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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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Buying a home in Texas? This might mean that you're buying one that has a septic system. As part of the home inspection process, I always recommend that the buyers order a septic inspection from a licensed septic servicing company early in the option period of the contract.

A septic system inspection isn't inexpensive, but it can prevent future headaches. The price may be anywhere from $400 to $750 depending on the type and the size of the system. The more expensive inspection is for aerobic septic systems.

There are several types of inspections that a septic company can do. A walk-over is a very simple inspection and really doesn't tell you much. For about $250, an inspector will open many faucets in the house to flood the septic system. When the inspector is certain that the system has water flowing from through the septic tank to the drain field, he walks over the drain field to see if there is any visual evidence of sewage at the surface.

If the septic system is close enough to a body of water, an authority determined by the state may require an inspection so that the new owner can obtain a license to operate the system. A Buyer's Agent should be able to assist buyers with this in addition to the regular inspection.

Repair or replacement of a septic system can be very costly. This is exactly why I recommend that buyers order a full inspection. I would rather see them spend $500+ during the option period even if the pull the plug on the contract than $15,000+ later for repairs.

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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Two Components

Class 4 septic systems are divided into two components, the septic tank and the septic field or leaching bed. Waste is piped out of the house into the septic tank, which is essentially a water clarification tank, in which anaerobic bacteria break the waste down into solids (sludge), liquid effluent, and scum.

Septic System

The solids settle to the bottom, the scum floats to the top and the liquid effluent flows through an outlet pipe into a distribution chamber, where it is directed to the septic field. The septic field is an effluent water disposal system, where the liquid is channeled through perforated pipes to different parts of a field of loose gravel.

Septic tank materials that initially float in the scum layer are kept out of the drainage system by an outflow tee or baffle. If the tank is not pumped regularly, the level of solids can rise, and if it approaches the level of the outflow tee, scum and solids can proceed out into the drainage system, clogging the pipes and gravel - and eventually preventing the absorption of the water by the surrounding earth.

A Class 5 septic system is a holding tank for the storage of sewage at the site where it is produced. A typical holding tank system is comprised of a single compartment tank with a pump-out stack and an audible or visual warning device to alert the homeowner when the tank requires emptying. A holding tank is costly to operate, places restrictions of the owner, and is dependent on Class 7 (hauled) sewage system for waste collection and disposal.

General Guidelines for Purchasers

  • If the system is 5-7 years old and has never been pumped it is unlikely that there are serious problems.
  • If there is no record of the system having been pumped but the owner has a vague recollection of pumping the system at some time in the distant past, figure that it has never been pumped.
  • If the system is over 10 years old and has never been pumped, it is possible that there has been some damage to the septic field, and if it's not been pumped for over 15 years it is quite likely.
  • Flushing dye through the system looks good but will only indicate systems that are already seriously clogged, in which case there should already be more obvious signs.
  • Flushing dye may not indicate serious defects or indicate systems that are close to failure but still functional.
  • If you are on a septic system, adding a bedroom, even without adding a bathroom, may mean having to increase the size of the tank and drainage field.

The only way to make an accurate determination of the system is to have a licensed septic contractor perform a tank, distribution chamber and field inspection.

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.