Cleaning the Septic Tank, How & Why to Wash Septic Tank Interior
WASH SEPTIC TANK SIDES/BOTTOM - CONTENTS: Washing the septic tank after pumping, how and why we do it
. Washing Down Septic Tank Sides/Bottom.Do we need to wash down the septic tank interior ? Is it ok to see bits of stone or masonry on the bottom of the septic tank?Spotting septic tank cracks in sides or bottom. Can we enter the septic tank to repair cracks or leaks? Fatal hazards at the septic tank.
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Septic tank cleaning procedures:
How and why the septic tank interior is washed down after tank pumpout. Cleaning the septic tank during and at the end of the septic tank pump-out procedure can expose damage to
the septic tank sides and bottom that cannot otherwise be found.
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.
Recomendations for Washing Down Septic Tank Sides/Bottom After Pumpout is Completed
After the septic tank is nearly empty the operator might connect a garden hose to wash-down the tank baffles, septic tank
sides, and tank bottom. The pump will continue to run to remove the excess water that is entering the tank.
This step is not mandatory, and some septic pumping contractors leave it out. But if it is performed
we have an opportunity to better inspect the septic tank sides and bottom for cracks, breaks, or spalling.
In sum, washing the septic tank permits a more careful inspection of the condition of the septic tank interior.
The additional water in the septic tank
and any remaining bottom debris is washed out at this time.
The need for septic tank interior washing depends on the tank type,
age, and conditions which may require extra water for final sludge removal or wash-down to permit
inspection of suspected problems such as a rusted-out tank bottom or missing tank plug. Certainly if the
effluent levels in the tank were abnormally low at the start of pumping, this wash-down and detailed inspection is a good idea.
Incidental bits of masonry debris in the bottom of the septic tank such as chips from a concrete cover, stones, or old terra cotta waste line which happen
to remain on the tank bottom may remain in place and are harmless.
If septic tank damage is found such as cracking, it may be possible to repair the septic tank by cleaning the surfaces and
applying an appropriate masonry patching compound. But no one should enter the septic tank without proper equipment or
preparation as there is a real danger of death by asphyxiation by the methane gas remaining in the tank.
Reader Question: septic tank pumpers who churn and return sewage to the tank
(May 16, 2012) Bob said:
The septic pumping contractors convinced our municipalities that after a septic tank has been emptied it should be immediately refilled (to its original level) with effluent from the pumper truck - claiming that a) gravity in the pumper truck's tank separates the solids from the liquids (during the 5 to 10 minutes the effluent is in the truck) so that mostly only liquid is returned to the septic tank; and b) that this return of effluent improves septic performance. I can see the financial advantage for the contractors (fewer trips to the water treatment facility; lower disposal costs; charge homeowners extra $$$ for 'complete' emptying) but I cannot find any independent evidence from a reputable source that supports these claims. Does anyone know of any sources that actually support these claims? Thanks!
Bob, you also posted your question at the end of the article titled INSPECT the SEPTIC TANK AFTER PUMPING. There we have provided a detailed reply to the improper and destructive septic tank effluent churn-and-return procedure you describe below.
You might want to warn your municipalities as well as the pumpers that once homeowners discover that the approach you describe is going to cause very costly damage to the septic systems (by pushing solids into the drainfields) as well as environmental damage the pumpers and municipalities are inviting class action litigation by the aggrieved homeowners.
Below at in the form of individual detailed articles are the Steps in Septic Tank Cleaning Procedure in the order that they should be performed:
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Special thanks to M & O Sanitation, Dutchess County NY (845) 471-0308 for permitting us to photograph steps during septic system service at our demonstration property.
Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books
Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference for both property owners and septic system designers.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill. Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers: * Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.
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