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To understand what is involved in septic tank pumping, it is first important to understand what a septic system is, what it does and how it works. A septic system is, very simply, an underground treatment system for household sewage. A typical septic system consists of 4 components: the pipe from the house, the septic tank, a drain field and the soil. Damage or malfunction of any of these components can cause the system to fail which can result in soil and drinking water contamination and costly repairs or replacements by the homeowner.

Contact Info:
Name: Billy Fowler
Email: info@asapadvancedseptic.com
Organization: ASAP Advanced Septic & Drainage, Inc.
Address: 5011 E Busch Blvd, Tampa, FL 33617
Phone: (813) 986-6070

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Septic tank problems often occur with systems that are onion- shaped. The liquids and solids in a septic tank are separated by a baffle that comes in the form of a ball-shaped figure, or an inner sleeve shaped skin that has hooks attached to it at the top of the inner side of the neck. However, the wear and tear in the passing years may tear off the baffle allowing it to sink in the tank. Also, the ball in the receptacle may be knocked loose and disentangle itself. Most septic system problems begin with these two scenarios because liquid and solid wastes combine as they go through the soak away and this may cause a blockage.

One way to address septic tank problems especially if the baffle collapsed is for a homeowner to set-up a filter for his tank. Filters like these can be placed by a homeowner inside an outlet pipe, so that the septic system can function more effectively not to mention that it can save one a significant amount of money. However, if problems are more acute, a homeowner has no other recourse but to replace his or her old septic tank. Another concern that is related to cesspit are open, loose, or worn-out manhole covers.

Other problems that can be resolved yourself are solids blocking the soakway. A T-bar can used to unblock the passage. This very basic baffle is made of clay, but for those who want to replace it with a current version. The replacements units are generally reproduced in plastic to save on cost. However, one has to be careful with these baffles because if they are not correctly installed, the solids will still enter the soakway unhampered causing more damage. A homeowner would perhaps consider buying septic tank filler for him to solve his septic tank problems himself and save on the installation costs. On the other hand, this type of job is often better handled by a professional who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

How it works

A very basic explanation of how the system works begins with waste water leaving the house through the plumbing network inside the house to the pipe leading to the septic tank. The tank is buried underground and is usually constructed in a water tight manner of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. It is intended to hold the waste water long enough to allow the solids to settle to the bottom (to form sludge) and the oils to float to the top (to form scum). Some of the solid waste decomposes as well. There are compartments and a “t” shaped outlet from the septic tank that prevents the sludge and scum from leaving the tank to travel to the drain fields. Once the liquid enters the drain field, it is filtered through the several layers of soil for the final treatment by removal of harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

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Septic tank systems become clogged with roots in the leach lines, leach field, drain field or seepage field, causing backup of wastewater into the house. The inexpensive fix is to use copper sulfate through an installed cleanout or septic field pump.

Septic tank systems

Septic tank systems do not last forever and replacing one is a very expensive proposition. If your house is connected to the city sewer system, then you do not have a septic tank. A septic tank can be described as your very own little sewage treatment plant. There are three basic elements of a septic system:

  1. The septic line that carries sewage and waste water from your house to the tank. There is usually a cleanout plug at the house-end it so that you can run a snake down it to remove obstructions.
  2. The septic tank itself where sewage is held while undergoing decomposition. This is underground, probably under a grassy area, and has a cover that is usually buried in residential installations.
  3. The leach field, also referred to as a drain field or seepage field. This is a branching network of underground porous trenches, pipes or something similar that carries the clear liquid from the septic tank throughout adjacent soil where it is absorbed.

A clogged leach field

Eventually leach fields become clogged because the roots from trees and other vegetation are attracted to the nutrient-rich effluent. The roots grow through the pores intended to drain the liquid, seepage gradually slows or stops.

If sufficient pressure cannot be released through the pores of the leach field, the entire septic system cannot accept any more waste water and it backs up in the house, usually at a low point such as a shower or tub drain. If it gets that bad, you may have to replace the entire leach field. In many localities, that will require a building permit and meeting current building codes, which means replacing the entire septic system, which is expensive, etc.

Kill roots with copper sulfate

Since this is obviously something to avoid, you can often extend the life of the old system by taking action when sewage flow has slowed, but not completely stopped. Copper sulfate kills roots. If it can be placed into the system so that it will flow through the leach field, the roots will die (but not the plants) and waste water will begin to flow more freely again after a few weeks. In many systems, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, because copper sulfate is so heavy that it will settle to the bottom of the septic tank unless inserted into the leach line leading from the tank. If you have a cleanout or other access there, you’re all set, but many residential systems do not. I prefer the crystal form over the powder because it's easier to handle, cheaper and dissolves more slowly, .

Install a leach line cleanout

If necessary, it is not very expensive to have a cleanout installed in the leach line expressly for the purpose of adding copper sulfate periodically. If that still doesn’t quite work, or if you want to be sure the stuff is going to flow more quickly, you can pump it through the leach field.

It is possible to install a pump on the leach line cleanout between the septic tank and the leach field. It can be buried below ground level or installed above ground and concealed with landscape bushes. The pump turns on and off automatically to maintain a slight pressure on the waste water, pushing it through the pores of the seepage field. Adding copper sulfate at intervals through a cleanout at this point is effective to drive the chemical towards the offending roots.

Killing the roots may extend the life of the septic system a few years, but it will ultimately need to be replaced with a completely modern one—unless you can successfully lobby for a neighborhood hook-up, of course.

Maintaining a regular schedule of septic tank pumping will help keep your system running efficiently and will save you hundreds of dollars in expensive system repairs.