Do you really need to pump your septic tank?

Septic system efficient operation and maintenance does require attention

Septic systems are an essential component of rural residential or commercial real estate. Having a functioning septic system is crucial to normal building use. Septic system efficient operation and maintenance does require attention from time to time. There are many opinions about what this entails. Here are mine.

If you attend to the one accessible part of your septic system, the rest will generally take care of itself. Almost every septic system has a septic tank. It is a concrete box buried in your yard. Older ones are about 1,000 gallons, newer ones are half again larger. Near the center of this box is a removable cover. It is a pretty heavy disk, often buried. Finding this round target in your yard is the essential thing. Most folks have a map somewhere, since producing one is required for all home sales in Massachusetts with septic systems for the past 27 years. That is the main benefit of the Title 5 code.

Some modern septic systems have this cover accessible on the surface. It is only old fashion thinking that these should be buried and forgotten about. If you need to access this every few years, why not allow it to be seen? Older systems can usually be upgraded to surface access for a hundred dollars or so. These upgrades install sealed green plastic covers on the surface that are easily mowed over, but are findable when you need them. Some septic designers add these to all three access ports on a septic tank: over the inlet, the middle and the outlet. Many modern septic tanks have filters installed in the outlet of the tank, and these need maintenance more often than other parts of the tank.

As for pumping frequency, there are generally only rules-of-thumb. It can cost over $500 to pump a septic tank, so people often put this off. How long would it be safe to postpone this maintenance? Ask companies that pump tanks as part of their business and they will promote every 3 years. This might be true for a smaller tank with a good size family. 4 to 6 people and a septic tank from before 1995, for example. Pump every 3 years to keep the system going as long as it can. With a larger septic tank and just 1 or 2 people and you could extend that time frame by at least a couple of years. But 10 years between pumpings is too long in any case.

If you have a filter in the septic tank outlet, it should be noted on the Title 5 plan. Filters are useful for helping the expensive leach field last longer. Laundry fiber, for example, often does not sink to the bottom of the tank or rise to the top, where it can be retained, but travels out to the leach field where it can clog the pores in the soil. Then trouble starts. Filters are a maintenance item. You really need to clean this item at least every couple of years. Not hard to do, but it takes access, a hook to pull it up and a strong garden hose spray to wash the clogging matter back into the tank. Be sure to keep all septic tank covers screwed down after every access.

Homestead Engineering Inc. d.b.a. Homestead Inc. manages all aspects of septic system development, operation and management in Western Massachusetts. We do not pump septic tanks, but get such services from local vendors without a mark-up. We find the access ports, upgrade deficient systems, and guide homeowners through the process, including if repairs are ever needed. Expertly - Efficiently - Economically.