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 Sytem Maintenance

If you wait until something has already gone wrong with your Septic System, you are probably too late to have any hope at fixing it yourself. But, if you can develop a plan of action on How to Detect and see Early Signs of "Septic Tank trouble," you may just prolong the life of your system and save yourself a ton of money!

Septic System's by State

¼ of all homes (approx. 28+ million) in the Nation are using a septic system. What percentage of homes in these state's use Septic System's:

  • 55% Vermont
  • 48% North Carolina
  • 40% South Carolina
  • 40% Kentucky
  • 10% California

How do I Know if I Have a Septic System?

The easiest way to determine if you actually do have a Septic System is to take a look at your water bill. You should find a line that reads something like "Sewer Amount Charged." If this line reads a $0.00 amount (and you are not operating an agriculture account) you most likely DO have a septic Tank.

How can I find out if I have a septic system:

  • Ask your landlord
  • Call your city or county water officials
  • Ask your home owner insurance Agent
  • Check with the title company that manages your property
  • Ask a Realtor friend to check for you
  • Contact previous owner
  • Ask neighbor's (if they have them you probably do too)
  • If your home water is from a well, you likely have a septic
  • After a frost you see a bare patch (septics generate heat as they decompose material which causes this patch) in the yard

How Does a Properly Maintained Septic System Work?

A properly maintained Septic System feeds waste water from your home into pipes that fan out into the drainage field (also known as a leach field because the fluids "leach" out of the pipes and into the soil). The remaining (heavy) waste material will settle to the bottom of the tank. It is this solid waste that can bring significant problems. You have to have it pumped out every year or so, for safe and proper disposal by a professional.

My Plumbing is Draining Slowly

If your drains are working slowly, or not at all, the main house drain may have a clog, or the septic system may be backed up. Check for clogs first, by clearing the main drain with a power auger (some power auger's attach to a drill, while others are self standing machines). You should never use chemical drain cleaners on a septic system as the enzyme's required for proper function will be destroyed. Fewer experts today say you should treat your system with an enzyme replacement agent, even if they do get advertised as a needed tool to keep the tank healthy and functioning in top condition. A very popular septic maintenance product is "RID-X." However, when the research is thoroughly inspected, the best advice remains to avoid the use of any septic additives. These products can actually cause the bacteria to become overly active, which can become more hazardous than helpful to your system. When agitated the overactive bacteria pushes undissolved heavy material into the drainage field before it has been broken down sufficiently, which is asking for a big septic repair bill and a health hazard right in your back yard!

How Do I Know if I Have a Serious Problem with My Septic System

First things first; when dealing with serious problems surrounding a Septic Tank, you must act quickly and very cautiously. Human sewage is very HAZARDOUS WASTE—primarily to humans. There are strict government regulations that apply to its handling and removal. Septic Tanks manufacture explosive methane gas and may contain DEADLY viruses.

If faced with the problems brought on by a damaged or non-functioning septic system at your home, you must contact a licensed sewer cleaning service. Click here for The EPA's (pdf.) guide on Septic Systems Rules.

What if the House Drain isn't Clogged?

If the house drain is not clogged, the problem could be a clogged drain field, absence of bacteria in the system, or your Septic System is full. Two important signs to be on the look-out for concerning these symptoms are as follows:

  1. Dark-colored water is standing on the surface of the drain field
  2. A yucky sewage odor can be smelled in or around your home

If you are encountering either of these conditions, you most likely have a serious problem with your septic system and must contact a licensed or certified sewage cleaning service.

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.