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Septic Tank Cleanings

The most important thing you can do to help ensure a long life from your system is to have the septic tank cleaned on a regular basis.

The primary purpose of the septic tank is to serve as a trap or separator. As wastewater enters the tank, the solid waste is trapped in the tank and the same amount of treated wastewater (effluent) leaves the tank as entered.

The effluent still contains particles of solid waste, which continues to be very slowly treated in the drainfield by anaerobic bacteria. Some of this waste matter is not digestible by the bacteria and settles into the drainfield. Over a long period of time it begins to clog soils, gravel and perforated piping.

Heavier waste settles to the bottom of the tank. This buildup on the bottom of the tank is called “sludge.” The lighter waste and greases settle to the top. This top layer is called “scum.” Between these two layers is where the clarified effluent is drawn out of the tank by gravity and into the drainfield.

The better the quality of effluent entering the drainfield, the longer the life of the drainfield. The thicker the two layers are, the more particles of waste enter the drainfield and the faster the clogging occurs, shortening the life of the system.

Your septic tank should be pumped out by a registered and licensed septic tank service company and disposed of in a manner approved by the EPA and your local health dept. guidelines

How will I know when my tank is full?

    The question should be “How do I know how much sludge is in my tank?” The liquid level in your tank should always be at its normal level, which is at the outlet pipe (unless you are having a backup from the absorption area). So, lets say you have a 1000-gallon tank. The tank will be filled to 1000-gallons, at the level of the outlet pipe. When your tank is cleaned it will be empty. Once you use 1000-gallons (or however many gallons your tank holds to the outlet pipe), the tank will be filled to its normal level. The amount of sludge in the tank then determines when the tank is pumped, not when it is “full.”

Questions to ask when hiring a professional to clean your septic tank

  1. Does the company carry general liability insurance?

  2. Does the company carry workers compensation insurance?

  3. How long has the company been in business and cleaning tanks?

  4. What methods are used to locate the tank?

  5. Does the price include finding the tank and exposing the lid(s)? Most tanks installed after 1989 will have two lids that require digging to properly clean both compartments of the tank.

  6. Does the price include dumping fees?

  7. Does the price include any additional time on site due to locating the tank or a tank with very heavy sludge?

  8. Are their hoses long enough to reach the tank without driving over your lawn?

  9. Do they carry extra lids on the truck in case yours breaks?

  10. Do they check the inside of the tank for baffles, walls, cracks, leaks, roots, etc.?

  11. Do they pump the tank though the tank lid(s) or the cleanout? Proper cleaning can only be accomplished through the tank lid(s)?

  12. Do they wash out the tank after it is pumped?

  13. Will they remind you the next time your tank should be cleaned?

  14. Do you have to be there when they clean the tank?

  15. Do they accept credit cards?

How Much Will It Cost?

It depends on the size of your tank and the amount of gallons collected. Most companies charge by the number of gallons collected due to the cost charge by the treatment plant where the waste is transported to. Other factors may include difficulty locating the tank or lids, the thickness of the sludge, pumping uphill, etc.