -----CHECK the side of your controller box (discussed below) located near the vaults. The on/off switch for the pump may have somehow been turned off.

CHECK for additional circuit breakers within your controller box that may have tripped. If you've checked all the power sources and everything is in working order, then quiet the alarm. Depending on your alarm installation, you may have a box with a red button on the outside of your house or you may have an alarm with a toggle switch inside your garage. Pushing the red button or moving the toggle switch to silent will silence the alarm. Don’t ignore the alarm. You should wait before silencing the alarm to make sure the pump isn’t working to catch up. If you push the button and silence the alarm that’s all you’ve done, silenced the alarm. The problem is still there. Should your alarm sound during non-business hours, you can continue to use water in your home but it should be on a very limited basis. Knowing this allows you to make an immediate service call but request morning service during normal business hours. Your specific situation will dictate your action here. Note on community-wide maintenance issues: Also there have been instances where an issue with the main sewer line can cause individual alarms to trip. Contact a Board member to see if there is a system wide problem that could be affecting you. Also power outages can last for several days. It is common during an outage for most to continue to use water on a limited basis. This can cause many vaults to fill beyond routine capacity. As soon as the power is restored, many system alarms may sound throughout the neighborhood. This is normal. When power goes out, our pumps stop, but liquid flow, if you continue to use the system, will not. It’s important to note that our STEP mainline is not sized for the volume of pumping that occurs in this situation. Because of this, it could take hours for your system to pump down the liquids to a level that resets the alarm. In these situations, we suggest continued careful use of water during and immediately following power outages and if the alarm continues for a lengthy period of time, you might want to shut off your pump, to prevent constant running. Turn it back on in a few hours to let the overall system catch up. This will help mitigate the system capacity issues.

Once a riser/tank inspection has been completed, clean the riser rim and the lid gasket of any dirt etc., put the riser lid back in place and tighten the self-tapping screws snuggly, but not so tight as to cause the lid to deflect, break or strip the screw holes. If the screws do strip or the holes have worn out from repeated removal, remove them all and rotate the lid to a fresh area (where the old holes in the riser rim cannot be seen and reattach (relying on the self-tapping feature of the screws). It is important that no surface water enters this vault or any of the vaults.
Directly below are pictures of your STEP System Control Box and Pump Shut-off switch which should be located near your risers. Generally this box is mounted on the side of the house or on a freestanding post near the tank lids. This box and associated pieces generally have a pump on/off switch, the alarm shutoff, the pump control module and individual circuit breakers. Some of the units are capable of tracking pump cycles and retaining information about pump operations. If you do not have any documentation for your control box, you might want to search the web. The controllers are essentially small computers and if they fail, they may or may not be repairable. The pictures show one installation in our neighborhood. Yours will likely be similar.
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