Septic Cleaning Information
Question: How often should I pump my septic system?
The following table lists estimates of recommended pumping frequency according to septic tank capacity and household size. The frequencies were calculated to provide a minimum of 24 hours of wastewater retention, assuming 50 percent digestion of the retained solids. These numbers are for estimation purposes only - every system and situation is different and pumping may be required more or less often than indicated. If you are in doubt, contact NIX SANITARY SERVICE, your local septic system professional.
The removal of septic waste by cleaning the septic tank is a critical step in septic system care as it extends the life of the septic field. Even if you don't care how septic systems work you need to know when to clean the septic tank by pumping out septic waste. Look up your tank size and number of building occupants to see how often the septic tank should be cleaned.
Table I. Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years
|Household size - Number of Occupants|
|Tank-Gallons||Septic Tank Pumping Frequency in Years|
Locate where the main waste line leaves the house. It will be a four- to six-inch pipe located in a basement or crawl space that will connect underground to the septic tank line.
Go outside the house to the point where you found the main waste line exiting. This is where your search should start.
Scan the yard for possible septic tank locations, usually 10 to 20 feet from the house. Indications of possible septic tank sites include: depressions in the soil, areas of either more or less grass growth, or oddly placed stones or stakes used by builders or previous owners to mark the tank.
Use a metal pipe, several feet long, to poke the ground in the suspected septic tank location. If you cannot find the tank in this location, start probing the ground at the waste line exit point until you hit the pipe. Probe every couple of feet to find the direction the pipe is headed until you hit the tank.
Probe the ground around the tank until you have found the approximate edges of the tank.
Start digging in the middle of the tank to find the tank cover. There is no guarantee that this is where the cover will be, so you may find yourself doing a whole lot of digging.
Question: How does the septic system work?
Answer: When the wastewater from sinks, toilets, tubs, garbage disposals, and laundry leaves the house it goes into the septic tank. This tank has two consecutive chambers in which a simple separation takes place.
The lighter waste floats to the top, and forms a "scum layer." The heavier waste sinks to the bottom and forms the "sludge layer." The clear, or "clarified" liquid in the middle is what will go out to the drain field after the second separation chamber.
While in the septic tank, anaerobic bacteria eat and digest suspended food and waste, further clarifying the wastewater that goes to the drain field. The clearer the wastewater is, the easier it is for the drain field to complete the purification process.
Question: How do I maintain my septic tank?
The following can shorten the system life or impair its performance:
The use of a garbage disposal is never recommended with a septic system. Although they are permitted by the state code and special design features can be added to help minimize their impact, they will most likely shorten the life of the septic system to some extent.
Water conservation, including low water use plumbing fixtures, should be used. Septic systems are designed to handle the water needs of an average user and may not function properly if excessive volumes of water are used. In addition, the system will begin to handle less water as it ages. It is prudent to avoid unnecessary water use with a septic system.
It is recommended that laundry loads be spread out over more than a single day if many loads are done to avoid overloading the system. It is also recommended that liquid rather than powdered laundry detergent be used because powders contain solid material that can settle out in the septic system.
Avoid dumping any oil, grease, or fat into the septic system. Although the septic tank is effective in trapping these wastes if they solidify in the tank and float to the top, they can quickly clog the soil of the leachfield if they pass through. Restaurants have historically had septic system problems due to grease in their waste.
Do not dump any toxic materials down the drain. This includes chorine bleach or other cleaners, chemicals, or petroleum products. The septic system depends on living microorganisms to treat the wastewater before it enters the groundwater. Materials that are dumped in toxic quantities can result in contaminated wastewater seeping into the groundwater or even failure of the septic system.
The use of septic tank additives is not recommended.
Aside from using the system sensibly, the septic tank will need to be pumped out periodically to avoid accumulated material from washing out into the leachfield. The actual need for pumping varies depending upon use, but is generally recommended about every three years. If a garbage grinder is used the tank should be pumped out every year. Septic tank pumping companies may be able recommend a pumping interval after pumping the tank, and may send reminders that pumping is due. Although there is a cost to pump the tank, it is small in comparison to the cost of a replacement leachfield which could result if pumping is neglected.
Question : What can harm my septic tank?
Don't deposit coffee grounds, cooking fats, wet-strength towels, disposable diapers, facial tissues, cigarette butts, and other non-decomposable materials into the house sewer. These materials won't decompose and will fill the septic tank and plug the system. To use a five-gallon toilet flush to get rid of a cigarette butt is also very wasteful of water. Keep an ash tray in the bathroom, if necessary.
Avoid dumping grease down the drain. It may plug sewer pipes or build up in the septic tank and plug the inlet. Keep a separate container for waste grease and throw it out with the garbage.
If you must use a garbage disposal, you will likely need to remove septic tank solids every year or more often. Ground garbage will likely find its way out of the septic tank and plug up the drain field. It is better to compost, incinerate, or deposit the materials in the garbage that will be hauled away.
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