Septic tanks work by allowing waste to separate into three layers: solids, effluent and scum (see illustration above). The solids settle to the bottom, where microorganisms decompose them. The middle layer of effluent exits the tank and travels through underground perforated pipes into the drainage field.
- A standard septic inspection includes: Locating the septic tank. Removing the covers. Inspecting the inlet, outlet baffle, also the partition wall. Inspecting the operational level of sewage.
What are the signs that your septic tank is full?
Here are some of the most common warning signs that you have a full septic tank:
- Your Drains Are Taking Forever.
- Standing Water Over Your Septic Tank.
- Bad Smells Coming From Your Yard.
- You Hear Gurgling Water.
- You Have A Sewage Backup.
- How often should you empty your septic tank?
How do I know if my septic tank is working properly?
When your septic tank system is not operating correctly, you will be able to see telltale signs if you know where to look.
- Pipe Gurgling Sounds.
- Toilet Flushing Issues.
- Slow Drains.
- Water Backup.
- Bad Odors.
- Greener Grass.
- Patches of Standing Water.
How often should a septic tank be emptied?
How Often Should I Empty My Septic Tank? To keep your sewage system running correctly, your septic tank needs to be pumped out or desludged every 1 -2 years. It is extremely important to keep your septic tank maintained.
Are septic tank locations public record?
Contact your local health department for public records. These permits should come with a diagram of the location where the septic system is buried. Depending on the age of your septic system, you may be able to find information regarding the location of your septic system by making a public records request.
How do I unclog my septic system?
If you experience a clog in your drain, here are a few of the safe ways you can go about unclogging it.
- Pour Hot Water Down the Drain. If you have a clog in your drain, one of the easiest methods you can use to try to remove it is pour hot water down the drain.
- Baking Soda and Vinegar.
- Septic-Safe Drain Cleaners.
How much does it cost to pump a septic tank?
How much does it cost to pump out a septic tank? The average cost is $300, but can run up to $500, depending on your location. The tank should be pumped out every three to five years.
What is the most common cause of septic system failure?
Most septic systems fail because of inappropriate design or poor maintenance. Some soil-based systems (those with a drain field) are installed at sites with inadequate or inappropriate soils, excessive slopes, or high ground water tables.
How can you tell if your septic is failing?
The first signs of a failing septic system may include slow draining toilets and sinks, gurgling noises within the plumbing, sewage odors inside, continuing drainage backups, or bacteria in the well water. If any of these symptoms exist, check for more pronounced indications of a septic system failure.
How can you tell if your septic is clogged?
Stay vigilant for five signs your drainfield does not drain correctly anymore.
- Slowing Drainage. Homeowners first notice slower than usual drainage from all the sinks, tubs, and toilets in a home when they have a compromised drainfield.
- Rising Water.
- Increasing Plant Growth.
- Returning Flow.
- Developing Odors.
What happens if you never pump your septic tank?
What Are the Consequences of Not Pumping Your Tank? If the tank is not pumped, the solids will build up in the tank and the holding capacity of the tank will be diminished. Eventually, the solids will reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a clog. Waste water backing up into the house.
What is the average life of a septic system?
Age of the System It’s pretty common for a septic system to last 40 years or longer, which means if you buy a new home, you might never need to replace it. However, you might have an older home whose septic system has been in place for nearly half a century.
Do septic tanks smell?
A properly-maintained septic tank should be odor-free, so if you notice a bad smell inside your home or outside near the leach field, it’s a sign that there’s a problem. Septic odors are caused by gases in the system, including carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and methane.
How do you find a septic tank in an old house?
Look for the 4-inch sewer that exits the crawl space or basement, and locate the same spot outside the home. Septic tanks are usually located between ten to 25 feet away from the home. Insert a thin metal probe into the ground every few feet, until you strike polyethylene, fiberglass or flat concrete.
Do I have to change my septic tank?
Under the new rules, if you have a specific septic tank that discharges to surface water (river, stream, ditch, etc.) you are required to upgrade or replace your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant by 2020, or when you sell a property, if it’s prior to this date.
How to Care for Your Septic System
Septic system maintenance is neither difficult or expensive, and it does not have to be done frequently. The maintenance of a vehicle is comprised of four major components:
- Inspect and pump your drainfield on a regular basis
- Conserve water
- Dispose of waste properly
- And keep your drainfield in good condition.
Inspect and Pump Frequently
Inspection of the ordinary residential septic system should be performed by a septic service specialist at least once every three years. Household septic tanks are normally pumped every three to five years, depending on how often they are used. Alternative systems that use electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be examined more frequently, typically once a year, to ensure that they are in proper working order. Because alternative systems contain mechanical components, it is essential to have a service contract.
- The size of the household
- The total amount of wastewater produced
- The amount of solids present in wastewater
- The size of the septic tank
Service provider coming? Here is what you need to know.
When you contact a septic service provider, he or she will inspect your septic tank for leaks as well as the scum and sludge layers that have built up over time. Maintain detailed records of any maintenance work conducted on your septic system. Because of the T-shaped outlet on the side of your tank, sludge and scum will not be able to escape from the tank and travel to the drainfield region. A pumping is required when the bottom of the scum layer or the top of the sludge layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the bottom of the outlet.
In the service report for your system, the service provider should mention the completion of repairs as well as the condition of the tank.
An online septic finder from the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) makes it simple to identify service specialists in your region.
Use Water Efficiently
In a normal single-family house, the average indoor water consumption is about 70 gallons per person, per day, on average. A single leaking or running toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water each day, depending on the situation. The septic system is responsible for disposing of all of the water that a residence sends down its pipes. The more water that is conserved in a household, the less water that enters the sewage system. A septic system that is operated efficiently will operate more efficiently and will have a lower chance of failure.
- Toilets with a high level of efficiency. The usage of toilets accounts for 25 to 30% of total home water use. Many older homes have toilets with reservoirs that hold 3.5 to 5 gallons of water, but contemporary, high-efficiency toilets consume 1.6 gallons or less of water for each flush. Changing out your old toilets for high-efficiency versions is a simple approach to lessen the amount of household water that gets into your septic system. Aerators for faucets and high-efficiency showerheads are also available. Reduce water use and the volume of water entering your septic system by using faucet aerators, high-efficiency showerheads, and shower flow restriction devices. Machines for washing clothes. Water and energy are wasted when little loads of laundry are washed on the large-load cycle of your washing machine. By selecting the appropriate load size, you may limit the amount of water wasted. If you are unable to specify a load size, only complete loads of washing should be performed. Washing machine use should be spread throughout the week if at all possible. Doing all of your household laundry in one day may appear to be a time-saving strategy
- Nevertheless, it can cause damage to your septic system by denying your septic tank adequate time to handle waste and may even cause your drainfield to overflow. Machines that have earned theENERGY STARlabel consume 35 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than ordinary ones, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Other Energy Star appliances can save you a lot of money on your energy and water bills.
Properly Dispose of Waste
Everything that goes down your drains, whether it’s flushed down the toilet, ground up in the trash disposal, or poured down the sink, shower, or bath, ends up in your septic system, which is where it belongs. What you flush down the toilet has an impact on how effectively your septic system functions.
Toilets aren’t trash cans!
Your septic system is not a garbage disposal system.
A simple rule of thumb is to never flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Never flush a toilet:
- Cooking grease or oil
- Wipes that are not flushable, such as baby wipes or other wet wipes
- Photographic solutions
- Feminine hygiene items Condoms
- Medical supplies such as dental floss and disposable diapers, cigarette butts and coffee grounds, cat litter and paper towels, pharmaceuticals, and household chemicals such as gasoline and oil, insecticides, antifreeze, and paint or paint thinners
Toilet Paper Needs to Be Flushed! Check out this video, which demonstrates why the only item you should flush down your toilet are toilet paper rolls.
Think at the sink!
Your septic system is made up of a collection of living organisms that digest and treat the waste generated by your household. Pouring pollutants down your drain can kill these organisms and cause damage to your septic system as well as other things. Whether you’re at the kitchen sink, the bathtub, or the utility sink, remember the following:
- If you have a clogged drain, avoid using chemical drain openers. To prevent this from happening, use hot water or a drain snake
- Never dump cooking oil or grease down the sink or toilet. It is never a good idea to flush oil-based paints, solvents, or huge quantities of harmful cleansers down the toilet. Even latex paint waste should be kept to a bare minimum. Disposal of rubbish should be avoided or limited to a minimum. Fats, grease, and particles will be considerably reduced in your septic tank, reducing the likelihood of your drainfield being clogged.
Own a recreational vehicle (RV), boat or mobile home?
If you have ever spent any time in an RV or boat, you are undoubtedly familiar with the issue of aromas emanating from sewage holding tanks.
- The National Small Flows Clearinghouse’s Septic System Care hotline, which may be reached toll-free at 800-624-8301, has a factsheet on safe wastewater disposal for RV, boat, and mobile home owners and operators.
Maintain Your Drainfield
It is critical that you maintain the integrity of your drainfield, which is a component of your septic system that filters impurities from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank once it has been installed. Here are some things you should do to keep it in good condition:
- Parking: Do not park or drive on your drainfield at any time. Plan your tree plantings so that their roots do not grow into your drainfield or septic system. An experienced septic service provider can recommend the appropriate distance for your septic tank and surrounding landscaping, based on your specific situation. Locating Your Drainfield: Keep any roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainfall drainage systems away from the drainfield area. Excess water causes the wastewater treatment process to slow down or halt completely.
Septic System Inspections
Nick Gromicko, CMI®, and Kenton Shepard wrote this article. A septic system is a system that collects, processes, and disposes of waste water and solids that are generated by a building’s plumbing system. When the solids are partially broken down into sludge, they are separated from the liquid effluent (water) and scum in a septic tank (fat, oil and grease). Effluent is discharged from the tank on a regular basis into a drainfield, where it is naturally filtered by microorganisms and re-enters the groundwater supply.
The septic system should be tested at least once a year, and it should be done immediately before putting the house on the market for sale.
Prospective home buyers who have not recently had their septic system checked should insist on having the system checked before they acquire the property, since it is in their best interests.
When it comes time to examine or pump the tank, this is typically not a problem.
- The placement of the tank should be depicted on a “as-built” design of the home. These designs are frequently kept on file by municipal health and zoning departments. It is possible that older systems do not have such a record. It is possible to get in touch with the prior owner
- Modern tanks are equipped with risers that protrude clearly above the ground surface. It is possible to probe a suspicious location using a thin metal rod that has been placed into the soil. It is critical to do this carefully and only on soft, damp soil in order to prevent harming the tank and its accompanying pipelines. Another option is to use a shovel, although this will need a little more effort. If a sufficient number of tank components are made of metal, a metal detector can be utilized. A tiny radio transmitter that can be flushed down the toilet and followed by a receiver can be used to communicate. The grass that grows the most lushly in a yard is frequently seen just over the sewage tank. Snow melts more quickly above the tank than it does in the rest of the yard. While they are not failsafe techniques of finding a place, they have been shown to be beneficial in the past.
What kinds of things may InterNACHI inspectors be looking for?
- Find out when the tank was last pumped by looking at the date on the tank. The sludge level should ultimately indicate if a tank has to be pumped, although having a record of past pumping dates might be useful as a reference. Using a “sludge judge” or a similar instrument, determine the amount of sludge present. It is normal for sludge to collect on the tank bottom, but it should not take up more than one-third of the tank’s total capacity or climb to the level of the baffles. The septic tank and drainfield should be located far away from wells and streams, for obvious reasons. Make certain that the system is large enough to accommodate the household it serves. A 1,200-gallon tank is normally required for a four-bedroom house, for example. The number of people that live in the house determines the size of the tank that is necessary. The tank’s capacity in gallons may be computed based on the size of the tank. For rectangular tanks, the capacity in gallons is equal to the product of the length, breadth, and depth in feet multiplied by 7.5. For circular tanks, the capacity in gallons is calculated as 3.14 times the radius squared x the depth in feet multiplied by 7.5. Check the ground surface for any liquid waste that has found its way to the surface. This is an unclean state that signals that the system is overburdened and needs to be repaired. In order to prevent wastewater contamination of groundwater and groundwater from flowing into the tank and causing it to overfill, make certain that it is waterproof. The presence of a riser lid should be checked for cracks and the integrity of the lid should be checked as well. Check to see that the baffles are securely attached to the tank’s inlet and exit pipes. It is recommended that each drain line receives the same quantity of wastewater. By opening the distribution box, you will be able to see what they are made of. If the box becomes tipped or blocked, it will distribute effluent in an excessively large amount, and it may even flood areas of the drainfield.
In a septic tank, baffles are components that restrict wastewater entry to a sufficient degree to guarantee that particles are distilled and that solids (as well as scum) are not discharged into the drainfield. It is via this process that they are able to protect the soil’s absorptive quality and hence extend the life of the entire system.
They are often constructed of the same materials as the septic tank, which might be fiberglass, steel, or concrete in construction. Inspectors should look for the following things in baffles:
- The baffle is covered in solids. This should be reported as soon as possible because it implies overflow. There is evidence of prior overflow due to chemical and water erosion. Ideally, the sewage level should be several inches below the baffle top of the drain. A lower level implies leakage, whereas a greater level indicates obstruction.
Inspectors should be familiar with the following facts so that they may advise their clients about the various ways in which they might cause harm to their septic system:
- The only thing that can be flushed down the toilet is bath tissue. Tampons, paper towels, cigarette butts, and diapers should all be disposed of in the garbage. In order to prevent microorganisms in the septic system from being damaged by household chemicals such as gasoline, paint, medicine, antifreeze, or pesticides from being flushed, they should never be put down the toilet or down the sink. In little volumes, detergents and bleach can make their way into the plumbing system. There should be no driving on or near the drainfield unless absolutely necessary. Their weight might cause damage to subsurface plumbing without them realizing it. There should be no other vegetation grown over the septic tank and drainfield. Roots from trees and huge bushes can create harm that is not visible. People are not permitted to excavate or construct structures on top of a drainfield. Ensure that any water drainage from rains, sump pumps, or any other source of surface water is routed away from the drainfield. An over-saturated drainfield can cause the water treatment process to be slowed down and plumbing fittings to get clogged. Fixing leaking faucets and toilets as soon as they occur is a simple method to extend the life of a septic system and avoid having to pay for an expensive replacement. Any waste of water in the home should be avoided at all costs. Taking shorter showers and avoiding using the garbage disposal are two examples of strategies to conserve water.
- It is not recommended that inspectors enter the septic tank to search for cracks. Tank interiors are extremely filthy, and entering should be avoided at all costs. The fracture will most likely be located at the level of the effluent, which will have drained from the tank via the crack if one is there. An effluent level that is much lower than the level of the tank outflow is a clear indicator of the presence of a fracture. A tank that has flaws that enable sewage to escape into the surrounding soil is effectively a cesspool and should be removed as soon as possible
- If the water comes from the tank, it indicates that the septic system is overburdened and has to be repaired. Sometimes, inspectors will use a dye that is flushed down the toilet to confirm that the water is coming from the residence and not from somewhere else. Despite the fact that this metric might be beneficial, it is not an accepted means of testing the operation of a septic system. A malfunctioning septic system will be confirmed if dye from the flushed dye shows in the puddle
- However, a working septic system is not guaranteed if dye does not appear. It may take many days for the dye to develop, and it may be too diluted to see properly
- It is outside the scope of a standard house inspection to evaluate a septic system, and this needs specialized skills. Laws differ from one jurisdiction to the next, and inspectors should be well-versed in them before providing this job. They should disclaim all responsibility for any component of the septic system examination that they did not do
Septic systems are meant to manage hazardous waste, and they may pose major health risks to both residents and inspectors if they are not properly maintained. Precautions include the following, in no particular order:
- Solid waste should be removed from septic tanks by a professional septic tank pumping service, not by an inspector. No one else should be allowed to enter a tank unless they are a licensed and properly equipped professional. Noxious gasses such as methane can induce asphyxiation and death in a matter of minutes. When a septic tank begins to exhibit indications of fragility, proceed with extreme caution! Collapse has the potential to be deadly. Keep an eye out for tanks with rusted metal, improvised lids, or anything else that seems to be in unsafe condition.
In conclusion, septic system inspections should be conducted on a yearly basis to verify that the system is operating properly. The septic tank is the most expensive household fixture, and it will have a much shorter lifespan if it is not properly cared for and maintained.
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
Mr. Fix-It-Up-For-The-Family You may save a lot of money if you understand how a sewage treatment system works—and what can go wrong—so that you can handle your own septic system maintenance.
How does a septic tank work?
Pumping the tank on a regular basis eliminates sludge and scum, which helps to keep a septic system in good working order. It is possible for a well-designed and well built septic system to last for decades, or it might collapse in a matter of years. It is entirely up to you as long as you can answer the question of how do septic tanks function. Healthy septic systems are very inexpensive to maintain, but digging up and replacing a septic system that has completely collapsed may easily cost tens of thousands in labor and material costs.
It’s critical to understand how a septic tank works in order to maintain one.
Let’s take a look below ground and observe what happens in a properly operating septic system, shall we?
Understand that a septic system is a cafeteria for bacteria
Bacteria are responsible for the proper operation of a septic system. They decompose garbage, resulting in water that is clean enough to safely trickle down into the earth’s surface. The entire system is set up to keep bacteria healthy and busy at all times. Some of them reside in the tank, but the majority of them are found in the drain field. 1. The septic tank is the final destination for all waste. 2. The majority of the tank is filled with watery waste, referred to as “effluent.” Anaerobic bacteria begin to break down the organic matter in the effluent as soon as it enters the system.
- A layer of sludge settles to the bottom of the container.
- Scum is mostly constituted of fats, greases, and oils, among other substances.
- Grease and oils float to the surface of the water.
- (5) A filter stops the majority of particles from reaching the exit pipe.
- The effluent is discharged into the drain field.
- Effluent is allowed to leak into the surrounding gravel because of holes in the drain septic field pipe.
When gravel is used to surround pipes, water can run into the soil and oxygen can reach germs. The garbage is completely decomposed by aerobic bacteria found in gravel and dirt. 9. Potable water seeps into the groundwater and aquifer system from the surface.
Septic Tank Clean Out: Don’t abuse the system
Septic systems that have been correctly planned and constructed require just occasional ‘pumping’ to remove the sludge and scum that has built up inside the tank. However, if you don’t understand how a septic tank works, you may unintentionally hurt or even destroy the system.
- Drains are used to dispose of waste that decomposes slowly (or not at all). Cigarette butts, diapers, and coffee grounds are all known to cause issues. Garbage disposers, if utilized excessively, can introduce an excessive amount of solid waste into the system. Lint from synthetic fibers is emitted from washing machine lint traps. This substance is not degraded by bacteria in the tank and drain septic field. Bacteria are killed by chemicals found in the home, such as disinfecting cleansers and antibacterial soaps. The majority of systems are capable of withstanding limited usage of these goods, but the less you use them, the better. When a large amount of wastewater is produced in a short period of time, the tank is flushed away too quickly. When there is too much sludge, bacteria’s capacity to break down waste is reduced. Sludge can also overflow into the drain field if there is too much of it. Sludge or scum obstructs the flow of water via a pipe. It is possible for tree and shrub roots to obstruct and cause harm to a drain field. Compacted soil and gravel prevent wastewater from seeping into the ground and deprive germs of oxygen. Most of the time, this is caused by vehicles driving or parking on the drain field.
Get your tank pumped…
Your tank must be emptied on a regular basis by a professional. Pumping eliminates the accumulation of sludge and scum that has accumulated in the tank, which has caused the bacterial action to be slowed. If you have a large tank, it may be necessary to pump it once a year; but, depending on the size of your tank and the quantity of waste you send through the system, you may go two or three years between pumpings. Inquire with your inspector about an approximate guideline for how frequently your tank should be pumped.
…but don’t hire a pumper until you need it
Inspections and pumping should be performed on a regular basis. However, if you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, you may verify the sludge level yourself with a gadget known as The Sludge Judge. It ranges in price from $100 to $125 and is commonly accessible on the internet. Once you’ve verified that your tank is one-third full with sludge, you should contact a professional to come out and pump it out completely.
Install an effluent filter in your septic system
Garbage from your home accumulates into three distinct strata. The septic filter is responsible for preventing blockage of the drain field pipes.
Septic tank filter close-up
The septic tank filter is responsible for capturing suspended particles that may otherwise block the drain field pipes. Obtain an effluent filter for your tank from your contractor and place it on the outflow pipe of your tank. (It will most likely cost between $50 and $100, plus labor.) This device, which helps to prevent sediments from entering the drain field, will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis by a contractor to maintain its effectiveness.
Solution for a clogged septic system
If your septic system becomes clogged and you find yourself having to clean the filter on a regular basis, you might be tempted to simply remove the filter altogether. Hold on to it. Solids, effluent, and scum are separated into three layers in septic tanks, which allows them to function properly (see illustration above). Solids sink to the bottom of the container, where microorganisms decompose them. The scum, made of trash that’s lighter than water, floats on top. The middle layer of effluent exits the tank and travels through underground perforated pipes into the drainage field.
- Your state health code needs an effluent filter, so maintain it in place.
- Without the filter, waste particles might get into the perforated pipes and clog them.
- However, your filter should not need semiannual cleaning.
- Chances are you’re putting filter-clogging materials down your drain, such as grease, fat or food scraps.
- A disposer won’t break down food particles enough to allow them to pass through the septic tank filter.
Flushing plastic materials, disposable diapers, paper towels, nonbiodegradable products and tobacco will also clog the system. For more details on what not to put down your drain, call your state health department. Read more onfiltering out troublesome laundry lint.
Get an inspection
Following a comprehensive first check performed by an expert, regular inspections will cost less than $100 each inspection for the next year. Your professional will be able to inform you how often you should get your system inspected as well as how a septic tank functions. As straightforward as a septic system appears, determining its overall condition necessitates the services of a professional. There are a plethora of contractors who would gladly pump the sludge out of your tank, but many, in my experience, are unable to explain how a septic system works or how it should be maintained.
A certification scheme for septic contractors has been established in certain states; check with your state’s Secretary of State’s office to see whether yours is one of them.
Also, a qualified inspector will be able to tell you whether or not your tank is large enough to accommodate your household’s needs, as well as the maximum amount of water that can be passed through it in a single day.
As you learn more about how a septic tank works, your professional should be able to tell you whether or not your system will benefit from this treatment.
Alternatives to a new drain field
If an examination or a sewage backup indicate that your drain field is in need of replacement, the only option is to replace it completely. As a result, it’s important to talk with a contractor about other possibilities before proceeding with the project.
- Pipes should be cleaned. A rotating pressure washer, used by a contractor, may be used to clean out the drain septic field pipes. The cost of “jetting” the pipes is generally around $200. Chemicals should be used to clean the system. A commercial solution (not a home-made one) that enhances the quantity of oxygen in the drain field should be discussed with your contractor before installing your new system. Septic-Scrub is a product that I suggest. A normal treatment will cost between $500 and $1,000. Make the soil more pliable. The practice of “terra-lifting,” which involves pumping high-pressure air into several spots surrounding the drain field, is authorized in some regions. Some contractors use it to shatter compacted dirt around the pipes. Depending on the circumstances, this might cost less than $1,000 or as much as $4,000 or more.
Protect your drain septic field from lint
When this device is in place, it inhibits lint from entering the system, especially synthetic fibers that bacteria are unable to digest. One of these filters, which I’ve designed and termed theSeptic Protector, was invented by me. An additional filter is included in the price of around $150 plus delivery. Learn more about how to filter out laundry lint in this article.
Don’t overload the septic system
Reduce the amount of water you use. The volume of water that flows into your tank, particularly over a short period of time, can be reduced to avoid untreated waste from being flushed into your drain field. Replace outdated toilets with low-flow ones, install low-flow showerheads, and, perhaps most importantly, wash laundry throughout the week rather than just on Saturday mornings to save water.
Meet the Expert
Septic systems, according to Jim vonMeier, are the solution to America’s water deficit because they supply cleaned water to depleted aquifers, according to vonMeier. He travels the country lobbying for septic systems, giving lectures, and giving testimony. For septic system inquiries, as well as information on the operation of the septic tank, contact him by email.
How To Find My Septic Tank
- What is a septic tank
- How do I know if I have a septic tank
- And how do I know if I have a septic tank Identifying the location of your septic tank is critical for several reasons. The Best Way to Find a Septic Tank
- What to Do Once You’ve Discovered Your Septic Tank
You may have fallen in love with your new house because of its appealing good looks and characteristics, but there is almost certainly more to your new home than meets the eye. In many cases, the characteristics that make your house run more effectively and allow you to live a pleasant, contemporary life are not readily apparent. Septic tanks, for example, are an important part of your home’s infrastructure. A septic system is responsible for regulating and managing the wastewater generated by your home.
“How can I locate my septic tank?” is one of the most often requested inquiries we receive.
When your tank’s lid is difficult to locate – especially if you are not the original homeowner – you may be at a loss for what to do or where to look for the lid when you need it.
The majority of the time, all of the components of the septic tank are buried between four inches and four feet below ground level.
In order to do so, it is necessary to first comprehend the functions of septic tanks and septic systems and why it is important to know where yours is located.
How to Locate Your Septic Tank
Your septic tank’s location is not a closely guarded secret. There will be a method for you to locate it and make a note of its position for future reference, and below are a few examples of such methods.
What Is a Septic Tank?
Having a functioning septic tank is an important aspect of having an effective septic system. In the United States, around 20% of households utilize a septic system to handle their wastewater. Houses in rural parts of New England are the most likely to have a septic system, with residences in the Eastern United States being the most prevalent location for septic systems. When there are few and far between residences, it is typically more efficient and cost-effective to employ a septic system to manage wastewater rather than relying on a public sewage system to handle waste water.
- Typically, a septic tank is a container that is waterproof and composed of a material such as concrete, polyethylene, fiberglass, or a combination of these.
- An important function of a septic tank is to hold on to wastewater until any particulates in the water separate themselves from the water.
- Any liquid that remains in the tank eventually drains into a leach field or a drainfield, where it is known as “effluent.” The dirt in the leach field aids in the filtering of the water and the removal of bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants that may be present in it.
- Septic tanks erected in Onondaga County must contain input and outlet baffles, as well as an effluent filter or sanitary tees, in order to effectively separate particles from liquids during the treatment process.
How Do I Know If I Have a Septic Tank?
What is the best way to tell if your home has a septic tank? There are generally a few of different methods to tell. Examining your water bill might help you identify whether or not your house is served by a septic system or is part of the public sewage system in your neighborhood. If you have a septic system for wastewater management, you are likely to receive a charge from the utility provider for wastewater or sewer services of zero dollars. In the case of those who are fortunate enough to have a septic system, it is likely that they may not receive any water bills at all.
- A lack of a meter on the water line that enters your property is typically indicative of the fact that you are utilizing well water rather than public utility water, according to the National Association of Realtors.
- A septic system is likely to be installed in your home if you reside in a rather rural location.
- Septic systems are likely to be installed in all of these buildings, which means your home is likely to be as well.
- When a septic tank is present, it is common to find a mound or tiny hill on the property that is not a natural structure.
Checking your property records is a foolproof method of determining whether or not your home is equipped with a septic system. Your home’s building permit and drawings will almost certainly include details concerning the existence (or absence) of a septic tank on your site.
Why It’s Important to Know the Location of Your Septic Tank
You might wonder why you should bother trying to discover out where your septic tank is. There are several important reasons for this:
1. To Be Able to Care for It Properly
The first reason you should try to locate your septic tank is that knowing where it is will help you to properly repair and care for it in the future. The standard guideline is to avoid erecting structures or placing heavy objects on top of the septic tank. It’s possible that you don’t want to park your car or truck on top of it, and you don’t want visitors to your house to park their cars on top of it, either. Due to the weight of the automobiles, there is a possibility that the tank would collapse due to excessive pressure.
2. If You Want to Landscape or Remodel Your Property
If you want to build an addition to your home or perform some landscaping around your property, you will need to know where your septic tank is located. Nothing with deep or lengthy roots should be planted on top of or in the area of your tank, since this can cause problems. If roots are allowed to grow into the pipes of your septic system, it is conceivable that your system will get clogged. When you know where the tank is going to be, you may arrange your landscaping such that only shallow-rooted plants, such as grass, are in close proximity to the tank.
For starters, the tank’s weight might lead it to collapse due to the weight of the construction.
3. If a Problem With Your Tank Occurs
Knowing where your tank is buried might also assist you in identifying problems as soon as they arise. Consider the following scenario: you wake up one morning and see that there is flooding or ponding water in the region surrounding your septic tank – a sign that your system is overwhelmed and that an excessive amount of water is being utilized all at once.
4. Ease of Getting It Fixed
Once you have determined the location of your sewer system, you can quickly send a plumber to it in the event that something goes wrong with the system, saving everyone both time and money. Get in Touch With A Plumber Right Away
1. Use a Septic Tank Map
First and foremost, make use of a road map. Using a map is frequently the quickest and most convenient alternative. Most counties keep records of the installation of septic tanks at all of their residents’ residences. These maps should include schematics that illustrate the specific placement of the tank on the land, as well as measurements that allow you to measure and locate the tank’s exact location on the property. Never mind that landmarks may shift over time depending on when the tank was built, so if there are a few more shrubs or a tree nearby, don’t rule out that location as a possibility.
- If you are unable to locate a map or other paperwork that identifies the location of your septic tank, there are a few locations to try to see if you can obtain a map of the area.
- The county health department is responsible for keeping track of septic systems.
- A septic tank’s position could be depicted on a survey map, for example.
- The creation of your own map and documentation may be worthwhile if you cannot locate a map or blueprint of your property and nothing appears to be on file regarding it at the county health department or another municipal agency.
In this way, if you ever decide to sell your property, you will be able to supply the new owner with everything they will need to locate the tank and properly manage their septic system.
2. Follow the Pipes to Find Your Septic Tank
Whether or not there is an existing map of your septic tank on file, or whether or not you choose to develop one for future reference or for future homeowners, you will still need to track down and find the tank. One method of accomplishing this is to follow the sewer lines that lead away from your residence. The septic tank is situated along the sewage line that goes from your home and into the yard, as we’re sure you’re aware. Find a four-inch sewer pipe in your basement or crawl space. This is the line that will lead to your septic system and should be accessible from the ground level.
- In general, though, you’re searching for a pipe with a diameter of four inches or more that leaves your home via a basement wall or ceiling.
- By inserting a thin metal probe (also known as a soil probe) into the earth near the sewage line, you can track the pipe’s location.
- The majority of septic tanks are located between 10 and 25 feet away from your home, and they cannot be any closer than five feet.
- Going via the sewage line itself is another method of locating the septic tank utilizing it.
- Drain snakes are typically used to unclog clogs in toilets and drains, and they may be used to do the same thing.
- When the snake comes to a complete halt, it has almost certainly reached the tank.
- While drawing the snake back, make a note of how far it has been extended and whether it has made any bends or turns.
- When looking for your septic tank, you may use a transmitter that you flush down the toilet and it will direct you straight to the tank.
3. Inspect Your Yard
Septic tanks are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible when they are erected. With the passage of time, and the growth of the grass, it might be difficult to discern the visual indications that indicated the exact location of your septic tank’s installation.
However, this does not rule out the possibility of finding evidence that will take you to the location of your septic tank in the future. First and foremost, you want to rule out any potential locations for your septic tank, such as:
- Under a road or similar paved surface, for example. Right up against the house (the tank must be at least five feet away)
- Directly in front of the home Immediately adjacent to your well (if you have one)
- In close proximity to trees or densely planted regions
- In the shadow of a patio, deck, or other building
Once you’ve ruled out any potential locations for your tank, it’s time to start hunting for indications as to where it may be hiding in plain sight. Keep your eyes peeled as you go about your property, looking for any inexplicable high or low points that might suggest the presence of an underground tank. When looking at your property, you could see a hill or mound on the ground, which is frequently an indication that there is a septic tank nearby. One further item to consider while searching for the right septic tank for your home is the amount of grass or other foliage in your yard.
Alternatively, if the tank was not adequately buried, you may observe a “bald patch,” which is an area where the grass is struggling to grow in the vicinity.
4. Talk to Your Neighbors
If your neighbors have septic systems as well, they may be able to assist you in locating your tank. Inquire of your neighbors about the location of their septic tanks in relation to their residences. Having a polite conversation with your neighbors regarding septic systems not only provides you with a means to figure out where yours is, but it may also serve as a friendly introduction to the other residents of your community.
5. Look for Your Septic Tank Lid
It is only the first step in the process to discover where your septic tank is located. After you’ve located your tank, the following step is to locate the lid. You can locate it with the help of your soil probe. The majority of septic tanks are rectangular in shape and measure around five feet by eight feet. The perimeter of the tank should be marked with a probe once it has been probed around. A shallow excavation with a shovel within the tank’s perimeter and near the center (or broken into halves for a two compartment tank) should show the position of the lid or lids if you are unable to feel them by probing.
The tank itself is likely to be filled with foul-smelling vapors, if not potentially hazardous ones.
What to Do After You Find Your Septic Tank
Once you’ve determined where your tank is, it’s time to bring in the specialists. Trust us when we say that opening a septic tank is not something that just anybody wants to undertake. Concrete septic tank lids are extremely heavy and must be lifted using special lifting gear in order to be removed. Since the vapors are potentially dangerous due to the contents of the tank, please respect our advice and refrain from attempting to open the tank yourself. An exposed septic tank can be hazardous to anybody wandering around your property’s perimeter, and if someone were to fall into it, it might be lethal owing to the toxicity of the sewage in the tank.
However, before you send in a team of experienced plumbers, there are a few things you can do to ensure that others do not experience the same difficulty locating the tank and to make locating the tank in the future easier.
1. Mark Its Location
The likelihood is that you will not want to post a large sign in your yard that reads “Septic Tank Here!” but you will want to leave some sort of marking so that you can quickly locate the tank and lid when you need them. In an ideal situation, the marker will be substantial enough that it will not blow away in the wind and will not be readily moved by children who are playing in the yard. A patio paver, a potted plant, or a decorative gnome or rock are just a few of the possibilities. In addition to putting a physical sign beside the septic tank, you may draw a map or layout of the area around it to illustrate its position.
2. Take Care of Your Septic Tank
Taking proper care of your tank may save you hundreds of dollars over the course of its lifetime. The expense of maintaining your system could be a few hundred dollars every few years, but that’s a lot less than the thousands of dollars it might cost to repair or replace a damaged tank or a malfunctioning septic system. Two strategies to take better care of your septic tank and system are to avoid utilizing your drain pipes or toilets as garbage cans and to use less water overall. Things like paper towels, face wipes, and cat litter should not be flushed down the toilet since they are not designed to be flushed.
In addition, installing low-flow faucets and high-efficiency toilets can help you reduce the amount of water used in your home.
For example, you don’t want to be washing load after load of laundry or running your clothes washer at the same time as your dishwasher all at the same time.
Call a Professional Plumber
Maintenance of a septic system is not normally considered a do-it-yourself activity. In the Greater Syracuse region, whether your septic tank requires pumping out or cleaning, or if you want to replace your tank, you should use the services of a reputable plumbing firm to do the job right. If you’ve attempted to locate your septic tank on your own and are still unsure of its position, it may be necessary to enlist the assistance of a professional local plumber. Our team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Syracuse can assist you with locating, maintaining, or replacing your home’s sewage tank.
Request an Estimate for the Job
Septic Tank Inspections
In order to avoid difficulties, get your septic system examined every one to two years by a professional septic tank contractor and follow his or her recommendations for how often to clear out the tank to prevent backups.
Alternative septic systems that involve mechanical components, such as a pump, should be examined at least once a year, or more regularly if advised by the manufacturer, to ensure that they are in good working order. A septic tank contractor will do the following tasks:
- Find the location of your septic system and any access holes
- To ensure that the interior slabs or tees (baffles) are in excellent shape, open the inspection port. Identify whether or not your system has an effluent filter and whether or not this filter needs to be cleaned. The homeowner will be notified when the filter needs to be cleaned via an alarm mechanism installed in some filters.
- Make sure to flush your toilets. Make a visual inspection for evidence of sewage or wastewater backup. Measure the thickness of the scum and sludge layers
- Identify any leaks that may exist
- If there are any mechanical components, they should be inspected. Tank cleaning (pumping) is recommended if necessary. Make a visual inspection of the ground above the drainfield for sogginess or ponding, which might indicate poor drainage, a blocked system, or excessive water use. A drainfield inspection, which is a distinct operation, may be recommended by the contractor.
Read Septic Tank Inspection – What Should I Expect When I Have My Tank Inspected for a more in-depth description of the inspection procedure. both from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse, as well as Drainfield Inspection —Does My Drainfield Ever Need To Be Inspected? (pdf), both from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC).
It’s safe to assume that wherever there are many individuals who run their houses’ waste systems through septic tanks, there will be a slew of local firms that specialize in eliminating the scum and sludge that collect in the tank over a long period of time. This is a crucial service because, if too much sludge accumulates over time, it can cause overflow, which is harmful to everyone involved. Septic pumping for commercial purposes typically consists of a pump truck emptying the sludge, effluent, and scum from the tank and leaving the tank empty and ready to be refilled with fresh sludge and water.
- Prior to the passage of federal legislation prohibiting the disposal of sewage sludge, waste management businesses could simply bury it in landfills.
- These locations still exist, however many of them are in the process of being cleaned up (clean-up).
- In certain situations, the septic contents are transported to waste treatment plants where they are combined with the stew that has been pumped in from a municipal sewer system, or they are supplied to for-profit organizations that specialize in the treatment of septage.
- Septage may also be placed at landfills that have been allowed.
- Because of the difficulties associated with properly disposing of your septic tank’s contents, septage is sometimes employed in a different way: to grow food.
- This application of septage has the potential to be contentious.
- It is expected that, when properly applied to farmland with good soil and a low water table, the soil will work as a filter in the same way as a drain field in the rear of a home with a septic tank will act as a filter.
- Historically, it has been recognized that methane, which is created as a waste product during the breakdown of sewage, may be utilized to generate energy.
- In addition, because the power produced does not burn, there is little or no pollutants emitted.
- One system, constructed south of Seattle, Washington, in 2004, has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 houses.
Who would have thought that your feces could be so beneficial? More information about waste treatment may be found on the next page. The original publication date was July 29, 2008.
Septic systems that are in good working order are beneficial to your family, your budget, and the environment. You can safeguard your septic system and save money on costly repairs by following a few easy procedures. Your groundwater, as well as the lakes, rivers, and beaches of Puget Sound, will benefit as well!
What is a septic system?
Consider them to be similar in size to a sewage treatment facility, but considerably smaller. They collect, store, treat, and dispose of the items that you flush or pour down the toilet. Various sorts of systems are available to choose from. Some are straightforward, requiring merely a tank and a drainage area. Others are more complicated, necessitating the use of pumps, filters, or materials that have been particularly created. For further information, please see our 3D septic system models.
A maintained septic system keeps you and the environment healthy and helps:
- Reduce the likelihood of individuals becoming ill as a result of untreated sewage
- Reduce the likelihood of groundwater and surface water becoming contaminated
- You will save money and your system’s life will be extended.
Our role is to:
- Consult with septic system specialists to approve the design, placement, and installation of the system
- Property owners should be educated on the need of keeping their septic systems in good working order.
What are the regulations?
- Environmental Health Code, Chapter 1, General Provisions
- Environmental Health Code, Chapter 2, On-Site Sewage
- Environmental Health Code, Chapter 3, Water Regulation
- Appeals Process for Orders and Decisions of the Health Officer
- Environmental Health Code, Chapter 1, General Provisions
- The Septic Systems 101 webinar is available online
- Designers and Engineers —A list of designers and engineers that are qualified to work in Pierce County is available online
- Septic Systems 101 webinar is available online
- Installation Companies —A list of companies that have been certified to work in Pierce County
- Fee Schedule — Fee Schedule for On-Site Sewage, Wells, and Water Resources Services
- Complaints can be lodged against a Pierce County Septic Service Company or a person. A list of firms that have been certified to work in Pierce County’s septic system service industry.
Have questions? We have answers!
For further information, please contact us at [email protected] or (253) 649-1925.
The Ins and Outs of Septic Systems in Pennsylvania
Septic systems on private land are used by approximately 26% of Pennsylvania houses for the treatment of domestic sewage. The majority of these residences also have their own private well for drinking water. If you have a septic system, be sure to operate it properly! If you understand how your system operates and how to maintain it, you will be able to do the following:
- Safeguard your drinking water supply and your health
- Maintain the longevity of your system—and prevent spending thousands of dollars for a new system
- Protect the value of your home
- And contribute to the protection of Pennsylvania’s groundwater, streams, rivers, and lakes
Because of Pennsylvania’s geology, soils, land development patterns, and outdated septic systems, there is a danger that poor septic systems may contaminate our groundwater and surface waters—our streams, rivers, and lakes—as well as our groundwater and surface waters Surface waters that have been polluted with viruses and bacteria from sewage pose a greater risk of swimmers being ill with eye and ear infections, acute gastroenteritis, hepatitis, and other infectious disorders.
It is possible that groundwater contamination will poison your own and others’ drinking water supplies, resulting in the transmission of illness to humans and animals.
In 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stated that septic system failure was responsible for 202 impaired stream miles and 3,192 damaged lake acres in the state.
Who Has Oversight of Your Septic System?
In Pennsylvania, local governments (for example, boroughs and townships) are responsible for ensuring that private septic systems with a capacity of 10,000 gallons or less comply with Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations. In the event that you have any queries regarding an existing septic system on your land, or about the construction of a new system on your property, you should contact your local government office first. Many towns have a Sewage Enforcement Officer who ensures that all septic systems are correctly sited, permitted, and inspected throughout their installation to verify that they follow all regulations.
Septic system maintenance is required by law in certain towns, and other municipalities maintain a sewage management program to ensure that property owners carry out this maintenance.
Soil Is Your Best Friend: How Your Septic System Operates
Not only does your household transmit human waste into your septic system, but it also sends all other liquid wastes into it, including bath water, kitchen and bathroom sink water, laundry water, and water softener backwash. Consequently, here’s what occurs underground when you flush the toilet, wash your clothes, use the sink or bath: The heavier solid stuff descends to the bottom of the septic tank, where microorganisms feed on the waste and break it down as a result of their activity. Fatty oils and greases that are lighter in weight float to the top of the tank, where they congeal to create a scum that may ultimately break down or be skimmed off during system maintenance.
- Disease-causing bacteria and viruses are present in the wastewater as it exits the tank, in addition to other impurities.
- Sewage travels through a pipe to a drainfield, which is a bed of gravel or other material used to collect the waste.
- Therefore, soil is the most significant component of a septic system because of its filtering abilities and the bacteria that it contains!
- Several factors influence the sort of septic system that may be installed, including the soil depth to bedrock or groundwater, how fast or slowly water travels through soil, and soil type and texture, to mention a few.
Keep Things Moving Underground
It is believed that the typical lifespan of a septic system is between 15 and 40 years, although it may live much longer if it is properly maintained. Maintaining your septic system is similar to changing the oil in your automobile. It is a low-cost investment compared to the high cost of constructing a new system, which may cost up to $15,000 and more. Don’t overburden the commode with your thoughts when you’re at the sink. Take into consideration what you flush down the toilet and down the sink.
It is best to avoid utilizing common household objects that might clog your system or kill the bacteria underground that are necessary for wastewater treatment.
- D diapers, baby wipes (including those labeled as “flushable”), cat litter, cigarettes, coffee grounds, fats and grease, solids (including feminine hygiene items), and prophylactic devices are all examples of “system cloggers.” “TreatmentKillers” include household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, paint, and excessive concentrations of anti-bacterial soaps and detergents, among other things.
Don’t strain your drain. The less water that you use, the less work your septic system has to do to keep up with you. Stagger the use of water-based appliances, use high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and repair any leaks in your home. Shield your field. Keep anything heavier than your lawnmower off your drainfield. Divert rain and surface water away from it. Plant trees and bushes away from the drainfield, since roots can clog the field and cause the system to fail. Your local garden center will be able to tell you the likely length of tree and shrub roots.
According to Pennsylvania regulations, solids should be pumped out of the septic tank every three years, or when an inspection shows the tank is more than one-third filled with solids or scum.
Your local sewage management program may have more stringent requirements for inspections and pumping. Call the Sewage Enforcement Officer at your local government office for more information. Be aware of the following warning signs of a malfunctioning septic system:
- Backing up or bubbling of wastewater into residential drains
- There is an unpleasant smell, or there is some black sludge surrounding the septic tank or drainfield. In the vicinity of your drainfield, you may notice bright green vegetation or spongy conditions.
If your sewage system is not operating properly, contact your local Sewage Enforcement Officer right away. It is important to respond quickly since the less pollution that occurs, as well as the lower the expense of repair work, the better. Your septic system will serve your house and contribute to the protection of Pennsylvania’s waterways for many years to come if it is operated and maintained properly. Do your part and learn about septic systems!