Things to Consider when Septic Tank Emptying

A septic system is designed to convert toxic human and organic waste into harmless compounds via decomposition using bacteria. One of the most important components of a septic system is the septic tank. The septic tank acts as the container that holds the waste, while it is decomposed anaerobically by the bacteria. After the waste is decomposed, the only things that remain are the solids at the bottom of the septic tank and liquids floating above. The liquid is passed to the septic drain field as the levels rise. Every once in a while, usually every few years, septic tank emptying needs to occur to remove the solids.

Septic Tank Emptying is part of Regular Maintenance

Like most systems with some level of complexity, septic systems do not function perfectly for long without regular care. They need regular inspection and repair by way of maintenance to keep working efficiently. This is true whether you have a conventional septic system, a cesspool, or an innovative/alternative system.

Man Emptying a Septic Tank

One of the tasks of regular maintenance is periodic septic tank empyting. A popular misconception about the design and maintenance of septic tanks is that they do not need pumping out, or that once installed they can work in perpetuity without having such a requirement. But nothing could be further from the truth. Solids settle at the bottom of the septic tank, forming a layer of sludge. Other lightweight materials, including grease, float to the surface of the tank as scum.

Two Men Septic Tank Emptying

Sludge in the Septic Tank

Septic tanks are designed so that the pumping is required as infrequent as possible. Even the most well-maintained septic systems need to be emptied once every three to five years. After that many years, the sludge accumulates in a septic tank will need to be pumped out. Too high a level of sludge not only reduces the amount of space available for the incoming waste, it also negatively affects decomposition.

A high level of sludge in a septic tank means that more of the solid materials escape from the tank to the Soil Absorption System (SAS), which is usually a septic drain field. If the SAS gets clogged due to this and cannot absorb liquid at the rate the liquids enter the septic tank, the unsanitary water will be forced to bubble to the surface, or back up into your house.

Pumping and Emptying the Septic Tank

Regular pumping keeps the septic system functional by preventing solids from escaping into the drain field and from there clogging soil pores. While the frequency of pumping required by a septic system is a function of how much it is used. Most expert’s advise that septic tank emptying should occur once every three years, especially if the homes concerned do not have a proper garbage disposal system. For homes that have installed a garbage disposal system, the septic tanks should be pumped every year.

Estimating the Schedule of Pumping

Two Men Emptying a Septic Tank

For non-residential system owners the best way to find out the frequency with which you should empty your septic tank is to figure out how often the tank has been pumped in the past. That will give the owner of the septic tank clues regarding how much sludge can build up in the tank before it has to be pumped and how long it takes for the sludge to accumulate.

Hiring A Septic Tank Service Professional

The pumper that you hire for septic tank emptying should be a professional who has a pumper’s license from the Board of Health. Always ensure that you receive and retain the receipt that the pumper gives you. That receipt notes the details of the pumping that he did, for example how many gallons of sludge was pumped out, the charges, and any imminent repairs. A copy of this note is sent to the local Health Board as a matter of record; you ought to hold on to your copy too.

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