PHOTO of opening the septic pumper truck vacuum pump motor and controls Septic Pumper Truck Vacuum Pumps
Pumper truck vacuum pumps, types, choices, specifications, lift capacity, speeds, rotary vane & air assist vacuum pump sources

  • PUMPER TRUCK VACUUM PUMPS - CONTENTS: septic tank pumps, vacuum pump types, capacities, choices, specifications for septic pumper trucks or septic tank cleaning systems & grease trap cleaning systems. We include a look at the la fognatura, the Venice sewer system.
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Septic pumper truck vacuum pumps:

Pump types, capacities, choices, specifications for septic pumper trucks or septic tank cleaning systems & grease trap cleaning systems.

This article series describes the steps in septic pumper truck operation during septic tank or grease trap cleaning and service. We describe the septic pumper truck operator's steps and the septic tank vacuuming procedure.

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Septic Tank Pumper Truck Vacuum Pump Systems

Septic pumper boat in a canal in San Marco, Venice Italy, June 2017 (C) Daniel FriedmanDaniel Friedman & Mike Rost

After a quick look at the sewer system in Venice, Italy where we enjoy a look at a pozzo nero sewage pumper boat, we move on to more-widely-used sewer pumping trucks, pumps, & equipment.

Article Contents

Venice Sewer System & Venetian Sewage Boats

While most septic tank pumping is performed by a worker using a pumper truck, in Venice, Italy pumper pozzo nero boats have to handle that job as there are no streets passable by motorized vehicles.

The septic pumping boat moors in a canal near the septic tank that needs to be emptied. The pumped-waste is then transported to a disposal site or the sewage treatment plant in Porto Marghera in the 1980's. However for much of Venice sewage continues to empty into the canal system.

Sewage waste pipes within a building typically connect to a pozzo nero or black well (blackwater well) or septic tank that ultimately discharges into a nearby canal.

Fognatura is the Italian term for the complete system of waste piping, pozzo nero, below-ground tunnels or gatoli, essentially huge pipes emptying into canals through foundation wall openings (sbocchi) and ultimately into the lagoon.

Some of these below-ground components have been in place since the 16th century.

Tidal action is relied-upon to keep the canals acceptably clean.

Photo: a small stream of rather clear wastewater is emptying into a canal in the San Marco area of Venice. Generally waste pipes that empty into canals are below water-level.

Venice San Marco clear wastewater emptying into a canal (C) Daniel Friedman

Tidal action is relied-upon to keep the canals acceptably clean.

Following periods of aqua alta when canal or lagoon water has entered the lower floor of some Venice buildings, cleanup when the hight water recedes includes the use of disinfectants.

A photo of the septic worker connecting the septic pumper boat to the holding tank is shown below and is discussed also at HOLDING TANK SEPTIC SYSTEMS.

Back on the mainland we'll take a look at more-typical septic holding tanks and their maintenance.

Limits of Septic Pumper Truck (or boat) Pumping Lift & Distances

Reader Question: my septic tank is 200 feet horizontally and 20 feet below the septic truck parking spot: will I be able to get the septic tank pumped out?

Septic holding tank being emptied in San Marco, Venice, June 2017 (C) Daniel Friedman24 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.


Septic tank pumping truck, Superior Septic Service, Two Harbors MN in 2017 (C) Daniel FriedmanGood question, Brad.

Typically with a 2-4" vacuum hose and typical septic pumper truck, the horizontal distance that the pumper expects to handle maxes out at about 150 ft. - before considering the reduction in that length for the lift heights involved.

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.

Our photo shows a septic pumper truck used by David Roeder's Superior Septic Service in Two Harbors, MN.

Mike Rost, at National Vacuum Equipment, a producer / vendor of vacuum equipment in the U.S. offered additional help in answering your question.

Typical small pumper truck rotary vane pump capacities

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 using a traditional rotary vane pump (RVP) widely used in the septic pumping industry.

Traditional rotary vane vacuum pumps operate at 200-300 cubic feet per minute (CFM) and with a standard blower obtain about 13" of vacuum.

Without air conveyance these pumps can lift sewage or grease waste about 20-25 feet from pumping source to waste level top in the truck tank.

Factors Limiting a Septic Pumping Truck or Grease Trap Cleaning System's Pumping Capacity

PHOTO of the septic pumper vacuum pump gaugeFactors that limit the ability of a septic pumping truck or grease trap cleanout system to pump over distances and high lifts include at least the following:

One inch of vacuum in these pumping systems can lift about one foot (12"). So we can compute that at least in theory, 13" of vacuum can lift about 26 feet.

Without special measures, older 200-300 CFM rotary vane pups may not be up to the job.

That's because the most widely used 250 cubic feet per minute (CFM) rotary vane pump found on at least the smaller septic pumper trucks are too small to make use of additional air flow to get the added lift capacity needed to pump from depth, but a snorkel or other add-on air injection feature might enable pumping even with these units.

But even if the truck and pump can manage the lift, it will take longer with a typical rotary vane pump used on many pumping trucks.

In sum, yes your septic tank can be pumped from 20 feet below the truck parking area though you will need to discuss the site, distances, lift height and pumping costs with local septic pumping companies in your 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.

A septic pumper who operates a physically larger truck may be able to make better use of air-assisted pumping and thus to pump more easily, faster, and perhaps at a lower cost than older smaller pumping systems.

Hybrid Air-Conveyance Vacuum Pumping Systems Increase Capacity & Lower Cost

Newer high-RPM, high-vacuum blower hybrid pumps are available that make use of an air assist or blower using special pump port design features and air velocity to improve the pump's capacity. These hybrid vacuum pumps operate in the 560 CFM to 900 CFM (on bigger tank trucks) range and provide about double the lift capacity (about 27" of vacuum) than that of standard RVPs.

Operating at 27" of vacuum and making better use of air flow, these pumps can lift 30 or even 50 feet using a different technology and the assistance of airflow using a tri-load specially-ported pump design developed by National Vacuum Equipment (cited below).

A newer type higher vacuum air velocity hybrid pump and larger capacity septic pumping truck may be needed for higher lifts. According to Mr. Rost, these higher capacity vacuum pumps offer several advantages over the traditional rotary vane pump used on most septic pumper trucks for cleaning septic tanks and grease traps.

While the blower vacuum pump system may cost may be 20-30% more than a traditional RVP the cost should be recovered quickly through pumping speed, longer pump life, and lower operating cost.

I spoke with Mike Rost from my truck - pulled over to make notes, but as the only paper at hand was a cardboard box it'll take me a bit more time to decipher and transcribe what I wrote down. When I can get some vertical lift specifics I'll add them here.

This article is under technical review. CONTACT us with comments or suggestions.

Sources & Pump Specifications
Rotary Vane Pumps & Vacuum Pumps, for Septic Pumper Trucks & Septic Tank / Grease Trap Cleanout pumps

National Vacuum Equipment NVE 304 Challenger vacuum pump (C) & NVE National Vacuum Equipment NVE 304 Challenger vacuum pump (C) & NVE

Shown above, National Vacuum Equipment NVE 304 Challenger rotary vane pump (above left) and the company's 607 Challenger pump available in both air and water-cooled versions.

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Mike Rost is a technical expert working with National Vacuum Equipment, Inc., a supplier of rotary vane pumps, vacuum pumps, vacuum blowers and related equipment. Special thanks to Mike who provided technical information about rotary vane pumps, RVPs, septic pumping distances, lifts, pump specifications and advanced and high capacity vacuum pumping options & procedures discussed in this article.

National Vacuum Equipment, 2707 Aero-Park Dr, Traverse City, MI 49686, USA, Tel: 800-253-5500, Website: Email: National Vacuum Equipment is a U.S. manufacturer of vacuum equipment. The company distributes their own NVE Challenger pumps and Battioni Pagani rotary vane pumps, vacuum blowers, high capacity vacuum pumps, air assist vacuum pumping systems, vacuum system valves, and custom-fabricated vacuum products.

Daniel Friedman is publisher/editor of

Additional thanks to David Roeder, Superior Septic Service, 524 4th Ave., Two Harbors, MN 55616, USA, Tel: 218 834-6969 for discussion of septic tank pumping procedures, distances, hoses, and levels. May 2017.

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