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Septic tank pumping is necessary to keep the septic tank in good working order, and to prevent waste from backing up into the home or reaching the surface outside. Be conservative when deciding how often to pump the septic tank. Waiting until it is too full will lead to serious, and often irresolvable, problems.
To determine when septic tank pumping is necessary, it helps to know the size of the tank. Contact the local health department or state environmental protection agency with the size of the tank and how many people live in the house. They can provide an estimate on how often to pump the tank, as well as recommendations on local companies that offer this service.
Another method to determine if septic tank pumping is necessary is to check it visually. Some septic tanks have relatively easy access, making it easy to look inside. The solid waste should not take up more than about 30 percent of the tank. The solids settle in the bottom of the tank, so, for example, if the tank is four feet deep, pump the tank when the sludge extends much beyond the one foot level.
Waiting for symptoms that the tank needs pumped is a mistake. When a septic tank is properly functioning, the sludge settles to the bottom of the tank and the wastewater passes through into the drain field. When solid waste accumulates high enough in the septic tank, it will force its way through the opening into the drain field. The pipes coming from the septic tank to the drain field are perforated to allow the wastewater to filter into the gravel drain bed, and eventually the soil.
Once solid waste enters these drainpipes, it creates a serious problem. The solid waste will block the perforations and any waste that makes its way through the openings in the pipe will clog the gravel. This creates an issue when additional wastewater makes its way through the pipe. With nowhere to go, the water will either rise to the surface, creating a wet area above the drain field, or back up into the house.
Many people assume that because they do not have problems with the septic backing up into the house, or a wet area above the drain field, that septic tank pumping is not necessary. In fact, once these conditions occur, it will probably be impossible to save the drain field. It is impossible to unblock the pipes effectively, and the waste in the drain field will continually cause problems with drainage. Instead, it will be necessary to dig and install an entirely new drain field. Conducting septic tank pumping on a regular schedule will prevent this expensive problem from happening in the first place.