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Septi tank cleanout started (C) Daniel FriedmanSeptic Tank Cleaning Error FAQs
Q&A on Septic Pumping Mistakes to Avoid

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Septic tank pumpout mistake FAQs:

These questions & answers about what goes wrong when pumping a septic tank or about questionable advice some people offer on when & how to pump a septic tank help keep the septic system working and help avoid wasting money on improper or unsafe septic pumpouts.

This article series describes common mistakes and misunderstandings about cleaning or pumping the septic tank. We explain why pumping too infrequently (or never) is a bad idea but we add that pumping more often than necessary is more or less tossing money down the toilet.



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Septic Pumping Mistake Questions & Answers

Septic tank schematic showing scum and sludge layers (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesThese questions & answers about errors or snafus that occur when pumping out a septic tank were posted originally at SEPTIC TANK PUMPING MISTAKES - be sure to review that article.

On 2017-08-25 by (mod) - would monthly septic tank pumpouts let us install a system where lot size is too small for a septic drainfield?

Juan

You ask a reasonable question.

The answer is in the hands of your local building or health or plumbing department who give construction permit approvals. In most cases communities don't permit holding tanks as a substitute for a working septic system. You are proposing a hybrid - emptying the septic tank. I've spoken with some septic pumping contractors in areas where septic systems function poorly.

The contractor's view was that it was cheaper for the homeowner to pay hundreds of dollars a month for tank pumping than to install a legal, working septic system.

I suspect that local health or plumbing officials would not be happy with that approach. In part that's because there is no control over the property owner or manager to assure that the tank is actually pumped so often that it never is contaminating the environment.

You can figure that at a typical household a completely-pumped septic tank is re-filled with wastewater in 2-4 days of normal occupancy of the home. After the fifth day we're back to discharging effluent into an onsite disposal system that we already know is inadequate. To me that means we're peeing into the local wells, streams, lakes.

Instead of a hybrid combination of trying to sometimes pump out the tank at a system that does not and cannot work with a conventional septic drainfield, I would ask for help from a local septic engineer.

The engineer can tell you what alternative septic system designs, including an onsite packaged wastewater treatment system or a disinfection system will both work and will be accepted by local code officials.

On 2017-08-25 by Juan

If our property is too small for the required drainage of the septic system, would having a monthly scheduled emptying of the tank make a difference on what is drained into the ground?

Question: using the septic tank as just a holding tank: how often to pump

(June 18, 2014) steve f said:
im using a septic tank just as a holding tank (no outlet to drain field) tank will be pumped out when full. i was told to pump out tank once a year even if not full is this true.

Reply:

Not in my opinion, Steve. Pump the tank when it is nearly full. Watch out.mfor the case you describe if you don't monitor the sewage level in the tank toilets may back up.

To be smart: install a septic tank alarm system to give you warning enough in advance of a full tank that you can schedule a pump-out. Otherwise you're asking for a sewage backup into the building.

On 2017-06-25 by Tj curry - enjector pump compactior is blown

My enjector pump compactior is blown probably caused by the ripping out of the cord by lawn mower. Will compactior fix problem or is it junk now that the inside of pump was filled with water

On 2017-06-23 by (mod) - should we add a drainfield to our septic tank?

Brian, if you actually have a septic tank (water-tight) you have to already have an effluent disposal system of some kind - leach lines, effluent seepage pits, galleys, an aerobic spray system. Otherwise you'd only get a week of usage before the system would back up and sewage would probably spill into the home.

If what you have is a cesspool, now illegal in many jurisdictions since cesspools can't adequately treat wastewater, when a cesspool fails usually people daisy-chain on another; often there's not enough space on such a property for a conventional drainfield.

Sounds to me as if you need an expert septic inspection of tank and of whatever else is installed.

On 2017-06-23 by Brian Green - toilets have stopping flushing properly and we have always had clog issues, should we add a drainfield to our septic tank?

Our toilets have stopping flushing properly and we have always had clog issues. I was told several different things from several "professional* one company told me u had sewage under my home and it was just a gray water leak from a sink in bathroom.

I'm pretty sure it's full , I've been ripped off so many times and still have problems. Not sure if prior owner tried to fix themselves. If septic is full and there is damage to field lines. What would installation of field lines cost!

On 2017-05-28 by Mod - safe for someone to pump the waste and put it in someone else's tank

Connie, the economics of moving your septic tank contents to another septic tank elsewhere would not make any sense whatosever, even if you could physically do so. You'd need a septic pumper truck to evacuate the first septic tank.

At that point the septic pumping contractor will pay a fee to dispose of the septage at an approved treatment facility or dumping location permitted where she operates.

Even if you physically could move your septic tank contents to someone else's septic tank, doing so would overload that tank with too much sewage at once, risking pushing solids into the drainfield and clogging and ruining it.

On 2017-05-28 by Connie - safe for someone to pump the waste and put it in someone else's tank

Is it safe for someone to pump the waste and put it in someone else's tank

On 2017-05-25 by (mod) - Which system is better, Concrete or Fiberglass septic tanks?

Good Question Niki, and one that's been asked before.

In my OPINION there is no single "best" answer to the choice between a fiberglass or a concrete septic tank. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

If your site is hard to access, a lightweight plastic/fiberglass tank will be easier to get in place and thus you'll save on delivery and installation as well as perhaps have less site damage. But a fiberglass tank also has to be anchored to avoid the risk that in event of a heavy rain an empty septic tank floats up out of the ground - either because it was just installed or because it was just pumped.

A concrete tank avoids the float-up issue and also typically has a heavier cover that is less at risk of damage from heavy lawn equipment driving over the site. (In general you should not drive a vehicle over the septic fields and should avoid driving over the septic tank).

Connection of risers to bring the septic tank inspection & cleaning port higher if the tank is deep in the soil may be easier with a fiberglass tank; adding a riser to a concrete septic tank will require a bit of sense in sealing the riser to the tank top lest we otherwise flood the tank with surface runoff.

On 2017-05-25 by Niki VB

Concrete or Fiberglass Pros and Cons?

We just got our permit to install a septic tank system on our new property. The more research I do, the more confusing it is. Which system is better, Concrete or Fiberglass?

On 2017-05-23 by (mod) - do a few rocks in in the bottom of the septic tank cause trouble?

A few rocks that fell in during installation or service are harmless. But I absolutely don't want a snow plow driving over or too close to the septic tank.

First, it ought to be impossible for a plow to push rocks into a septic tank. I worry that the tank does not have a proper and safe cover. If someone falls in they are likely to die quickly.

Second if the tank is not rated for withstanding the weight the whole thing could collapse,

On 2017-05-23 by Shari

We are buying a house that has septic. They pumped it to inspect and found some rocks at bottom of tank.

Septic guy says everything looks fine but won't certify it bc he can't see condition of tank under those rocks. Our theory is that with a lot of snow the plow may have knocked a few rocks into tank. Do we need to pay for them to remove rocks and inspect condition or is this harmless?

On 2017-05-04 by (mod) - septic tank is overfilling - why?

Bob:

I would start by looking into the distribution box (search InspectApedia for HOW TO FIND THE D-BOX if you need. )

If the D-box is also flooded then the field is flooded, blocked, failed. Your system may be flooding by surface runoff.

On 2017-05-04 by Bob Aroca

Our septic tank is overfilling but not into yard yet. Guy who pumped it says it would have backed up to house except house is higher up than tank.

Why isnt it draining into leechfield. Its a large house with bathrooms and kitchens added.Never had problems in two years and all of a sudden. Septic was pumped twice in two weeks. Also have clay soil and over seven inches of rain lately. Any ideas?

On 2017-03-27 by (mod) - horse shoe farrier and horse fell into the septic tank

Thanks for the comment, Marty. We welcome content questions, critique, suggestions, and ... anecdotes.

Lucky the farrier and horse could get out. Over at a companion article SEPTIC TANK ACCIDENT REPORTS http://inspectapedia.com/septic/Septic_Tank_Accident_Prevention.php we report on fatalities. The methane can not only blow up (a client blew up his septic tank after building a brush fire over it) but it can also quickly asphyxiate someone leaning over a tank or falling into it.

One of my rusty septic tank lid photos shows a hole where my foot went through. Only by throwing myself into the brambles did I avoid falling into the caca.

Daniel

On 2017-03-27 by Marty

Thank you for this valuable information; although I knew most of it, a good refresher is always helpful, too. I just wanted to relate an awful / hilarious anecdote about old septic systems. My family lived on a ranch in the West and like all the ranches / farms in the area, we had a septic system.

Over the years, the old system failed go clogged, etc, and my father put in a new leach field plus new tank. The old tank was covered with a couple feet of dirt and 'everybody' knew not to drive there or go around it too close.

One time, the yearly horse shoer (farrier) wasn't able to come and a younger guy came to shoe all the horses in the yard.

One got spooked and fought the guy, then dragged him across the yard (cussing and yelling) and they both ended up in the old septic tank.

Of course there was mostly solids and the guy was able to get out and pull the horse back out too but it could have hurt them both a lot worse. It took the fight out of the horse but the farrier couldn't continue either, for the smell. They both needed to clean up before continuing.

On 2017-02-22 by (mod) - Can feel lines be pumped out

Linda

I don't know what you mean by feelings or feel lines.

If you are referring to a septic soakbed or drainfield or leachfield distribution line that disposes of effluent (that is liquid leaving the septic tank), those lines do not need to be pumped and cannot be pumped; rather, if those lines are flooded or contain sewage then the drainfield has failed and needs repair or replacement.

On 2017-02-22 by Linda Kennedy jklk6773@bellsouth.net

Can feel lines be pumped out I just had my septic tank pumped but I'm informed my feelings are full and they need to be pumped also

On 2017-02-08 by (mod) - ok to leave septic tank openings un-sealed?

A septic tank opening that is not being flooded by groundwater ( thus flooding the septic tank in wet weather) may be OK.

A septic tank with a cover that could be moved aside by a child or that could allow someone to fall into the tank is risking death for someone.

On 2017-02-08 by April

Just had a septic guy come out to empty the tank. He said he didn't have anymore seal to "seal" the septic opening. Is this OK to leave it unsealed??

On 2016-04-24 by Anonymous

I pumped out my septic tank and now there is a septic smell everytime the toilet flushes. If it's not flushed for a period of time no smell only after

On 2015-11-06 by (mod) - what to do with a septic tank with hard packed sludge in the tank bottom

Adam

If the thickness of the settled scum layer is at least 36" below the tank outlet, you might try using the tank for a few months, monitoring to be sure it's not backing-up, and then asking a septic contractor to clean it thoroughly; that'll allow time for the liquid waste to soften the hard-pack.

On 2015-11-05 by Adam_Miller

Just closed on a property, and found out that there is a bunch of hard-packed waste in the bottom of the tank... foreclosure,

property had sat vacant for a few years, likely not pumped out before previous owners vacated. What would a job like this cost for a 1500 gallon tank? What's the best way to remedy the problem? Thanks!

On 2015-10-24 by (mod) - could an old condom float to the surface of the septic tank if the tank has been previously pumped out?

Yes, Michelle, if the septic tank was not emptied completely and cleaned small items of debris, sewage, and anything else that was either floating in the sewage or settled to the bottom of the septic tank may remain.

On 2015-10-24 by Michele

Is it possible that after having a hired professional pump your septic tank that a condom could surface that was flushed prior to the professional pump?

On 2015-08-24 by (mod) - how to pump out a septic tank on a steep, distant hillside

Brad:

Details about the vacuum pumps used by septic pumper trucks and the lift and pumping capacity of these septic pumpers are now found at

PUMPER TRUCK VACUUM PUMPS at http://inspectapedia.com/septic/Septic_Pumper_Truck_Vacuum_Pumps.php

Most septic pumpers with smaller trucks will be close to their pump lift limit but may be able to do the septic tank pumping job, though it will take longer with a typical rotary vane pump used on many pumping trucks. Newer high-lift pumps are available that can lift 30 or even 50 feet using a different technology and the assistance of air in the procedure.

I will expand on the topic of septic pumper truck pump types, pumping rates, lift capacities and sources in a related article and will post a link to it here.

In sum, yes your septic tank can be pumped from 20 feet below the truck parking area. Actually it's probably more like 30 feet of lift when you add the height from ground to pumper truck tank and the depth of the septic tank from top to bottom. Older 200-300 CFM rotary vane pups may not be up to the job. A newer type higher vacuum air velocity hybrid pump and larger capacity septic pumping truck may be needed for higher lifts.

Good question, Brad. Septic pumpers, at least some of them, use a rotary vane vacuum pump and have a good lift capacity. Check with your local pumping company to ask what they can lift.

http://natvac.com/ is a a producer / vendor of vacuum pumps whom we are consulting in this matter. When I can get some vertical lift specifics I'll add them here.

On 2015-08-24 by Brad

Great site, all the info is appreciated. I have a tank, installed over ten years ago but as of yet unused, on a steep hillside roughly 200 horizontal feet away from where a vac truck could park.

To make issues worse, there is probably close to 20 feet of vertical lift as well. I know this is a very long run, so I am considering laying a dedicated pipe for pumping next to the sewer line running up grade, I'm thinking 1 1/4" 100 PSI poly pipe.

My thought is that the truck to hook onto the top end of the line and pull, and we could put a trash pump at the tank to push. What are your thoughts? There is not really a better location for the tank available, or we would have used it. Local DEQ selected the site and approved the installation, but its tough for sure.

I have installed 3' of 24" riser over the effluent filter access hole to bring it to grade, so there should be room to manipulate a hose or even lower in a submersible pump. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Question: need help with landlord over septic system flooding

6 March 2015 Anonymous said:

Comment:8:07 pm 3/5/2015landlord case,

2/8/2015 do to no maintence or pumpng septic sludge flooded the bottom floor units #1 and #2.Because its hazardous i took family to hotel.

Plumber coming in morning and i assumed a cleaning crew would disinfect carpet/pad and check if the sub flooring was contaminated ,dispose and replace anything that the spill touched.
2/9/2015 after asking what the toilet was doing unattached and laying in middle of floor,thought the place would have been cleaned

instead it was the dumping ground for the upstairs tenants waste because donna did’nt tell anyone it was a septic backup,or even to stop using plumbing till its fixed.

Also removed toys from tub and trashed them(got mad when janelle told her return the property),the when returning property, she also put a notice of disturbance on door;inoperable car could be towed at our expense,and charging 25$ per month for extra car.

Stating in notice “only 2 cars per tenant.So i sent called and ask where in rules or contract that says this….

.And our cars are all running with all insured and registered.

2/17/2015 the eviction notice without cause came the day before my appointment with lawyer,whom says we have proof of retalitory action and in a notice to the landlord dated 2/18/2015.Our health hazard and loss of essential services,is a threat to our health and want the certified cleaning company send the findings and what action taken in mail to me. Also informed her of no inoperable cars and nothing in the rental agreement saying anything about 25$ for extra cars. In 48 hrs if the problems are not corrected we can terminate the rental agreement.

2/19/2015 i talk to bill,saying that the lawsuit against donna is a go if she dos’nt Stop trying to throw us out and that if i find out that you did not give donna the moneys to get the cleaning company responding and hindered her in her responsibilities, its gonna be your liability and all i ask is that my home is not a health hazard.

2/19/2015 donna sends note written on plain paper”the request you are asking for is not giving me a resonable amount of time to get a repatable company out here to do the testing.I will honer your request but it will take longer than 2 days to get a company out there. I hope to have it done by the end of the next week.”still nothing as of 3/2/2015
Employee civil rights violation

2/22/2015 went to job site told bill that my stones have passed and ready to return to work,he told me to get with mike mon morning.
2/23/2015 mike informs me that i can not return until i drop lawsuit its gonna cost bill lots of money.

2/24/2015 county sanatation inspector called to come and do an onsite inspection of septic system and inform donna the protocol for dealing with septic spill inside home.
I am so depressed and feel like there is nothing i can do to shelter my family getting an eviction is making it hard to find a new place,losing my income too has put me in a place where the inability to shelter and feed my family is making me think about taking my own life,that is what all these actions that my boss/landlord have forced on me.

I want justice and reparations so that i can get a job without fear of my last employer giving me a bad refferal,and the next landlord an eviction.My promised 2 years of lost work or the income plus all the cost to fight. Diminished value of unit for the month of feb.And anytime up until we are assured safe place.
Key wittnesses

Mike chesser (tell ing me cant work till lawsuit is dropped and that im a desireble employee willing to work.
Tom mcgilvra (maintanince,who informed donna about septic tank needing serviced two weeks previous to backup.

And did the repairs.And witnessed donna in our apt. Without a legitamit goul,but to allow more waste from upstairs tenants)
A&s septic system (clearly explains sit.As of the 2/8/2015 and how donna lied to him about the system magically start working again.)
Erin oconnel evironmental serv.Specialist for columbia county land development .(stating that the spill in the hom

6 March Raymond Rackley said: I Didnt mean to be anonymous I need some one to help me.

Reply:

Raymond:

see HEALTH DEPARTMENT HELP for RENTERS at inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Rental_Unit_Mold_9.htm

Question: the tank appeared to be in good shape but the line running to the D. box is clogging

(June 1, 2015) SW said:

We bought a house 5 years ago & had the tank inspected & pumped at closing. We had it pumped again two weeks ago. At the time of pumping, the guy said that the tank appeared to be in good shape but the line running to the D. box is clogging. He said that he purposely did not pump it dry to keep moisture in the line so that it wont harden & clog.

Yesterday, while doing laundry, we had sewage bubbling up out of the septic tank. The service guys are saying that the line between the tank & the D box has hardened & clogged.

Needs to be replaced. Have you ever hear of this? our house was build in 1969 and still has original system.

Reply:

In can't see what the original septic pumper saw that led him to tell you the septic tank was in good shape. But IF the line to the D-box was clogging from sewage then solids were leaving the tank, clogging the downstream piping, and ruining the drainfield too. Maybe it was tree roots?

Certainly nobody with an iota of sense and decency would promise you that you were not likely face septic system repair costs on a system that was nearly fifty years old and whose critical components such as the drainf field trenches are buried.

Question: does the septic tank cover need to be sealed to the septic tank after a pump-out?

(Aug 12, 2015) paul said:
after pump out does a tank need to be resealed? Ours had a seal of concrete originally but none was put back. Thank you

Reply:

Great question, Paul.

Maybe yes. If the septic tank is located where surface runoff or ground water can enter it, the best approach is to direct that water away from the tank. Sometimes that's too difficult or expensive.

Certainly in that case we'd want the tank lid, access covers, and sewer piping connections sealed to keep ground water out of the tank lest we otherwise flood the septic tank, flood the drainfield, and destroy it. Flooded septic systems also can lead to a costly sewage backup into the building served.

Question: how far away and how far down can a septic tank be from where the septic pumper truck parks?

24 August 2015 Brad said:

Great site, all the info is appreciated. I have a tank, installed over ten years ago but as of yet unused, on a steep hillside roughly 200 horizontal feet away from where a vac truck could park.

To make issues worse, there is probably close to 20 feet of vertical lift as well. I know this is a very long run, so I am considering laying a dedicated pipe for pumping next to the sewer line running up grade, I'm thinking 1 1/4" 100 PSI poly pipe. My thought is that the truck to hook onto the top end of the line and pull, and we could put a trash pump at the tank to push.

What are your thoughts? There is not really a better location for the tank available, or we would have used it. Local DEQ selected the site and approved the installation, but its tough for sure. I have installed 3' of 24" riser over the effluent filter access hole to bring it to grade, so there should be room to manipulate a hose or even lower in a submersible pump. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Reply:

Good question, Brad. Septic pumpers, at least some of them, use a rotary vane vacuum pump and have a good lift capacity. Check with your local pumping company to ask what they can lift.

http://natvac.com/ is a a producer / vendor of vacuum pumps whom we are consulting in this matter. When I can get some vertical lift specifics I'll add them here.

Most septic pumpers with smaller trucks will be close to their pump lift limit but may be able to do the septic tank pumping job, though it will take longer with a typical rotary vane pump used on many pumping trucks. Newer high-lift pumps are available that can lift 30 or even 50 feet using a different technology and the assistance of air in the procedure.

I will expand on the topic of septic pumper truck pump types, pumping rates, lift capacities and sources in a related article and will post a link to it here.

In sum, yes your septic tank can be pumped from 20 feet below the truck parking area. Actually it's probably more like 30 feet of lift when you add the height from ground to pumper truck tank and the depth of the septic tank from top to bottom. Older 200-300 CFM rotary vane pups may not be up to the job. A newer type higher vacuum air velocity hybrid pump and larger capacity septic pumping truck may be needed for higher lifts.

Details about the vacuum pumps used by septic pumper trucks will be in a new article: PUMPER TRUCK VACUUM PUMPS and you will also want to see PUMPER TRUCK OPERATION PROCEDURE

...


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

Or see SEPTIC TANK OBJECTIVE DATA - actual measaurements of scum and sludge layers help decide when pumping is needed

If you don't know where the septic tank is located, see SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO FIND.

At TANK INSPECTION PROCEDURE we describe how to inspect the septic tank before, during, and after tank cleaning operations.

Also see

Or see these

Septic Pumping Procedure & Pumper Truck Operation Articles

Suggested citation for this web page

SEPTIC TANK PUMPOUT MISTAKE FAQs at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to SEPTIC TANKS

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