PHOTO of septic tank sludge being broken up for tank cleaning Actually Pumping out the Septic Tank: step by step

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How to pump out or clean a septic tank: details.

This septic tank pumpout article series provides a step by step, photo-illustrated guide to opening, pumping, and inspecting septic tanks, how a conventional septic tank is located, opened, pumped out, cleaned, and inspected. This guideline is intended for septic pumping tank truck operators and as general information for homeowners or septic service companies concerned with septic system care.

The steps in servicing a septic tank are listed below, accompanied by photographs that show each of the critical steps in pumping, cleaning, and inspecting a septic tank.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Pumping Out the Septic Tank - how the solids & waste are removed from a septic tank

PHOTO of the septic tank muck raking tool used to break up scum
and sludge layers during pumping. PHOTO of the septic tank muck raking tool used to break up scum
and sludge layers during pumping.

How the pumper truck or vacuum truck is operated. Tank inspection before pumping; Actually pumping out the septic tank; inspections while pumping. Washing the septic tank after pumping, inspecting the tank after pumping. Closing the septic tank, recording the septic tank location, advising homeowners

The operator may use a muck-rake, an instrument resembling a long hoe, to stir sludge on the tank bottom during pumping to aid in sludge removal. The operator uses the muck raking tool to break up both the floating scum layer and settled sludge layer in the septic tank. A few minutes are spent with this tool before pumping begins. During pumping the operator continues to use this tool to break up and pump out the floating scum layer in the septic tank.

Also see Septic Tank Pumping Frequency Guide for a table explaining when to schedule a septic cleanout.

PHOTO of septic tank sludge being broken up for tank cleaning PHOTO of septic tank sludge being broken up for tank cleaning

With the vacuum lines all connected, the pumper truck's vacuum pump operating, and the muck rake inserted into the septic tank, tank cleanout can begin.

The operator moves both the vacuum line and the muck rake continuously during the pumping operation, to break up scum and sludge, to mix these materials with effluent in the tank, and thus to remove them with the vacuum hose. The breakup of sludge and scum and the mixing of them with tank effluent permits easy removal with the vacuum hose.

After removal of the scum layer and the first several inches of effluent, an astute septic pumper operator may pause the pumping operation and even shut off the pumper truck for a moment to listen.

If one hears septic effluent spilling back into the septic tank from the tank outlet line the operator has learned that the drain field is saturated, in failure, and is going to need replacement. This is valuable information which may otherwise be tough to obtain.

If the septic tank is plastic or fiberglass it may have a bottom or side plug. The operator should be alert for possible accidental removal and loss of the tank plug during pumping as without the plug the tank will drain improperly into surrounding soil. Lost plugs will need replacement.

PHOTO of septic pillow of scum from the septic tank baffle area

The photo shows a rectangle of floating scum layer material that has fallen from the septic tank inlet baffle area as the effluent level in the tank drops.

Septic service operators call this the "pillow" and its appearance is important. If this material is left in the tank baffles the system may become clogged.

Pumping continues to remove effluent and settled sludge. Septic effluent is mixed with sludge on the tank bottom to aid in its removal.

Key Septic Tank Pumping Articles


Continue reading at INSPECT the SEPTIC TANK DURING PUMPING or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

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Publisher - Daniel Friedman