How Septic Tank Pumping Works and Why It Is Important

Pumping your septic tank regularly prevents the solid wastes in the system from clogging the soil absorption field of your drain field. These solids can cause the system to overflow with raw sewage, which may flood your yard or contaminate groundwater.

Most septic systems need to be pumped every 3 to 5 years. How frequently it needs to be pumped depends on how many people are in your home and how much water you use.

Septic Tanks

A septic tank is a convenient way for homeowners to dispose of sewage waste. Gray wastewater (from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms) and black wastewater (from latrines and urinals) flow into the tank, where bacteria break down solids so that they sink to the bottom of the tank and liquids drain through the outlet pipe.

When septic tanks aren’t pumped regularly, clogs can form in toilets and showers, and sewage backs up into the home. Thicker materials like paper towels, wipes, cigarette butts, condoms, dental floss, hair, and paint may not break down in the septic tank.

In addition, septic tanks can be damaged by heavy vehicles or by flooding. Covering a septic tank with soil or using the drainage field as a parking lot can also damage the tank and leach field. Regular septic tank pumping allows bacteria to work effectively and efficiently. The resulting effluent water is discharged into the drainage field or soil absorption system, which filters naturally and fertilizes the ground.

Septic Pumps

Every time you flush your toilet, waste moves into your septic tank, where it’s broken down. Once the tank reaches capacity, your septic system will send sewage through a septic ejector pump designed to take the waste to the drain field, where it’s pumped into the groundwater.

If you don’t schedule regular septic tank pumping, gunk and solids will build up in your tank. It creates perfect conditions for future clogs and plumbing disruptions.

Those who don’t get their tanks pumped often also have issues with sewage odors around their toilets and sinks. This smell is produced when the septic tank fills with sludge, eventually flowing to the home’s sewer lines and causing backups that will flood toilets and sinks with sewage. A professional septic company will use large trucks to hook a hose to the septic tank and begin sucking out the sludge, scum, and liquid waste like a vacuum.

Drain Fields

As wastewater leaves your house, it flows into a septic tank with two chambers separated by a partial wall. The larger first chamber holds solid waste, while the second chamber contains liquids that flow over the float switch and into a pump sump. A pump or pipes carry the trash to the drain field from here.

As the effluent trickles through the soil, bacteria absorb and treat it until it reaches the aquifer below. A percolation test and local health department regulations determine the size of the drain field. Despite the filtration and treatment, improper maintenance or environmental factors can damage a septic system. Planting trees, shrubs, or vegetable gardens near a septic drain field is especially hazardous. Their roots can ensnarl and damage the pipes as they seek out nutrients. Instead, choose ground covers or low-growing plants for the area.

Septic Inspections

Septic inspections are important for home buyers who want to avoid purchasing a house with an unserviceable septic system. A certified septic inspector can determine whether a tank needs to be pumped and inspect the drain field and the overall septic system.

If the septic system is buried underground, the inspector will use a septic location map or an “as-built” drawing of the house to locate the tank. They may also use a probe rod to find the tank in soft soil. If the tank is uncovered, the inspector will remove the lid and carefully inspect it for damage.

Then, the professional will connect a large hose from their truck to the septic tank and turn on the suction. The hose will pull the sludge and scum from the tank, similar to a vacuum cleaner. During this time, the technician will also measure the depth of the sludge and scum layers. These two layers should each be about 30% of the total tank volume, with the rest being effluent.

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